Titanic: About The Production

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SHIP OF DREAMS: The Making of "Titanic"

"It's been 85 years...and I can still smell the fresh paint. The china had never been used. The sheets had never been slept in. Titanic was called the Ship of Dreams. And it was. It really was..."

In every age, a seminal and dramatic moment will arrive that is a catalyst for great change, sending a powerful ripple of emotion throughout the world. At the start of the 20th century, the allure of a wondrous seaworthy creation called Titanic brought together a wide spectrum of humanity, all of whom had their own reasons to be a part of her historic maiden voyage. From captains of industry to hopeful emigrants looking to make their fortunes in a new world, Titanic was a towering symbol of man's progress toward a modern age.

Declared "unsinkable," her precious cargo of more than 2,200 men, women and children began their journey from Southampton, England to New York City with a sense of anticipation, awe and optimism. Yet this "ship of dreams" ultimately carried over 1,500 people to their death in the ice-cold waters of the North Atlantic in the early hours of April 15, 1912.

In the years following, a powerful mythology would grow around Titanic. Tales of bravery and cowardice would be spun through countless historic accounts, poems, music, films and novels. Varying theories on the accident itself were debated and continue to divide many scholars. After decades of searching, the wreck of Titanic was found by an expedition team led by Dr. Robert Ballard in 1985 lying in two massive pieces 12,378 feet under the ocean surface. The discovery answered many questions about the great ship's demise, at the same time feeding the controversy and fascination that has for decades surrounded this tragic event.

Drawing inspiration from this hulking specter below the sea, James Cameron envisioned a love story intertwined with the fascinating details about the ship and her maiden -- and only -- voyage to further humanize its legendary symbolism. Utilizing advanced filmmaking technology, audiences will also set sail on Titanic. However, despite its state-of-the-art pedigree, the film is - and remains - a powerfully human tale. It is here that the heart of "Titanic" beats.

"The tragedy of Titanic has assumed an almost mythic quality in our collective imagination," Cameron says. "But the passage of time has robbed it of its human face and vitality. I hope that Rose and Jack's relationship will be a kind of emotional lightning rod, if you will, allowing viewers to invest their minds and their hearts to make history come alive again."

Traveling on a ship physically designed to prevent them from ever meeting, third-class passenger Jack Dawson and first-class passenger, Rose DeWitt Bukater, have taken the ultimate risk -- to defy the oppressive social conventions of their time and fall in love.

"Their connection on an emotional level is what transforms Rose from this sort of Edwardian first-class geisha who is dying on the inside into this spirited young woman on the cusp of a new life," Cameron says about the young lovers. "Jack possesses this natural energy and purity of spirit which makes that transformation possible."

With such a clear image of who Jack and Rose were as people, Cameron sought to find the definitive pair of actors who could breathe life into such dynamic characters. He would ultimately select two young rising stars, both Oscar® nominees before the age of 21 - Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.

"Luck was a major factor in casting Leo," Cameron says. "I just felt you would care about him a lot more. He has tremendous vitality on screen. Leo has a kind of wiry, survival quality about him that's pretty cool. As for Kate, there was such a luminous quality in her face, voice and eyes that I knew audiences would be ready to go the distance with her, which was critical because it's a hell of a journey and she's ultimately the person you're making that journey with."

Jack is an artist coming back to America after a several-year sojourn in Europe. Rose is traveling with her mother and fiancé, returning home to Philadelphia for her impending marriage, a destiny of polo matches, cotillions and the other mindless trappings of her privileged class. Through their chance meeting, class lines blur for one telling moment to allow these two strangers to establish a powerful bond. Actress Kate Winslet explains the attraction:

"Jack is the first person, the first man certainly, who has shown interest in her desires and her dreams," Winslet says. "They share so many of the same passions for life, which he's already attained and to which she's aspiring."

Following her debut in the controversial drama "Heavenly Creatures," the 22-year-old British native has quickly risen as one of the most acclaimed young actresses in cinema today. Receiving an Academy Award® nomination for Best Supporting Actress in director Ang Lee's adaptation of Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility," she takes on her first starring American role as the headstrong Rose.

"She's a very spirited girl," Winslet says. "She has a lot to give and a very open heart. She wants to explore the world but knows that's not going to happen. When we first meet her, there's a sense of resignation and despair about her. Then she meets Jack Dawson and an amazing love surfaces, which is based completely on trust and communication."

Fresh from his acclaimed performances in "William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet" and "Marvin's Room," Oscar® nominee Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Jack Dawson, a struggling young artist who wins his third-class ticket aboard Titanic in a lucky game of poker. "Jack is a sort of wandering person," Leonardo DiCaprio says, "who seizes on the opportunities life presents to him. At a young age, I think he realizes how short life really is, and that's a big factor in who he is as a person."

Seduced by Jack's artist soul, Rose at first cannot find the strength to extricate herself from her engagement to Caledon Hockley (Billy Zane) and the weighty presence of his family name and wealth. At first, Cal and his intimate circle of wealthy friends look at Jack with a sense of amusement. After Jack and Rose's chance meeting, Cal invites Jack to dinner in first-class, expecting to entertain his fellow guests at the expense of the young man. Instead, he has set the stage for his own rejection.

"Jack Dawson doesn't exist as far as my character, Cal Hockley, is concerned, at least not at first," Zane observes. "Except for servants, the lower classes were pretty much invisible to the super-rich denizens of Hockley's class."

Since his gripping film debut in Phillip Noyce's thriller "Dead Calm," Zane has forged an acclaimed film career that encompasses independent and Hollywood feature films. Before joining "Titanic," Zane co-produced and starred in "This World, Then the Fireworks," based on Jim Thompson's novella, as well as donning the guise of Lee Falk's comic book hero in "The Phantom." As snobbish tycoon Cal Hockley, Zane's chameleon abilities come into play, providing an important contrast to DiCaprio's sensitive hero.

"The world of 1912 was on a precipice," Zane notes. "It marked extreme change in terms of social reform. You have the birth of a new era, embodied by Jack, who is kind of a reminder of the frontier spirit. Cal represents a more imperious sensibility that is flawed and collapsing."

Not oblivious to his fiancee's melancholy, Cal attempts to placate Rose in the only way he understands, presenting her with a priceless blue diamond called the "Heart of the Ocean." It is a turning point for Rose, seeing at last her place in Cal's life as mere adornment and not as a wife.

"Cal is the guy you love to hate," Zane smiles. "He's coming to terms with exactly what a relationship is all about. Cal's relationship with Rose is built more upon public appearance. She is a catch -- a bauble -- and there lies the root of the problem."

Complicating matters further for Rose is her socially driven mother, Ruth (Frances Fisher). Terrified by the carefully guarded secret of her family's near destitution, Ruth sees Jack's presence in Rose's life as a threat to the financial survival insured by her daughter's union with Cal.

As Jack and Rose's forbidden love grows, Cal and Ruth exert their formidable powers to keep them apart. And all the while Titanic and her passengers plunge inevitably toward their tragic destiny.

Winslet says, "I believe that this story does take you to the point where you would do anything you could to stop that ship from sinking in order for them to be together." Adds Cameron, "Every single moment that you're with them, there is this little voice in the back of your mind that's saying they're all doomed. This knowledge gives every moment Jack and Rose share an extra sense of poignancy."

While the epic journey chronicled by "Titanic" begins in the present, the story flashes back to the past, allowing a new generation to witness this series of powerful events with the added benefit of an historic perspective. In the process, Cameron explores the social and cultural layers that were exposed as a result of the accident.

"There's a startling fact that emerges from an analysis of who lived and died on Titanic," Cameron says. "If you were a male in steerage class, you stood about a one in 10 chance of surviving. If you were a first-class male, you stood about a 50/50 chance of surviving. If you were a first-class female, you stood virtually a 100% chance, and if you were a third-class female, you're chances were about 25%. In short survival was largely a function of gender and class. Titanic represented the first time class was translated into body count, and published for all the world to see."

In further examining the historic significance and societal impact of Titanic, the film offers a respectful homage to the historical passengers on the famed ship. Yet, the emotional anchor remains with the relationship between Jack and Rose.

"We wanted to tell a fictional story within absolutely rigorous, historically accurate terms," Cameron says. "If something is known to have taken place, we do not violate it. Likewise, there's nothing that we show that could not have happened. Our fictitious characters are woven through the pylons of history in such a way that they could have been there. All the accuracy and all the special visual effects are intended for one purpose: to put the viewer on Titanic. It's a very you-are-there kind of experience."

An Era Reborn: The Titanic Experts

"It takes three million rivets and a lot of sweat to make a fine ship."
-- Thomas Andrews, Master Shipbuilder, R.M.S. Titanic

Cameron and his team went to great lengths in bringing "Titanic" to the screen, immersing themselves in the ship's lore and history. Their determination to create the definitive account of this historical event was exemplified by the early involvement of Titanic experts Don Lynch and noted artist Ken Marschall, authors of Titanic: An Illustrated History , who were brought aboard as consultants for the motion picture.

Since he was a teenager, Lynch has been researching the ship and its passengers, ultimately joining the Titanic Historical Society to further his studies over the course of nearly 25 years. As the Society's historian, he has become personally acquainted with the remaining survivors of the Titanic as well as the families of many others.

"I discovered that no real effort had been made to trace what became of all the survivors," Lynch explains. "As there were so many young people rescued, I thought perhaps there were a number still living. I began locating them and, in uncovering their stories, learned still more about the night of the disaster."

Widely considered the leading artist of Titanic , Marschall's realistic portraits of the ship are internationally acclaimed for their accuracy and artistry. His work has been featured on the covers of Time , National Geographic and several of Dr. Robert Ballard's best-selling books, including The Discovery of the Titanic . Upon meeting Lynch in 1976, immediate friendship and a shared passion for Titanic lore would ultimately result in their best-selling book which grabbed the attention of a world-renowned filmmaker.

"Jim Cameron had read our book," Lynch says. "He was extremely impressed with Ken's art work and wanted to bring it to life on the screen. In the very beginning, Ken and I met with Jim to discuss the project. We then sat down with Jim's treatment, going through it page by page for physical and historical accuracy."

"Jim wanted to know if, for instance, a character could be in the racquetball court one minute and by the swimming pool the next. Could they get from one place to the other easily without going up three decks, walking the length of the ship and then down five decks? He wanted all the action to be possible, even if only the real die-hard Titanic enthusiasts would know."

After years of studying archives and photographs, Marschall had become accustomed to viewing this massive ship in smaller detail. Working with Cameron's design team, both he and Lynch provided samples and photographs of furnishings, carvings and fabrics from their personal collection of artifacts from Titanic 's sister ship, Olympic .

It would be Marschall who would first make the trip down to the Fox Baja Studio in Rosarito Beach to see the fruits of his and Lynch's collaboration with the filmmakers. Upon seeing the completed ship set for the first time, Marschall says he felt an intense flood of emotion.

"It was like stepping back in time," he says. "This is virtually the size that the real ship was. It's awesome. Seeing the White Star dock as it looked in April of 1912 was every bit as impressive as the ship itself. The research has been impeccable. The lights hanging down from those little gantries on the top, the passenger galley running alongside. Just to see it built in three dimensions for the first time, I was speechless. I spent a lifetime, since the mid-sixties, imagining what it would be like to walk the decks of this ship. And suddenly, I was. There were just no words."

Lynch adds that he had never heard Marschall "so moved by something. Ken is the greatest stickler for accuracy I've ever known," he continues. "I never imagined the sets would be so accurate. Seeing the grand staircase in color instead of old black-and-white photographs, and with dimension and scale, was phenomenal to me. Seeing the film, I was very flattered to see that Jim had utilized things from the book or come to similar conclusions."

The filmmakers of "Titanic" spent more than five years researching the ship and the horrific details of her sudden sinking barely two hours and 40 minutes after hitting a massive iceberg. With cutting-edge filmmaking technology to enhance its dramatic story, coupled with current scientific research and painstaking detail, the film depicts for the first time the ship's glorious launch and maiden journey as well as the tragic beats of Titanic 's dramatic death throes. Throughout, Cameron brings his signature talents to bear, ensuring that audiences will be transported into the heart of this spectacular event.

The film's journey to the screen began more than two years ago, when Cameron himself ventured to the infamous ship's final resting place approximately 400 miles off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada and two-and-a-half miles under the ocean surface. It is here where Cameron faced a powerful talisman from the past, finding inspiration in its wake.

The Deep Dives

"It still gets me every time...to see the sad ruin of the great ship sitting here, where she landed at 2:30 in the morning, April 15, 1912, after her long fall from the world above."
--- Bill Paxton as "Brock Lovett" in "Titanic"

Making it clear that he would not consider going forward with the production unless he could film the actual remains of Titanic himself, Cameron's team got to work. The filmmakers chartered a Russian scientific vessel, the Keldysh, which housed two of only five manned submersibles (Mir 1 and Mir 2) capable of reaching the requisite depths. Cameron's brother Michael Cameron was enlisted to deal with the many daunting technological hurdles that stood between Jim and his vision.

Prior to making a series of 12 dives to the wreck site, a number of technical and logistical problems had to be solved. While there had been previous efforts to film the wreckage, the images produced were limited by the extreme underwater environment. The makers of "Titanica," a 1992 IMAX film, kept their cameras inside the submersible, filming through the vessel's nine-inch-thick porthole. Since this limited both scope and movement, the first challenge was to design the necessary technology to liberate the camera, moving it outside of the sub and into a treacherous environment of freezing temperatures and pressure of over 6,000 pounds per square inch.

"No one had ever taken a camera that deep before," Cameron says. "The crushing force of the water would implode any normal camera housing. I wanted to have it outside in the water, attached to the submersible, but able to pan and tilt naturally and be able to use wide-angle lenses to get the most out of the shots. So we had to create a camera system."

Michael Cameron played a key role in this engineering effort. Working with Panavision and several submergence technology companies, an off-the-shelf 35mm camera was modified to fit within custom-made titanium housings on a specially designed pan-and-tilt, remote-operated platform. A custom lighting system as well as an "ROV" (remotely operated vehicle) that could be launched from the sub and piloted around and in the wreck were also designed under Michael Cameron's supervision.

Because of the limited volume of the titanium camera housings, the camera could only hold one 500-foot roll of film, and reloading was obviously out of the question. Each sub's three-man crew would also have to endure a perilous two-and-a-half hour journey (each way) packed in a seven-foot diameter crew sphere to reach the Titanic wreckage at the bottom of the sea. Because of such time and space constraints as well as the 500-foot load limit, efficiency became a critical factor in shooting the wreckage properly and capturing the best images possible.

"Anybody who's ever shot their kid's birthday party on a home video camera knows that a half-hour tape goes like that," Cameron says with a snap of his fingers. "When you're making a 16-hour dive and you have to rigidly discipline yourself to shoot 12 minutes of film, it's a little scary."

Utilizing a model of the wreckage based on photo mosaics and other research materials supplied from previous Titanic expeditions, Cameron and his team held several planning sessions aboard the Keldysh to devise the optimum camera strategy.

"We had a little pre-visualization bay set up where we would take a little video camera," Cameron explains, "and mount it on a miniature submersible with fiber-optic lights that corresponded to the actual light we'd be using. We would do dry test runs of the shot in smoke, and I would get the Russian sub-pilots to move their toy subs the way they were going to move their actual vehicles so that they would understand the shots."

It was not Cameron's aim to shoot a documentary, but a narrative film. But his director's mind in a sense distanced him from the emotion of the task at hand. He had to become a passenger to truly understand the significance of Titanic's existence.

Cameron recalls, "I went there as a director, so when we made our first dive, it was 'Shot one, shot two, shot three.' We had a schedule to make. 'I want Mir 1 here and Mir 2 there.' It wasn't until the third or fourth dive that I let it hit me emotionally -- the awe and mystery of being two-and-a-half miles down on the floor of the Atlantic, seeing the sad ruin of this great ship."

"But we were able to come back with this rich harvest of film and video images." Cameron continues. "We sent our remote vehicle inside and explored the interiors. We literally saw things that no one has seen since 1912, since the ship went down. We've integrated these images into the fabric of the film and that reality has a profound impact on the emotional power of the film."

Following the dives to the Titanic wreckage site, Cameron took the film reels to the art department to begin construction of the models that would be used in the film. Much of the ship's interior remained in a preserved state of ghostly elegance. The director asked production designer Peter Lamont to recreate some of the specifics he saw inside the ship. Visible in the motion picture are such items as a bronze fireplace box Cameron photographed inside a suite, both as he saw it in its current state and, later, restored to its pristine 1912 glory.

In July 1996, the second leg of the film's journey began in a shooting tank located in Escondido, California. It is here where Cameron filmed the wreck's recreated interiors -- window frames, doorjambs, a light fixture hanging on a wire, even a brass door plate he saw in the First Class Reception that read, "PULL."

"When you see the interior and exterior of Titanic in this film," says Cameron, "it is absolutely accurate. It is as close as you can get to being in a time machine, going back and being on that ship." As Cameron's expedition came to a close, "Titanic" could set sail towards principal photography, bringing the past and present together on screen. Its first destination was Halifax, Nova Scotia in Canada -- near the watchful specter of the legendary wreckage.

From Nova Scotia to Baja California

Providing a contemporary narrative thread through "Titanic," the character of Brock Lovett is searching through the cold expanse of liquid space for a priceless jewel hidden within the tangled wreckage of the infamous ocean liner. Instead of a legendary diamond, the "Heart of the Ocean," he uncovers a drawing that reveals the tale of two hearts. When an elderly woman named Rose purporting to be the subject of the drawing -- and a heretofore unknown Titanic survivor -- comes to the salvage site, Lovett and his team discover more than a map of treasure. They have unintentionally stirred the waters of her past and the memory of a remarkable tale of love and heroism aboard the doomed ship.

In July 1996, Cameron began photography of the contemporary wraparound portion of "Titanic" onboard the Russian ship Keldysh in the waters off Halifax. The underwater footage that Cameron had painstakingly shot in 1995 was used as playback in these scenes on monitors documenting Lovett's on-going fictional salvage operation effort. Portraying the modern-day pirate Brock Lovett is Bill Paxton, continuing his long-standing collaboration with Cameron ("Aliens," "The Terminator" and "True Lies").

"Lovett is the character that brings you into the whole story of 'Titanic,'" Paxton says. "He's just trying to find the treasure. This guy is there to plunder, but for PR purposes he's selling the whole idea of romantic treasure hunting and doing CNN spots. He knows all the technical details of the ship's demise but has never really connected with the human drama that unfolded that night."

According to Paxton, the experience of essaying a character in "Titanic" seemed to invoke the spirit of the ship whenever its name was repeated. For him, the legacy of Titanic will forever fascinate the public because of its moral significance and its illumination of human nature.

"This mythic story has become almost Homeric in terms of being a modern-day legend," Paxton says. "You ask yourself, 'What would I have done?' It was a true test of character, being on that ship, having to say good-bye to your wife or children or giving up your seat to someone."

Also appearing with Paxton in the modern-day portion of "Titanic" are Suzy Amis as Rose's granddaughter; and Lewis Abernathy and Nicholas Cascone, who complete Lovett's expedition crew. In a case of life influencing art, Dr. Anatoly M. Sagalevitch, program director of the Institute that operates the Keldysh and the Mirs, was cast in a true-to-life role for the film. Dr. Sagalevitch had also accompanied Cameron in his deep-sea expedition to the wreck site in 1995.

However, the emotional core of "Titanic"'s contemporary sequences is provided by Gloria Stuart, our modern-day Rose. "Jim structured the story to bring a modern-day audience back to Titanic through her character," Paxton explains. "He interviewed quite a few women for the role, but there's a kind of mischief about Gloria. She has a sort of irreverence that is really like the character of Rose."

The 87-year-old Stuart had initially pursued an acting career in the 1930's, starring in such films as John Ford's "Air Mail" and Busby Berkeley's "Goldiggers of 1935" until World War II prompted her retirement. It was not until the mid-1980's would Stuart return to the screen, dancing with Peter O'Toole in the opening moments of "My Favorite Year." And now "Titanic."

"After all the years and all my films," Stuart smiles, "this one is the frosting on the cake."

Both Paxton and Stuart say that Cameron drew inspiration for the character of Rose Calvert after meeting famed Ojai artist Beatrice Wood. Internationally renowned for her vivid persona and unflagging energy, it was Paxton who first suggested to Cameron that he should at least interview Wood, now 102 years old. Ultimately, Stuart found the parallels between her character and Wood to be quite inspiring.

"She's still working and very feisty," Stuart says. "Very colorful. Like Beatrice, Rose is a woman who survived. She knew what she wanted at a very early age. She didn't want the kind of life that her mother had in mind for her."

Stuart says she was moved by the eerie images captured by Cameron of the wreck site, which are displayed in a key scene involving Rose. The salvagers are able to give Rose a very detailed and clinical description of the great ship's demise, aided by an impressive high-tech computer simulation. Yet she offers Lovett and his crew a history lesson of her own.

"They're trying to pin her down as to where the diamond was the last time she saw it," Stuart explains. "So they have all the artifacts from her cabin and her mother's, all spread out on the table. There's a hand mirror and a brooch, proving to the men that she knows what she's talking about. And then she sees this beautiful butterfly comb that reminds Rose of her lover. It's a touching moment. She drops everything and picks up the comb and remembers the romance."

For Stuart, Rose offers a profound message to the treasure hunters desperate to find the priceless diamond that for her represented a life less fulfilling.

"The strongest lesson is that you must live a good, productive life," Stuart says. "Be generous and open. The material things in the long run don't really pay off. What ultimately counts is the richness of your relationships with people. Only life is priceless."

The Fox Baja Studios

Among the most striking moments in "Titanic" are its transitions from the present to the past as 101-year-old Rose Calvert begins to recount her amazing tale. With the video monitors displaying the shattered hull of the ship in the background, Rose paints her own vivid image of a beautiful April day in 1912. Slowly, the ruin of Titanic is dramatically restored on screen to its regal glory at Southampton -- and the arrival of its passengers who had no idea of the tragic voyage ahead.

No less remarkable was the actual ship set itself. As the Halifax portion of the film progressed, one of the most complex undertakings in modern filmmaking began to take shape in Rosarito Beach, located in the state of Baja California in Mexico. It was here where the filmmakers decided to shoot the 1912 sequences of "Titanic," which constitute the bulk of the film. The combined efforts of a massive team of artists, craftsmen and engineers would recreate a nearly full-size, 775-foot long exterior shooting set of Titanic as well as the seven-acre, 17-million-gallon seawater tank in which to sink her.

Producer Jon Landau says the decision to build the largest shooting tank in the world, as well as additional filming stages in Rosarito, was made after a global search from Poland to the United Kingdom to Malta to Australia and throughout the U.S. and Canada..

"No single existing site in the world could contain the scale of our production and the attendant facilities that were required to film the scenes that Jim Cameron envisioned," Landau says. "In order to support the scope of the film and to be able to facilitate both interior and exterior production, it was more efficient to custom-build it all in one place."

With masterful planning, the extraordinary challenge of readying production of "Titanic" in Mexico was realized in a remarkably short period of time. Construction on the Fox Baja Studios began May 30, 1996 on a 40-acre beach front parcel of land. The state-of-the-art facility featured a 17-million-gallon exterior tank, a 5-million-gallon interior tank housed in a 32,000-square-foot sound stage and three traditional stages. The studio also included production offices, set/prop storage, a grip/electric building, welding/fabrication workshops, dressing rooms and a number of ancillary support structures.

A scant 100 days after ground-breaking, principal photography began. And looming majestically against the breathtaking Mexican coastline was the 775-foot exterior set of Titanic, standing 45-feet from the water line to the boat deck floor, its four distinctive funnels towering another 54-feet against a timeless horizon. Titanic sailed again.

Colliding With Destiny: The Building and Sinking of the Ship Set

While Rose DeWitt Bukater and Jack Dawson were able to outrun the forces threatening to end their romance within the "unsinkable" steel hull of Titanic , not even their committed passion could protect them from the inevitable. Recreating the ship's terrifying demise would be the most physically challenging aspect of "Titanic." The central goal in director Cameron's mind: to film these sequences as if he had actually been there at the time of the accident.

Cameron recounts, "We had a series of big pre-visualization sessions for about a month and a half. We built a study model of the ship and went around it with a video camera. We learned the geography of Titanic, as well as which angles made look its most imposing and most beautiful."

As the process continued, the sets required to film the ship and its destruction became apparent.

"You can't just build one set," Cameron continues, "you have to build a number of sets at different angles because the ship was changing angles continuously over a period of time."

Working within rigid engineering and safety specifications, the final hours of Titanic were filmed in the enormous exterior and interior shooting tanks. The elegant First Class Dining Saloon and the three-story Grand Staircase, both built virtually life-size, were constructed on a hydraulic platform at the bottom of the 30-foot-deep interior tank on Stage 2, designed to be angled and flooded with 5 million gallons of filtered seawater drawn from the ocean only yards away. This was only one of the enormous logistical feats accomplished by use of complex hydraulics and construction.

Production designer Peter Lamont, whose impressive body of work has earned him three Academy Award® nominations ("Aliens," "The Spy Who Loved Me" and "Fiddler on the Roof"), took on this enormous assignment as an irresistible challenge to his distinguished career. At the onset, he was able to obtain from shipbuilders Harland & Wolff copies of the original blueprints of Titanic along with Thomas Andrews' own notebook of remarks on the ship's design features. This was the first time such material had ever been made available since Titanic's sinking.

During the course of his research, Lamont discovered that the manufacturer of the original carpeting for the Dining Saloon and Reception Room on D Deck was still in business. The company, BMK Stoddard of England, still had the pattern on file and could reproduce the dyes. Immediately, production put in an order, adding another element of reality.

An Englishman given to understatement, Lamont acknowledges that perhaps his greatest challenge in this vast undertaking was the coordination of "Titanic's" design elements.

"For nearly a year," Lamont says, "we had sets and furnishings being built in Mexico City, Los Angeles and London, with timelines for shipping to a facility that wasn't even built yet. The quantity of items we authentically reproduced -- deck chairs, table lamps, leaded windows, White Star crystal and china, luggage, lifejackets, marine accessories -- amounted to literally thousands of pieces because part of the goal of the art direction was to recreate the size of it all -- titanic. Constructing the 775-foot filming exterior set of Titanic is an undertaking as complex, in a different way, as building the real thing, but in just one-tenth the time."

As Lamont also points out, providing an additional challenge was the fact that, since it was Titanic's first voyage, its interiors were barely completed and hardly photographed. Through extensive research and the aid of consultants Don Lynch and Ken Marschall, his department was able to accurately recreate the opulence of the ship's famed First Class Dining Saloon, Reception Room, First Class Smoking Room, Promenade, Palm Court Cafe, Gymnasium and several deluxe period Staterooms (including Cal and Rose's Empire-style suite) based on reference photos from Titanic's sister ship, the Olympic, and the few interior photos of Titanic that exist.

Great care was also taken in providing a realistic tour of the more Spartan realms below the first-class decks of Titanic, including the Third Class Berths and General Room; the Marconi Wireless Room; the cavernous Boiler and Engine Rooms; and the huge Cargo Hold, where the spoils of the rich (including a handsome new maroon and black Renault) were stored. All combined, the 775-foot ship set was about 10% smaller than the actual Titanic, eliciting a sense of awe from all involved.

"It took us a long time to really get our minds around how big Titanic really was," Cameron says. "It was huge, 880-feet long. In weight, it was 48,000 tons in displacement, but in physical weight of steel, it was closer to 60,000 tons. This thing was a monster."

In order to promote the illusion of Titanic being at sea, the ship set and the tank were strategically constructed along the coastline with an unbroken view of the ocean to create an infinite horizon during the day or night. Also, the night scenes would require a tower crane to position lights well above the already 45-foot high boat deck at the ship set's "level" position and higher at the stern when in the "sinking" position.

Given the towering dimensions of the ship, Cameron made great use of the Akela Crane, an advanced piece of filmmaking hardware. One of the largest camera cranes in the world, it has a reach of 80-feet. However, in order to fully the majesty of the Titanic at sea and in peril, Cameron put his background in engineering into play again.

"We built this big tower crane with almost a 200-foot reach," Cameron says, "and we put the track along the side of the ship in the water tank. We could go right over the top to the funnels and reach a point on the ship from end to end in a space of five minutes. We could put a camera anywhere over the whole length of that ship."

Cameron himself would be suspended high above the ship set, using a gyro-stabilized camera mounted on the crane basket. This would allow Cameron and director of photography Russell Carpenter greater flexibility in shooting material for visual effects and establishing shots of the ship, as well as moving in close for dramatic moments involving the actors.

"We could stabilize the image enough," the director continues, "and use it for visual effect shots and for big, beautiful establishing shots. It evolved into a very important tool."

As for the ship set itself, the structure was a completely finished, two-decked platform (A Deck and the boat deck with a facade of riveted steel hull plating descending to the water line). Producer Jon Landau estimates that "almost a thousand effects shots were eliminated because of the ability to shoot on the full-sized ship set."

Over a three-week Christmas hiatus, the set was repositioned to a 6% angle via a complex "jacking process," involving two construction companies, to simulate more advanced stages of sinking. For the final stages of the disaster, the ship would be separated into two pieces, the front half sinking in 40-feet of water using powerful hydraulics. One of the more chilling facts about the actual sinking was that there were only enough lifeboats to handle barely half the passengers aboard. Heightening this tragedy was the crew's failure to fill the boats to capacity, resulting in only a third of the passengers making it to safety. For the film, the production team was able to apply a layer of realism to this technically complex and emotionally powerful sequence. The lifeboat davits, which is the system of pulleys and mechanisms required to launch the vessels, were constructed by the same company that built the davits for the actual Titanic.

"The Wellan Davit Company," Cameron explains, "built our davits to their old plans. We literally had the very same piece of machinery that was used on Titanic to lower a lifeboat."

In the early house of April 15, 1912, the flooding bow of Titanic pulled the forward portion of the ship down, lifting the stern out of the water to a terrifying angle. When the stress on the hull reached critical mass, with the two portions still attached at the keel, the descending bow pulled the stern straight up to a vertical position, where it bobbed for a few minutes before plunging like an elevator into the dark sea. To recreate this, the aftmost section of the ship set, or "poop deck," was relocated onto a special tilting platform, basically a giant see-saw built at the edge of the tank.

Throughout the course of the production, the filmmakers were continually reminded that water is one of the most powerful forces on earth. "Whenever we tried to deal with water, we were always frustrated by its weight and power," Cameron says. "That's one of the interesting things about the Titanic disaster. They thought they were the lords of the sea. They thought they had dominated nature. But nature will never be dominated. We have to ride with it, but we're not going to steamroll right over the top of it. They thought they could pave the world and drive their big, metal ships across the ocean with impunity. They were wrong."

A Floating Microcosm: Titanic's Passengers

With the Trans-Atlantic travel industry booming at the turn of the twentieth century, intense competition fueled White Star Line to build the biggest, fastest and most luxurious ships to corner the passenger trade. The era's wealthier patrons were eager to pay a huge sum for an exceptionally comfortable means of crossing the ocean. However, the staple of the Trans-Atlantic liners were the steerage class, comprised mainly of emigrants who populated the lower decks of these ships with their vision of the American dream.

The first-class passengers on Titanic represented a veritable "who's who" of upper- crust Anglo-American society, as exemplified by Rose's thumbnail sketch when Jack escorts her to their pivotal first-class dinner: "There's the Countess of Rothes. And that's John Jacob Astor...the richest man on the ship. His little wifey there, Madeleine, is my age and in a delicate condition. See how she's trying to hide it. Quite the scandal. And over there, that's Sir Cosmo and Lucile, Lady Duff-Gordon. She designs naughty lingerie, among her many talents. Very popular with the royals. And that's Benjamin Guggenheim and his mistress, Madame Aubert. Mrs. Guggenheim is at home with the children, of course."

Also providing considerable luster to the Titanic's passenger list were Isidor Straus (founder of Macy's department store) and his wife, Ida; a large contingent of Philadelphia society; and dozens of other notables, all lured into being a part of the luxury liner's historic debut. The flamboyant Margaret "Molly" Brown, wife of a Colorado millionaire, was returning from a winter abroad and a side trip to Egypt (where she joined with the Astors for a sightseeing excursion); as well as William T. Stead, editor of the Review of Reviews. One of the era's most powerful millionaires, J. P. Morgan also booked passage aboard Titanic, ultimately changing his mind 24 hours prior to the ship's departure. It is his luxurious suite that Rose, Ruth and Cal occupy in the film. Who, if anyone, ultimately occupied this prestigious suite in real life remains a mystery to this day.

Joining his company's prize creation on its maiden voyage was J. Bruce Ismay, managing director of the White Star Line, as well as master shipbuilder Thomas Andrews, who had tirelessly overseen the design and construction of the ship.

Providing a stark contrast to the privileged class represented by Rose, the world of the third-class passengers is vividly embodied by Jack and his friends. Following his own baptism into the ways of the upper-class at Cal's failed dinner, Jack reciprocates by stealing Rose away to a lively party in the steerage-class public room to introduce her to his world.

In general, the passengers in third-class were immigrants traveling with all they owned, leaving behind all they knew and heading to America flush with the hope of a new life and greater fortunes.

"They're dancing, they're drinking and rowdy," Cameron says, reflecting on the general mood of these young adventurers. "Rose hasn't been exposed to that kind of life, but she's ready for it. I had to get her into Jack's world so that we see there is hope for her. They're having fun, and they don't care about politeness and formality and Rose embraces their spirit. It's a celebration of life. And I believe that's what these people must have actually been feeling. They were going to a new life, they had made a decision. I wanted to capture a sense of that spirit."

The minimalistic style of the third-class sections paled in comparison to the lavishness of the first-class rooms of the upper decks. Still, for many of its patrons, the steerage class cabins were a marked improvement over the conditions of the homes they were leaving. Titanic historian Don Lynch writes in Titanic: An Illustrated History: "The third-class cabins were mostly located in the lower or less desirable parts of the ship, and single men and women were separated by an entire ship's length - men in the bow and women in the stern. Families, however, stayed together in small but reasonably comfortable rooms."

For all of Titanic's passengers, the purchase of a ticket meant they would ultimately face their own mortality, regardless of their cabin location. Sadly, however, due to a combination of social, cultural and logistical reasons, the third-class suffered the greatest losses in the sinking. It was commonly reported that, most likely in an effort to manage the crowd, many lower sections of the ship were locked off, thus preventing escape to all but the most intrepid. And, while it is know that many of the ship's stewards did try to help emigrants who could not speak English to the lifeboats, the third-class passengers were in general tragically and horribly forgotten. Lynch writes:

"The gates leading from the well deck to the second-class areas remained locked, and some men were forced to crawl along the cranes to get to the higher decks. Although repeated attempts were made by the stewards to bring women from the well deck to the boats, it seems unlikely that anyone searched the corridors, cabins, and public rooms in third-class. A high proportion of women and children in third-class were lost, including all the large families on the Titanic. By the time men were allowed up from the well deck, it was too late -- most of the lifeboats had already gone."

Designs For Living: Stitch by Stitch and Motion by Motion

The realism of "Titanic" extends beyond the steel, rivets, hardware and other physical elements. The filmmakers also took the same painstaking efforts to ensure its population of actors' dress and mannerisms were just as true to the period as their environment. Housed in a building as large as a football field, the skilled international team of wardrobe, hair and makeup artists dressed as many as 1,000 extras in scenes that surround the principal cast.

As the century turned to a new age, the strict morality of the Victorian era was not easily dismantled. The world was heading forth into the Edwardian period, and a new generation felt trapped between the customs of the past and the liberation of progress.

"This was an era of great formality," Costume Designer Deborah L. Scott says. "People of wealth changed their wardrobe four and five times a day. Their clothes were so elaborate that personal maids and valets were absolutely necessary. The clothes were incredibly beautiful and detailed. Although they still wore corsets, the robust Victorian look was out; the new silhouette was lean and more youthful."

Praised for her design work on such period films as "Legends of the Fall" and "Hoffa," Scott engaged in months of extensive research into the period where wardrobe, perhaps more than ever, reflected a person's stature and personality. She then led a multi-national team of beadmakers and seamstresses in an effort to create, acquire and restore thousands of wardrobe pieces -- gowns, suits, uniforms and millinery.

Key makeup artist Tina Earnshaw complemented the wardrobe of "Titanic's" first- class passengers with a period palette of color. Earnshaw, whose credits include "Hamlet," "Othello," "Jefferson in Paris" and "Emma," comments, "After the no-makeup look of the Victorians, the elite of the Edwardian period were thrilled to wear makeup. Very subtle, though -- a bit of powder, a little kohl around the eyes, lipstain made from berries and a touch of rouge. Very pretty."

Earnshaw's role as makeup artist extended beyond representing the beauty of the period. It also had to include the effects of extreme cold on the passengers following Titanic's sinking. Her research led to consulting with hospitals and doctors about the effects of hypothermia, learning that tears freeze and wet hair breaks off in icicles as a result of the intense cold.

With a career that includes such films as "Emma" and "The French Lieutenant's Woman," as well as caring for the tresses of Madonna and Liza Minnelli, key hair artist Simon Thompson poured over countless research materials in libraries and galleries of Paris and London. He would eventually purchase 450 wigs and hundreds of hair pieces for the large cast and company of extras.

Thompson explains, "The enormous hats of the period sat on formal upswept hairdos with padded hairpieces. Hair was always up, never down -- except for breakfast or the boudoir. Rose shows her rebelliousness when she wears her hair flowing. The men were equally formal, clean-shaven, very pomaded. It was a period of ultimate grooming. In fact, the Titanic had a barber shop and a Turkish bath."

In his research, Thompson also found an exquisite tortoise hair comb, which would later play a significant part in "Titanic" by prompting Rose Calvert's vivid recollections of the past. Thompson says he photocopied the piece and sent the copy to a jeweler specializing in historical pieces to replicate. In the film, Lovett's salvagers recover the comb, which belonged to Rose.

With the "look" in place, the filmmakers next sought to train the actors in the ways of the period. As proper etiquette was the hallmark of Edwardian society the actors had to alter their own contemporary behaviors to coordinate with the period of their shipboard environs. Naval historian Kit Bonner supervised the shipboard protocol for officers and crew.

Dialect coach Susan Hegarty worked closely with the actors to achieve the truest representation of the period's Anglo and American high society and coached other cast members, even native speakers, who were playing emigrants.

The British-born Winslet took her research one step further to fully define the role of Rose, immersing herself in the history of the Philadelphia upper-class at the turn of the century.

"There was so much I had to learn about Philadelphia lifestyle," Winslet says. "I could do an American accent, but Philadelphia is so specific. It's almost at times very English, and my fear about playing it really correctly was that people would think my English accent was slipping in. I voiced my fears to Susan (Hegarty), and we would just go through a lot of drilling, going over certain sounds."

With voices in synch and costumes in place, the production enlisted choreographer and etiquette coach Lynne Hockney to ensure the actors portrayed the manners and mores of period behavior with a high degree of accuracy.

"The Edwardian period produced hundreds of etiquette manuals," Hockney reveals. "Especially for the upper-class, it was a stifling time. From their clothes to their body language to their conversation, there were strict rules to follow."

For Winslet, training with the London-based Hockney was one of the easier aspects of preparing for "Titanic." Prior to filming, they would meet to discuss the necessary etiquette points, which were similar to the period represented in one of her previous film efforts, "Sense and Sensibility." As for her decidedly modern American co-star, it was quite a humorous change of pace, particularly during the dancing sequence when Jack takes Rose to the Steerage Public Room.

"It was interesting," DiCaprio says. "You have to accept it was a different time and they didn't have the same moves that are around now. It was a transition for me to get into it all. I actually joked around with my friends. I told them I did a little dancing in the movie. So I went to my room and made up a whole routine that wasn't really what we were doing and I sort of did a ballet. They just sat there in complete shock!"

DiCaprio did find etiquette training contradictory for his role as Jack, especially since he does represent a freer sensibility, unrestrained by the mores of the time. While he studied the gentlemanly comportment of such minutiae as holding a fork, DiCaprio sought a more realistic compromise to edit out any contemporary mannerisms and still remain in the period.

"I worked with the etiquette coach and halfway into it," he says, "I realized that in order to make Jack the character he is, he sort of needs to ignore such things. I'm supposed to stick out like a sore thumb in these environments. It was also very difficult to keep in mind the way things were said back then as we were improvising. Communication between men and women was different then. Jack disregards all that, and that's why Rose is interested in him."

Further rounding out Jack's character as a free-spirited artist of the period is his drawing style, displayed in the sketch of Rose that he completes the night Titanic sinks and which is later recovered as part of the salvage effort. As Cameron explains, "When the art department was unable to locate an artist who could complete the sketch as I envisioned, I decided to draw it myself from photographs of Kate." Cameron also did the additional drawings that appear in Jack's sketch book.

Also rejoining Cameron's creative staff on "Titanic" were several key personnel involved with his acclaimed canon of work, including special effects coordinator Tom Fisher ("True Lies," "T2") and casting director Mali Finn ("True Lies," "T2").

Also contributing their special research, experience and expertise to the immense project at hand were visual effects supervisor Rob Legato ("Apollo l3," "Interview with the Vampire"), working with Cameron's Digital Domain in devising the advanced special visual effects; stunt coordinator Simon Crane ("Braveheart," "GoldenEye"); and marine coordinator Lance Julian ("Cutthroat Island").

Godspeed Titanic: A Brief History

Through the combined efforts of Cameron's filmmaking team and consultants Don Lynch and Ken Marschall, Titanic was willed into reality, captivating us for a second time this century. As for its first incarnation in 1912, the ship was constructed in Belfast during a pressured two-year period, taking yet a third year to outfit. Motivated by White Star Line's competitive campaign and thanks to the new achievements in communication, Titanic was launched with an unprecedented wave of worldwide publicity.

Titanic left Southampton dock midday on Wednesday, April 10, 1912, stopping at Cherbourg, France, where the "unsinkable" Molly Brown and John Jacob Astor, the wealthiest of Titanic's prestigious passengers, boarded and, finally, made her last stop at Queenstown on the south coast of Ireland. From Queenstown, with some 2,223 people aboard, she steamed at top speed for New York City.

Yet, despite repeated warnings of ice along its route, the ship fatally struck an iceberg at 11:40pm on April 14, less than five days into its maiden voyage. By 2:30am on April 15th, she lay torn in half at the bottom of the North Atlantic.

"Titanic didn't just 'sink,'" explains executive producer Rae Sanchini, commenting on the ship's final hours. "She literally ripped in two at the surface, with over 250 feet of stern lifting out of water and, at one point, stood nearly vertical to the ocean's surface. Her dramatic death throes lived up to her pretentious name. The maiden voyage of the 'ship of dreams' ended in a nightmare truly beyond comprehension."

"In addition to being the greatest disaster story ever told, the brief life and stunning death of Titanic is a landmark historic event. In a sense, it signaled the end of the age of innocence, shattered confidence in progress and technology, and challenged passive acceptance of class as a definition of birthright. Survival on Titanic," Sanchini points out, "was a direct function of class and gender."

A fateful combination of events transpired during Titanic's brief journey, each placing the floating city on a collision course with infamy. Erroneous decisions in navigation, communication gaps, the absence of emergency procedures, the lack of adequate lifeboats, the ingrained privilege of upper-class, the fierce cold, the moonless dark, the sheer physics of what happened to the Titanic, disbelief and denial, all contributed to the deaths of 1,500 men, women and children in a lethally cold sea. Even if they were able to have survived the sinking, they soon succumbed to hypothermia in water four degrees below freezing.

The final hours of Titanic continue to be analyzed today, with experts, scientists and laymen tirelessly perusing the well-known and conflicting information about the event. Ironically, the social consequences of this event seem to remain in the distance.

Cameron observes, "Titanic was the first big wake-up call of the twentieth century. Technology had been delivering a steady diet of miracles for the better part of two decades -- the automobile, sound recording, radio communication, the airplane, motion pictures. Everything was just exploding with possibilities; it was all going to be great and wonderful in the never-ending upward spiral of progress. And then, boom -- 15 hundred people die in what had been advertised as the best, safest, most luxurious ship ever built. Our so-called mastery over nature was completely refuted and forever destroyed."

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