James Cameron’s Titanic, produced on a $200-million budget, premiered on November 1, 1997 at the Tokyo Film Festival, and went on to become the second film to pass the $2-billion mark worldwide in box office receipts. Continue reading for thirty-three interesting things you may not have known about the film, including two bonus behind-the-scenes clips.
Cameron wanted to push the boundary of special effects with his film, and enlisted Digital Domain to continue the developments in digital technology which the director pioneered while working on The Abyss and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Many previous films about the RMS Titanic shot water in slow motion, which did not look wholly convincing. He encouraged them to shoot their 45-foot (14 m) long miniature of the ship as if “we’re making a commercial for the White Star Line”. Afterwards, digital water and smoke were added, as were extras captured on a motion capture stage.
Visual effects supervisor Rob Legato scanned the faces of many actors, including himself and his children, for the digital extras and stuntmen. There was also a 65-foot (20 m) long model of the ship’s stern that could break in two repeatedly, the only miniature to be used in water. For scenes set in the ship’s engines, footage of the SS Jeremiah O’Brien’s engines were composited with miniature support frames and actors shot against a greenscreen. In order to save money, the first class lounge was a miniature set incorporated into a greenscreen backdrop.
An enclosed 5,000,000 US gallons (19,000,000 l) tank was used for sinking interiors, in which the entire set could be tilted into the water. In order to sink the Grand Staircase, 90,000 US gallons (340,000 l) of water were dumped into the set as it was lowered into the tank. Unexpectedly, the waterfall ripped the staircase from its steel-reinforced foundations, although no one was hurt. The 744-foot (227 m) long exterior of the RMS Titanic had its first half lowered into the tank, but being the heaviest part of the ship meant it acted as a shock absorber against the water; to get the set into the water, Cameron had much of the set emptied and even smashed some of the promenade windows himself.
After submerging the dining saloon, three days were spent shooting Lovett’s ROV traversing the wreck in the present. The post-sinking scenes in the freezing Atlantic were shot in a 350,000 US gallons (1,300,000 l) tank, where the frozen corpses were created by applying a powder on actors that crystallized when exposed to water, and wax was coated on hair and clothes.