He snagged the world record for the deepest solo dive last week in the South Pacific, but James Cameron just can’t resist going back to Titanic.
In London for the premiere of his 3-D rerelease of his Best Picture-winning epic about the doomed ocean liner, which is hitting theaters next month in honor of its 15th anniversary, the famed director talked about the making of Titanic, the phenomenon it became and casting stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.
Here are five new things we learned:
1. Keep Reshuffling Those Deck Chairs: Cameron, 57, admitted he may have bit off more than he could chew with the 1997 melodrama, particularly given the cost overruns that earned Titanic a flood of negative publicity, so much so that it was being heralded as a bomb before it even opened.
“You know it just seemed like we were doomed,” Cameron said, reflecting back at the long shoot and tortuous postproduction process. “The press were just having their way with us…that we were the biggest idiots in history of Hollywood at least since Cleopatra…and so it was difficult. You just had to focus on the work and [hope] that all those rounds just go over the top of the bunker.”
2. Capturing Lightning in a Bottle: On Titanic becoming a box-office phenomenon—its $1.8 billion in global ticket sales were the highest-grossing film in history until surpassed by his own film, Avatar—Cameron cited as the reason the fact the flick was able to tap into a set of universal emotions, “speaking to people at a deep kind of universal level that just bypassed language and idiom and culture.
“Titanic…says, ‘What would you do if you had an hour or two to live? Would you sacrifice yourself? Would you be that hero? Would you be that guy like Jack or some of those men that put the woman and children onto the lifeboats?'” mused the filmmaker.
3. On Winslet’s Audition: Cameron was effusive in his praise for his lead actress. “We cast Kate first and she just blew me away at her screen test,” he remembered.
4. Enter the Heartthrob: The King of the Deep instantly knew the chemistry was right when DiCaprio read for him. “I noticed there was something strange when Leo came in for his first meeting and all of a sudden all the women who worked for me in my entire production company were all in the meeting,” Cameron said. “I thought well that’s a little strange…and then Leonardo walked in and I went, ‘Oh I get it I see what’s going on.’ Even at that age he was just such a remarkable actor and so accomplished.”
5. On Leo’s Sudden Fame: Lastly, the artist turned pioneering deep sea explorer revealed that DiCaprio ran away from his iconic role post-Titanic because he feared being typecast. “I think it was tough on Leo because he had planned a career as an actor,” Cameron said. “I mean, he admired De Niro and that ability to just immerse himself in any character and he knew now…with that iconic status of his character Jack in Titanic that he was going to have to fight against that for a while. So I think he kind of distanced himself from the movie…Now he’s fine because he’s proven himself.”
And so has Cameron both on the screen and off…or at least until Avatar 2 and Avatar 3 hits theaters in a few years.