It’s been over 15 years since we all came to
Titanic was the biggest film of all time when it was released in 1997, taking the world and the box-office by storm. While billion-dollar box office numbers are more commonplace these days, it was unheard of before James Cameron’s romantic epic.
Here are 11 fun facts about the film and its history…
1. The scenes set in 1912, i.e. the whole movie except the present-day scenes and the opening and ending credits, have a total length of two hours and forty minutes, the exact time it took for Titanic to sink. Besides, exactly 37 seconds pass in the movie between the lookouts warning and the actual collision with the iceberg – the same amount of time it took in real life.
2. When James Cameron was writing the movie, he intended for the main characters Rose DeWitt Bukater and Jack Dawson to be entirely fictitious. It was only after the script was finished that he discovered that there had been a real “J. Dawson” who died aboard the Titanic. This “J. Dawson” was trimmer Joseph Dawson, who had been born September 1888 in Dublin, Ireland.
3. When Jack prevents Rose from committing suicide, he shares a story about how he once fell into freezing cold water while ice fishing and how it feels like “being stabbed with a thousand knives all over your body.” This was an actual quote from a Titanic survivor describing the temperature of the North Atlantic water.
4. Robert De Niro was offered the role of Captain Smith but turned it down due to a gastrointestinal infection at the time.
5. Studio officials lobbied for Matthew McConaughey in the lead role, but Cameron insisted on Leo DiCaprio.
6. At $200 million, the movie cost more than the Titanic itself. The cost to construct the ship in 1910-1912 was £1.5 million, equivalent to $7.5 million at the time and about $120 to $150 million in 1997 dollars.
7. This was the first film to be nominated twice for an Academy Award, for the portrayal of the same character: Kate Winslet received a Best Actress nomination for her role as Rose and Gloria Stuart received a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her portrayal of the older Rose.
8. James Cameron forfeited his $8 million director’s salary and his percentage of the gross when the studio became concerned at how much over budget the movie was running.
9. The first-class lounge was deemed to be too expensive a set to be built. As a miniature of it was required for the flooding scenes, one was built to quarter of the real size. This was then green screened as background for the scenes where the actors were seen sitting in the lounge.
10. After finding out that she had to be naked in front of Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet decided to break the ice, and when they first met, she flashed him.
11. The hands seen sketching Rose are not Leonardo DiCaprio’s, but James Cameron’s. In post-production, Cameron, who is left-handed, mirror-imaged the sketching shots so the artist would appear to be right-handed, like DiCaprio.
12. James Cameron went on the dives to the real Titanic himself, and found it an overwhelming emotional experience to actually see it. He ended up spending more time with the ship than its living passengers did.
13. The staircase is not actually technically accurate, being slightly larger in the film than it was in real life. This is because people in 1997 were a bit taller than in 1912 so they would have looked out of place on a staircase that fit the correct dimensions.
14. On the final night of shooting in Nova Scotia, one or more pranksters mixed the dissociative hallucinogen PCP (angel dust) into the clam chowder served to the cast and crew. 80 people were taken ill, and more than 50 were hospitalized with hallucinations. When James Cameron realized what was happening, he forced himself to vomit before the drug took full effect.
15. Most of the stuntmen in the engine room scenes were only about 5 feet tall to make the engine room look a lot bigger.
16. One of three films to win a total of 11 Academy Awards, the others being Ben-Hur in 1959 and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in 2003.
17. The elderly couple seen hugging on the bed while water floods their room are the owners of Macy’s department store in New York; Ida and Isidor Strauss, both of whom died on the Titanic. Ida was offered a seat on a lifeboat but refused so that she could stay with her husband, saying, “As we have lived together, so we shall die together.” There was a scene filmed that depicted this moment but was cut from the final version.