Even more than 25 years after its premiere, filmmaker James Cameron is still unearthing rare jewels about the creation of his hit film Titanic.
The film, which was released in 1997, catapulted main actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet to celebrity and won a record-equaling (to Ben-Hur) 11 Oscars, a haul that has yet to be surpassed but has subsequently been matched by Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
Titanic, which has got a new 4K restoration for an anniversary Blu-ray re-release, was also the highest grossing picture of all time for a long period.
Only Cameron’s Avatar, released in 2009, and its 2022 sequel, as well as a little film named Avengers: Endgame, have topped it.
The director is famed for his enormous expenditures, but when describing his sweeping fictionalised account of the loss of the RMS Titanic in 1912, he did give an exceedingly intriguing hack that was employed to save money.
Titanic included massive sets, including a partially rebuilt 800-foot-long full-scale model ship, which, when paired with complicated scenes, made it the most costly film ever shot at the time.
Cameron insisted that he and co-producer Jon Landau ‘never panicked’ as the budget ballooned to $200million (£159m), but the studio certainly did.
‘It’s not our job to panic,’ he added.
However, one astonishing trick they did do surely aided in stretching that film magic: Cameron and Landau demanded that only short individuals be employed for supporting roles.
‘We only cast short extras so it made our set look bigger,’ Cameron told the LA Times.
‘Anybody above 5’8”, we didn’t cast them. It’s like we got an extra million dollars of value out of casting,’
That is… astonishingly simple.
Landau also said that they discarded an entire set that was supposed to be skewed at a three-degree angle, instead employing a level one for sequences shot before the collision with the iceberg and a level six for the sinking of the Titanic.
‘We compromised the three degrees and we saved $750,000 (£596K),’ he shared.
While Titanic remains a tremendous cinematic achievement, a clip from it went popular on TikTok in July when a fan spotted the slightly unconvincing CGI in the background when Cameron wasn’t using his short extras.
Shortly after the Titanic sets sail, CGI was utilised to rebuild the ship and her passengers, with the camera moving across the ship before zooming in on the captain (played by Bernard Hill).
The individuals are small, their features are hidden, and there’s a definite air of video game graphics at play, not quite holding up to the rigours of high-resolution and special effects now, compared to watching on VHS tape in the 1990s.
However, alongside joking descriptions of it as a ‘Sims 4 Titanic expansion pack’, others defended the ‘cutting edge’ visuals of the time.