20 Bizarre-But-True Tales From The Set Of Titanic That Have Finally Come To The Surface

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At the time of its release, James Cameron’s 1997 epic Titanic was a blockbuster the likes of which the world had never before seen. But bringing the true story of the ill-fated RMS Titanic to life was an incredible, chaotic, often downright dangerous undertaking. Millions of dollars were spent, multiple grievances were created, and actors were pushed to their absolute limits. It may have all been worth it in the end, but these 20 true stories will make you see the film in a whole different light.

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20. Kate Winslet begged James Cameron for the role of Rose

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After Winslet read Titanic’s script, she knew immediately that she wanted to play Rose. However, at that point in her life she was still an unknown actress. So what to do? She begged director James Cameron to give the part to her, even sending him roses (of course) after her audition. It all paid off and the rest is history.

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19. Gloria Stuart was alive at the time of the real Titanic

Gloria Stuart, an actress from Hollywood’s Golden Age, played the elderly Rose in the film’s framing scenes. Stuart was born in 1910, making her two years old when the Titanic sank in 1912. She passed away in 2010 at the grand old age of 100 – the same age Rose was in the movie.

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18. “I’m king of the world!” was ad-libbed

In one of Titanic’s most iconic moments, Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jack Dawson stands at the bow of the Titanic. Overcome with emotion, he stretches out his arms and screams, “I’m king of the world!” But that line was never in the script. DiCaprio ad-libbed it, and since Cameron later borrowed it for an Oscar speech, the director was probably glad he did.

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17. All the background characters had backstories

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Titanic needed to be perfect down to the finest detail, and that included giving backstories to characters who were barely seen on screen. Multiple extras were told what their motivations were and what real passenger they were based on. And every one of them was instructed on how to recreate the mannerisms of a person from the 1910s.

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16. Cameron originally didn’t want Céline Dion

Céline Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” is as much a part of Titanic as any of its actors. But Cameron didn’t want the Canadian singer to provide the music at first. Reportedly, he didn’t like the idea of any “pop song” playing over the credits. But composer James Horner quietly got Dion on board, and Cameron was eventually won around.

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15. Jack’s drawing hands are actually Cameron’s

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In the film’s sexiest scene, artist Jack draws a picture of a naked, seductive Rose. But those hands seen carefully composing the sketch aren’t actually DiCaprio’s hands – they’re Cameron’s! But because the director happened to be left-handed and DiCaprio was not, the shot had to be mirrored in post-production.

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14. The movie cost more than the real Titanic

The ocean liner RMS Titanic was luxurious and incredibly expensive. It cost around $7.5 million, which amounts to roughly $120 to $150 million at the time Titanic was produced. The movie, however, went much further. It cost $200 million to make, which at the time was the largest amount of money ever spent on a film’s production.

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13. DiCaprio brought his pet lizard on set

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At the time of filming Titanic, heartthrob DiCaprio happened to own a pet bearded dragon lizard called Blizzard. For whatever reason, he brought it to the set – where it was run over by a truck. But that wasn’t the end of Blizzard! Luckily, DiCaprio was able to tend to the unfortunate creature.

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12. Cameron threatened to fire people for going to the toilet

Reportedly, the work ethic of director Cameron was a pretty intense one. When filming the sinking scenes, he forbade his actors to go the toilet, apparently even threatening to fire them if they did. Both Winslet and DiCaprio ended up peeing in the water, which can hardly have been a comfortable experience.

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11. Cameron allegedly made many enemies

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Much was made of Cameron’s supposed drill sergeant-like behavior on Titanic’s set. The crew, apparently, even took to calling him Mij, the evil alter-ego of Jim. And in 1997 Winslet told the Los Angeles Times that Cameron had “a temper like you wouldn’t believe.” But in an interview with the Guardian in 2003 Cameron said his directing style was, “misinterpreted as unnecessary harshness.”

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10. Different actors nearly played key roles

Titanic could have been a very different movie indeed. Before the filmmakers settled on DiCaprio, Matthew McConaughey was up for the role of Jack. Robert De Niro was offered the part of Captain Smith before pulling out due to illness. And none other than a preteen Lindsay Lohan was considered to play little Cora.

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9. Winslet flashed DiCaprio the first time they met

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Winslet knew that she and DiCaprio would have a nude scene together, and thought it best to get the most important business out of the way ahead of time. So when she first met her co-star, she flashed him! But it turned out to be the start of a beautiful friendship. Winslet and DiCaprio are great buddies even now.

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8. Cameron has visited the real Titanic

The wreck of the Titanic still exists beneath the Atlantic, and it was knowledge of that which made Cameron want to shoot Titanic in the first place. He organized dives down to the site and got funding for his film based on the novelty of that. Ironically, he and his crew ended up spending more time with the boat than its passengers ever had.

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7. Kate Winslet got pneumonia

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The filming of Titanic involved a lot of cold water, and it was dangerous work. Rose’s reaction when she has to climb into it wasn’t just acting – it really was that uncomfortable for the actors. And since Winslet turned down a wetsuit, not wanting to impact on her performance, she caught pneumonia.

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6. The cast threw wild parties

“So, you wanna go to a real party?” The cast and crew often got together and went a bit crazy – they were spending hours submerged in water after all. And because of their timetables, sometimes the parties took place on Sunday mornings or other odd times. No news about whether anyone danced the polka.

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5. One scene had to be done right first time

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In one of the film’s most memorable scenes, water comes crashing into the Grand Staircase room, destroying everything in its path. Therefore, the whole room had to be demolished too. Cameron and his filmmakers only got one shot at filming the destruction – if it had gone wrong, the film would’ve ended up costing even more.

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4. Cameron had to apologize to the descendants of a Titanic victim

One of the real-life people featured in the film was Officer William Murdoch, who is shown to shoot passengers before taking his own life. Though there are fragments of historical evidence pointing towards that having actually occurred, his family didn’t appreciate it. Cameron ended up apologizing to them on the Titanic DVD commentary, and helped establish a charitable prize in Murdoch’s name.

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3. Some wood panelling did survive the Titanic

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Rose survives the Titanic thanks to a piece of wood left floating in the ocean, and such panels did indeed survive the real shipwreck. One of them is at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Nova Scotia, which Cameron reportedly visited to seek inspiration for the movie. If only it’d been big enough for two people…

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2. The crew fell victim to a poisoner

In one of the more bizarre stories to come from the Titanic set, several members of the cast and crew got sick after someone poisoned their clam chowder with the drug PCP. It was so bad that 50 people had to be taken to hospital. Who did it? A prankster? Someone with a grudge? Whoever it was, they were never found.

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1. People thought the film would be a disaster

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Cameron had to put up a considerable fight to get Titanic made. But in addition to all the madness on set, it has been alleged that none of the production companies actually believed in his film. The budget was too high, the attention to detail was too much – Hollywood executives despaired. And yet, despite everything, it all paid off in the end.

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