Twenty-five years ago today, the film Titanic premiered in the US, quickly taking the world by storm with its fictional retelling of the luxury liner’s tragedy. At the time, it was the most expensive movie ever made, with a $200 million budget, and the first film ever to bring in over $1 billion, eventually grossing just over $2 billion. Titanic director James Cameron eventually dethroned himself with his film Avatar in 2010, which went on to gross roughly $2.8 billion. Along with catapulting Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet into superstardom, Titanic would also go on to win an impressive 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.
Besides its financial success and Oscar merits, Titanic was historic from a production standpoint. Known for his love of grand special effects in his films like Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Cameron wanted to make his audience feel like they were onboard the Titanic after it struck an iceberg. To do this, the crew constructed a full-scale model of the ship, added digital effects, and even built a hinged poop deck that could quickly elevate from 0 to 90 degrees, mimicking the stern rising while it sank.
The film’s production also included a 17-million-gallon water tank that was used for scenes showing sinking interiors. After Titanic’s release, reports came out that Winslet thought she’d drown filming the water scenes.
Known for being an on-set perfectionist with high demands for cast and crew, Cameron recently spoke with Radio Times to promote his new film Avatar: The Way of Water, which reunited him with Winslet. Reflecting on Titanic, the director said, “I think Kate came out of Titanic a bit traumatized by the scale of the production and her responsibility within it.”
Winslet spoke about the pressure Cameron faced, recently telling the Times: “In those days there was no space for him to say, ‘It might not work.’ He had to make it work. There were all those conversations about this huge film, Titanic. I can’t imagine the pressure. As we get older we learn how to say, ‘I made a mistake.’ We all get better at that, don’t we?”