Rachel M. Johnson is a lover of all things pop culture. She's been writing about music and entertainment online for over two years.
1997's mega blockbuster hit Titanic took audiences and critics by storm, achieving both critical and commercial success. With an intimidating budget of $200 million, the epic romance/disaster film would ultimately go on to earn $2.187 billion. Nominated for a record 14 Oscars, it went on to win 11. It would go on to help launch the careers of its young stars, Kate Winslet Leonardo DiCaprio. Titanic was the highest grossing film until another James Cameron film took the title, 2009's Avatar. Let's take a look at some fascinating facts about the beloved hit film.
1. The cost to construct the Titanic back in 1910 to 1912 was $7.5 million, which was equivalent to about $120 to $150 million in 1997 dollars. The film itself cost $200 million to make and has since grossed a whopping $2.187 billion.
2. River Phoenix was James Cameron's initial first choice to play Jack Dawson. However, by the time the film was made Phoenix had passed away and Leonardo DiCaprio was the ideal age at 21. Johnny Depp was reportedly offered the role, but he declined.
3. Matthew McConaughey, Chris O'Donnell and Billy Crudup were all considered to play the role of Jack Dawson, while Gwyneth Paltrow, Claire Danes, Reese Witherspoon and Winona Ryder were considered for Rose Dewitt Bukater.
4. Determined to get the role of Rose, Kate Winslet sent James Cameron a rose and daily notes from England and continuously phoned him, having pleaded: "You don't understand! I am Rose! I don't know why you're even seeing anyone else!"
5. Director James Cameron provided more than 150 extras with names and backstories of real Titanic passengers.
6. Robert De Niro was offered the role of Captain Smith but had to turn it down due to a gastrointestinal infection at the time.
7. Titanic was the first film that saw two actors, Kate Winslet and Gloria Stuart, both nominated for an Academy Award for playing the same person in the same film. They both played Rose but neither won.
8. The "ale" in the third class party scene was actually root beer.
9. The "full-size" ship exterior set was constructed in a tank on a beach south of Rosarito, Baja California, Mexico. Construction began on May 31, 1996.
10. During production, the crew felt that James Cameron had an evil alter ego, and nicknamed him "Mij" (Jim spelt backwards).
11. Gloria Stuart, who portrayed older Rose, was the only person who worked on the film who was actually living in 1912 when the Titanic sank. She was born on July 4, 1910.
12. After learning that she was going to be naked in front of Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet decided to break the ice by flashing him the first time they met.
13. In the dramatic scene where the water comes crashing into the Grand Staircase room, the film makers only had one shot to get it right because the entire set and furnishings were going to be destroyed in the scene.
14. James Cameron infamously threatened to fire anyone who attempted to get out of the tank for a bathroom break during shooting of the lifeboat scenes. This lead to multiple actors relieving themselves in the water (including Kate Winslet).
15. Jack and Rose's spitting scene was almost entirely ad-libbed, as was the moment when Kate Winslet spat in Billy Zane's face. She was supposed to stick him with a hairpin but Winslet improvised instead.
16. The final pink dress that Rose wears in the movie was made to look as good wet as it did when dry. Costume designer Deborah Lynn Scott made 24 identical versions of the dress.
17. Both Barbara Streisand and Reba McEntire were in talks to play Molly Brown. McEntire was initially given the role but had to back out due to prior commitments, and Kathy Bates ultimately played the character.
18. Most of the film's extras were given a three hour lecture on proper 1912 behavior and mannerisms, so that the film had a more authentic look.
19. To make the bodies in the water appear frozen, a powder was applied to the actors' faces which then crystallized when exposed to water. Wax was also applied to everyone's clothes and hair that gave them a glossy, frozen look.
20. When Rose meets Jack in the final scene of the film, the clock on the staircase behind them reads the exact time the ship sank (2:20 a.m.).
21. The older couple who die together are based on Isidor and Ida Straus, who was the co-owner of Macy's. Ida was offered a seat on a lifeboat but refused so that she could stay with her husband. She had reportedly said, "As we have lived together, so we shall die together."
22. On the final night of shooting in Nova Scotia, someone mixed PCP (angel dust) into the clam chowder served to the cast and crew. 80 people were sent to the hospital due to hallucinations.
23. Titanic was the first film to be released on video while it was also still being shown in theaters.
24. James Cameron initially wanted Enya to compose the score of the film, but when she declined he hired James Horner instead.
25. The movie was so popular that Paramount had to actually send replacement reels to theaters because cinemas wore out their copies.
26. There was a real J. Dawson on board the Titanic, though director James Cameron wasn't aware there was when he wrote the movie. Joseph Dawson was a member of the crew but did not survive. His gravestone in Nova Scotia is the most visited in the cemetery.
27. Titanic was the first non-musical Best Picture Winner to also win the Oscar for Best Original Song (Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On.")
28. The film was nominated for 14 Academy Awards, the most Oscar nominations for any film ever. It went on to win 11 including Best Picture and Best Director.
29. Unlike previous Titanic films, James Cameron's retelling of the disaster depicted the ship breaking into two pieces before sinking entirely. It was an account of the moment's most likely outcome. He criticized past films for showing the liner's final plunge as a graceful slide underwater. Cameron "wanted to depict it as the terrifyingly chaotic event that it really was."
30. The film stayed in theaters for almost 10 months, having debuted in America on December 19, 1997 and finally closing on October 1, 1998.
© 2019 Rachel M Johnson
Rachel M Johnson (author) on June 11, 2019:
Hi Zia, I never knew that one! Seems like many actors were after the role. I also read producers wanted Tom Cruise but couldn’t afford him.
Zia Uddin from UK on June 11, 2019:
Nice facts on the Titanic movie. I also read somewhere that Jean-Claude Van Damme wanted the role of Jack Dawson as well. He got turned down by Cameron and started crying. I dont know if its true and cant remember where I read this.