In a 2017 interview with Entertainment Tonight (ET), Cameron looked back at his time shooting “Titanic” as a one-step-forward, two-steps-back experience:
“The logistics just piled up so much that for every day I shot, I got two days behind schedule, which is not even mathematically possible.”
It did not help that Cameron has admitted to filming between 8-10 takes per shot on “Titanic,” asserting Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio’s performances became richer each time the cameras rolled. What makes the film is exceptional is how often moments between the two leads are set to a backdrop of dozens to hundreds of other actors dressed in historically accurate clothing and putting in just as much effort as the stars. Certainly, coordinating all that took time.
Actress Frances Fisher (“Unforgiven,” “The Lincoln Lawyer,” HBO’s “Watchmen”), who portrays Rose’s mother Ruth, gave a personal account of what it was like on set when she told ET, “Even the very last background player in the back of every shot was dressed completely authentically. Down to our underwear, everything was real.” In addition to being a nightmare for his costume department, Cameron explained that bringing this level of veracity to each frame meant, “dealing with thousands of extras and big logistics and keeping people safe.”
With deadlines drawing near, CEO and Chairman of Fox Filmed Entertainment, Bill Mechanic traveled to Mexico to propose cuts in the filming schedule, to which Cameron responded, “to fire me, you’ll have to kill me.” Upon reflection, Cameron conceded his $8 million directing fee in exchange for royalties, and Fox split the costs with a less-inclined Paramount. As an undertaking rivaled by the construction of the Titanic itself, it’s nothing short of a miracle that Cameron found a way to make the math work.