Fascinating Things You Probably Never Knew About ‘Titanic’

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You’ve probably watched Rose and Jack go down with ship — sorry, spoiler alert — in Titanic, but did you know who they originally wanted to cast as Jack? Or how deep the water was when they were filming?

Probably not, but jump aboard and pretty soon you’ll be a Titanic expert.

Gloria Stuart, who played the role of “Old Rose,” was the only actor or crew member who was alive when the real Titanic sank in 1912. She was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance, and as such became the oldest person ever nominated for an Oscar at age 87.

Did you know Leonardo DiCaprio had a pet lizard? Well he did, but it was run over by a truck on the set! Luckily, DiCaprio somehow managed to nurse it back to health (though I have to imagine being Leo’s pet would give you a pretty strong will to live).

Movie sets are well known for their craft services tables — legendary spreads of snacks and food where cast and crew come to hobnob and get some refreshments. On the last night of shooting Titanic, however, some unnamed jokesters mixed phencyclidine (PCP, also known as angel dust) into the craft services lobster chowder. The result? Apparently they unknowingly celebrated a little too hard, and eighty people went to the hospital complaining of hallucinations. None of the big stars, however, had eaten the drugged food.

Can you imagine Reba McEntire as the unsinkable Molly Brown? She was offered the part and accepted, but later had to back out because her existing schedule conflicted with filming.

In many water scenes they used water straight from the Pacific Ocean, which was so cold that almost all the actors wore wetsuits. Not Kate Winslet, though, who braved the icy water without the benefit of that extra layer of insulation. She ended up with pneumonia, though, so probably not the best idea.

Producers want to get the most bang for their buck, so they normally don’t release their films on video until after all the superfans who just couldn’t wait to see the movie have shelled out to see it in the theater. Titanic, however, was the first movie ever released on video during its theater run.

Constructing the real Titanic in 1910-1912 cost $7.5 million. That translates into what would have been about $120 to $150 million in 1997, when the movie was made. Think that’s a lot of dough? Making the movie cost $200 million.

So what happened to the movie boat after it was flooded and basically busted into a billion bits? Well, I don’t know if you remember this, but they weren’t exactly easy on the ship during filming, what with the flooding and destruction and everything. What was left of it, however, was sold as scrap metal after filming wrapped.

Pets were allowed on the Titanic, and the ship had kennels for them; as the ship sank, a passenger reportedly opened all the kennels to give the dogs a chance to escape. A Pomeranian, like the one Old Rose owns in the movie, was one of three dogs known to have survived the catastrophe. Another canine survivor was a French bulldog, which a passenger later remembered seeing swimming in the ocean. James Cameron filmed scenes portraying the plight of those poor critters, but they were cut.

Famous new-age musician Enya was James Cameron’s first pick for an artist to compose the film’s score. He even managed to put together a rough idea of what he had in mind using her existing music. Enya wasn’t into it though, so they ended up hiring James Horner, which I think ended up working out pretty well for them.

Movies use all sorts of clever tricks to heighten the emotion in certain scenes, and Titanic was no different. Rose’s gowns throughout the film were a size four, with one notable exception. The coat she wore when the ship was taking its slow plunge into the ocean depths was a size eight; the larger clothes helped make her look more vulnerable during the life-threatening escape.

Apparently James Cameron is secretly more than one kind of artist; he’s the one who drew all those portraits in Jack’s sketchbook. In the scenes where you can see the sketch of Rose being drawn by Jack, it’s Cameron’s hands shown creating the artwork, not DiCaprio.

Ida and Isidor Strauss, owners of Macy’s department store in New York, are portrayed in Titanic by an elderly couple holding each other in bed in one of the sinking ship scenes. They died in the real Titanic tragedy. Ida is reported as saying, “As we have lived together, so we shall die together” when she was offered — and refused — a seat on one of the ship’s lifeboats. This tender detail was included in filming but ultimately didn’t make the final cut.

Now that the movie’s been out for 30 years and is part of film history, it’s almost impossible to imagine anyone but Kate Winslet as Young Rose. However, several other stars including Gwyneth Paltrow, Nicole Kidman, Madonna, Jodie Foster, Cameron Diaz, and Sharon Stone were all also considered for the role.

Speaking of Winslet, it turns out that her gift for breaking the ice doesn’t end with braving freezing waters! When she learned she was going to actually, really be totally in the buff in front of DiCaprio, she took the pressure off by taking her shirt off — flashing her boobs at him the very first time they met.

Not all movie magic happens inside a studio. The outside of the ship was built in a tank on a beach south of Rosarito, Baja California, Mexico.

How deep was the water? Only about three feet deep. Still plenty of water to make your fingers all pruney after working in there all day, though.

Remember that iconic moment when the crashing waves come rushing into the Grand Staircase room? We were all so distracted by the drama, most of us never stopped to think that the entire scene had to be filmed perfectly the first time because the whole set was destroyed by, well, the crashing waves rushing in. No do-overs!

Captain Smith would have been played by Robert De Niro, but he had to pass because he was dealing with a gastrointestinal infection at the time.

To preserve privacy and the excitement of a big reveal, movie makers sometimes give their films a decoy title. Titanic was originally called Planet Ice.

According to NPR, James Cameron thinks of himself as equal parts filmmaker and explorer; he was inspired to bring Titanic to the big screen after diving on an expedition to study the wreckage itself. In fact, it’s reported that he spent more time “on” the ship than its passengers did on that fateful voyage. Now that’s dedication.

Although he’s a bit of a Titanic expert, unbeknownst to Cameron there was actually a “J. Dawson” who died on the Titanic when it sank. He didn’t find out until after he’d completed the script.

The White Star Line was the company that famously built and furnished the original Titanic. Researchers of that company were used in consultations and supervised most of the decisions regarding styling and outfitting the movie’s ship to ensure it was as authentic as possible.

There’s more to that piece of wood paneling you see Rose clinging to in the ocean near the end of the movie than people yelling at the screen, “Move over Rose, there’s plenty of room for Jack if you would just MOVE OVER!” That would-be raft is modeled after a real piece of the ship salvaged from the Atlantic after the Titanic sank. It’s displayed at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

When Jack is getting ready to start his famous drawing of Rose, he instructs her to “Lie on that bed, uh I mean couch” in a way that’s both awkward and endearing. According to the script he was supposed to say, “Lie on that couch,” but DiCaprio flubbed his line. Luckily James Cameron liked Leo’s happy accident, and it made it into the final cut.

Céline Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” is the main theme song of the movie, is one of Dion’s biggest hits, and became the best-selling single of 1998. But did you know James Cameron originally didn’t want a song like that in the film? James Horner composed the song as purely instrumental, then secretly worked with Will Jennings, who wrote the lyrics. After all that, it turned out Céline Dion didn’t want to sing it, for fear her fans would get annoyed by her releasing another movie theme song right after Beauty and the Beast, but her husband/manager René Angélil talked her into it. When Cameron heard the demo he decided to include the song over the closing credits, and musical history (despite having to jump through a billion hoops first) was made.

The movie was so ridiculously popular in theaters, Paramount had to send out replacement reels. Theaters were playing it so much, their copies literally wore out. I guess people liked the film, huh?

One issue the movie touched on was the difference between accommodations for upper and lower class passengers. The priciest first class suite on the Titanic came with a price tag of $4,350. That means it would set you back approximately $75,000 today.

James Cameron has quite a string of movie credits under his name, serving as writer, director, editor, producer, actor, art director, and more on films such as The Abyss, Aliens, the Terminator series, and countless others. While the list of his movies is long and varied, there’s one thing that sets Titanic apart. It was the first one he ever directed that didn’t include or mention nuclear weapons.

Studios wanted Matthew McConaughey to play Jack, but James Cameron insisted on having Leonardo DiCaprio play the role. Everything turned out alright, alright, alright…