Titanic is like a song that you don’t remember ever learning the lyrics to, and yet you can still sing along to all of “Camptown Races.” I don’t recall the first time I saw James Cameron’s 1997 epic — I’m pretty sure it wasn’t in theaters, and I remember I watched it by myself, a Jack without a Rose (or, more accurately, a Fabrizio without an anyone) — but I know enough about the movie to make a Fabrizio reference without having to look it up. That’s how ingrained Titanic is in pop culture, yet there’s still a lot of behind the scenes stories you might not be aware of.
For instance, that a 775-foot model of the doomed ship (with 17-million-gallon tank!) was built in Rosarito, Mexico, and how it proved to be a profitable, yet fleeting boom for the coastal city.
Officials estimate that the movie pumped $10 million to $15 million into the local economy, filling 350 hotel rooms and 300 private rental houses for at least six months. Construction and permits generated the equivalent of $200,000 in local tax revenues and put the fledgling city on an international stage. (Via)
Or that Leonardo DiCaprio was quite the lil’ stinker (you probably could have guessed that).
In Rosarito during the Titanic filming, Leo and four or five of his gang were tossed out of a local disco, Rock and Roll Taco, for “dancing inappropriately, with one guy lying on top of another guy,” according to the club’s manager. Back in his ocean-view suite at the Real del Mar resort, Leo had “muchas fiestas,” according to a maintenance worker who recalls changing many broken lightbulbs. (Via)
[Nova Scotia,] where Cameron was shooting the modern-day sequences with Paxton, was supposed to be merely a pit stop. But after a dinner break, recalls actor Lewis Abernathy, who plays Paxton’s cynical sidekick, havoc struck on the set: “There were people just rolling around, completely out of it. Some of them said they were seeing streaks and psychedelics. I thought it was food poisoning. Really bad seafood can make you hallucinate, and this caterer was big on clams. Jim was being loaded into the back of this van. I was just shocked at the way he looked. One eye was completely red, like the Terminator eye. A pupil, no iris, beet red. The other eye looked like he’d been sniffing glue since he was 4.”
A lab report confirmed that the director and his crew had been poisoned by lobster chowder laced with PCP (though a couple of victims familiar with hallucinogens have insisted it felt like LSD). The symptoms abated quickly, however, and work resumed 24 hours later.
The culprits are still at large. (Via)
It’s the perfect crime! Filming was anything but, though. Titanic was over-budget, everyone was miserable from spending so much time in the water, and James Cameron was as much of a monster as a director as Greg Schiano was an NFL head coach. His motto: “Film-making is war. A great battle between business and aesthetics.” So it was up to the cast to amuse themselves, which is how DiCaprio and Kate Winslet became such good buddies.
“Grossing Kate out was purely Leo’s job,” says Billy Zane, “He got really good at it. If he wasn’t rolling back his eyelids, he was making objets d’art out of bodily fluids.” Cameron recalls that DiCaprio had to wear a long coat for much of the shoot. “He would, like, fart in it,” says Cameron, “and then sweep the coat over her face. I mean, if anybody else in the world did that, they’d get slapped, and the other person would walk away and not talk to them for a week. With Leo, Kate would just crack up.” (Via)
He fell asleep in her lap, she watched him play Tomb Raider, they sang along to Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath My Wings.” They were as close to a couple as a straight male and heterosexual female can be, but they never steamed up the windows, so to speak, in real life. Winslet once said, “I have the relationship with Leo that all the women in the world would envy,” though I think plenty of men are jealous with Leo’s relationship with her. Meaning, he experienced the infamous “I want you to draw me like one of your French girls” scene firsthand.
On their first day of filming, DiCaprio waltzed into Winslet’s dressing room to find her preparing for the scene in which Jack does a nude drawing of Rose. “I was having my makeup put on—with nothing on—and there was Leo,” recalls Winslet. “He saw me and went, ‘Whooa!’ and I said, ‘We’re going to spend the whole day like this; we might as well get over it now.’ That broke the ice.” (Via)
Kate Winslet sound like a neat person. As for the James Cameron-sketched portrait itself, it was sold at an auction for $16,000 in 2011, meaning someone has Winslet’s naked body in their basement, probably next to full-size replicas of Salma Hayek in From Dusk Till Dawn and Phoebe Cates from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Money well spent.