Colliding With Destiny
While Rose DeWitt Bukater and Jack Dawson were able to outrun
the forces threatening to end their romance within the "unsinkable"
steel hull of Titanic , not even their committed passion
could protect them from the inevitable. Recreating the ship's
terrifying demise would be the most physically challenging aspect
of "Titanic." The central goal in director Cameron's
mind: to film these sequences as if he had actually been there
at the time of the accident.
Cameron recounts, "We had a series of big pre-visualization
sessions for about a month and a half. We built a study model
of the ship and went around it with a video camera. We learned
the geography of Titanic, as well as which angles made
look its most imposing and most beautiful."
As the process continued, the sets required to film the ship and
its destruction became apparent.
"You can't just build one set," Cameron continues, "you
have to build a number of sets at different angles because the
ship was changing angles continuously over a period of time."
Working within rigid engineering and safety specifications, the
final hours of Titanic were filmed in the enormous exterior
and interior shooting tanks. The elegant First Class Dining Saloon
and the three-story Grand Staircase, both built virtually life-size,
were constructed on a hydraulic platform at the bottom of the
30-foot-deep interior tank on Stage 2, designed to be angled and
flooded with 5 million gallons of filtered seawater drawn from
the ocean only yards away. This was only one of the enormous logistical
feats accomplished by use of complex hydraulics and construction.
Production designer Peter Lamont, whose impressive body of work
has earned him three Academy AwardÂ® nominations ("Aliens,"
"The Spy Who Loved Me" and "Fiddler on the Roof"),
took on this enormous assignment as an irresistible challenge
to his distinguished career. At the onset, he was able to obtain
from shipbuilders Harland & Wolff copies of the original blueprints
of Titanic along with Thomas Andrews' own notebook of remarks
on the ship's design features. This was the first time such material
had ever been made available since Titanic's sinking.
During the course of his research, Lamont discovered that the
manufacturer of the original carpeting for the Dining Saloon and
Reception Room on D Deck was still in business. The company, BMK
Stoddard of England, still had the pattern on file and could reproduce
the dyes. Immediately, production put in an order, adding another
element of reality.
An Englishman given to understatement, Lamont acknowledges that
perhaps his greatest challenge in this vast undertaking was the
coordination of "Titanic's" design elements.
"For nearly a year," Lamont says, "we had sets
and furnishings being built in Mexico City, Los Angeles and London,
with timelines for shipping to a facility that wasn't even built
yet. The quantity of items we authentically reproduced -- deck
chairs, table lamps, leaded windows, White Star crystal and china,
luggage, lifejackets, marine accessories -- amounted to literally
thousands of pieces because part of the goal of the art direction
was to recreate the size of it all -- titanic. Constructing
the 775-foot filming exterior set of Titanic is an undertaking
as complex, in a different way, as building the real thing, but
in just one-tenth the time."
As Lamont also points out, providing an additional challenge was
the fact that, since it was Titanic's first voyage, its
interiors were barely completed and hardly photographed. Through
extensive research and the aid of consultants Don Lynch and Ken
Marschall, his department was able to accurately recreate the
opulence of the ship's famed First Class Dining Saloon, Reception
Room, First Class Smoking Room, Promenade, Palm Court Cafe, Gymnasium
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