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TITANIC

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 Award® 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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