Though many predicted it would be a flop of massive proportions, James Cameron’s epic love story Titanic went on to become the highest-grossing movie of all time, a title which it held for over a decade. The movie stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet as star-crossed lovers who fall for each other while aboard the doomed ocean liner, Titanic.
The success of the film likely helped to validate Cameron’s ambitious approach, but the movie did prove to be a massive undertaking. From the behind-the-scenes drama to the real-life story, there are plenty of interesting aspects of the film that viewers may not have picked up on. Here are some of the hidden details in Titanic.
10 Real-Life Dives
The framing device of the film involves a deep-sea explorer played by Bill Paxton who seeks to uncover the treasures inside the sunken wreckage of Titanic. As the film opens, we see him in his submarine, filming the ship which lays at the bottom of the Atlantic.
In truth, Cameron made many of these dives himself to explore the wreckage with his own eyes. He has joked that he made the whole movie just for the opportunity to do these dives. He also admits that seeing the ship gave him a new understanding of the tragedy the film would be tackling.
9 Gloria Stuart
The opening prologue set in modern times introduced us to Rose, played in this time period by Gloria Stuart. Stuart was 86 at the time the film was made, thus making her the only person involved in the film who was alive at the time of the actual disaster, albeit only a few years old.
In order to appear as the 100-year-old the story called for, Stuart had to undergo extensive makeup to age her. She admitted it was not a pleasant experience, though she did get an Oscar nomination for her troubles. Interestingly enough, Stuart herself would eventually pass away in 2010 at the age of 100.
8 The Iconic Song
One of the most famous aspects of Titanic is the Celine Dion song, “My Heart Will Go On.” For some, it is a beautiful love song that perfectly suits the movie, and to others, it is an extremely annoying tune that was everywhere in the ’90s.
Oddly enough, the song was almost not a part of Titanic. James Cameron didn’t like the idea of a song accompanying the film. Composer James Horner disagreed so he secretly had Dion write and record the song before presenting it to Cameron, who was won over by it in the end.
7 Final Moments
Though the story focuses on two fictional characters, Jack and Rose, several real-life figures who were aboard the Titanic appear in the film. This includes people like Captain Edward Smith (Bernard Hill), the ship’s engineer, Thomas Andrews (Victor Garber), and Benjamin Guggenheim (Michael Ensign).
During the heartbreaking sequence when the ship begins to flood, we see the end of these characters, which are based on real witness accounts. Captain Smith was last seen at the ship’s wheel, Andrews was seen alone in the smoking-room, and Guggenheim was dressed in his finest clothes and sipping brandy.
6 Bad Trip
The movie was a notoriously difficult production filled with delays, budget issues, and went long over schedule. If that wasn’t enough, the film also faced sabotage through hallucinogenic drugs. While shooting in Nova Scotia one night, the soup served to the cast and crew was spiked with PCP.
The illegal prank resulted in much of the crew being affected by the drugs to the point that 50 people were taken to hospital. Always the professional, Cameron refused to stop working and instead made himself vomit to get the drugs out of his system.
5 Spitting Scene
One of the first scenes Winslet and DiCaprio share together has the less-refined Jack teaching Rose the art of spitting. It’s is a humorous bonding moment between the two characters and was largely improvised by the actors.
Later in the film, when Rose is attempting to run off with Jack, Cal stops her, and she spits in his face to break free of his grasp. This was also an idea of Winslet to connect the two scenes. According to Billy Zane who played Cal, they did so many takes that Winslet had run out of saliva.
4 Flooding Of The Staircase
The sinking of the Titanic is a thrilling yet terrifying sequence that Cameron accomplished largely using practical means. One of the most impressive sequences was the flooding of the Grand Staircase.
A real-life replica of the ship’s staircase was built for the film into which they flooded nearly 100,000 gallons of water for the scene. They only had a single take to get it right as the entire set was to be destroyed in this sequence. Eric Braeden, who plays John Jacob Astor, claimed it was the most terrifying scene he has ever shot in his career.
3 Drawing Sequence
One of the most famous sequences in the film is the scene in which Jack draws Rose nude in her bedroom. It is a beautiful and powerful sequence of these two forming that intimate bond that lasts for decades after.
While the scene is played quite seriously in the film, Winslet decided to have some fun preparing for it. Knowing she would have to appear naked in front of DiCaprio, she flashed him as a way of breaking the ice. However, the actual hand that is seen drawing the portrait in the movie is not DiCaprio’s but rather James Cameron’s.
2 Officer Charles Lightoller
Second Officer Charles Lightoller is another real-life figure who appears in the movie, but his life is worthy of its own Hollywood story. During the evacuation of the Titanic, he was noted to have let several ships go without being at full capacity and refused to let any men onboard the lifeboats.
Later in life he owned and operated his own yacht company. He used one of his boats to personally sail to Dunkirk to aid in the evacuation of British soldiers during World War II. He and his sons are said to have been responsible for saving over 100 lives. Mark Rylance’s character in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk was based on Lightoller.
1 J. Dawson
Though he was a rising talent in Hollywood at the time, Titanic cemented Leonardo DiCaprio as one of the biggest stars around and a true heartthrob. His character of Jack Dawson became one of the most iconic romantic leads in film history.
Though the character is fictional, by sheer coincidence, there was a real J. Dawson who traveled on the Titanic and died. Though this person’s real name is Joseph Dawson, his grave in Nova Scotia is simply marked as J. Dawson and receives plenty of visits from fans of the film.
NEXT: 10 Romance Movies To Watch If You Love Titanic