“Titanic” is about to take its last voyage. Apparently.
One never can be entirely sure, since James Cameron is one of today’s most innovative filmmakers … but at least for now, his 1997 Oscar winner about the title ship’s famously doomed maiden trip is getting its final debut. Monday (Sept. 10), Paramount Home Entertainment releases Cameron’s 3D reconfiguration on Blu-ray (the movie’s debut in that format), along with remastered 2D versions on both Blu-ray and DVD.
“Our goal at first was just to get a green light on the movie,” Jon Landau — who produced “Titanic” with Cameron — tells Zap2it. “Our second goal was to survive the production period. And the third goal was for it to do well enough that maybe Jim and I could work together again one day.”
There’s no question “Titanic” did that, also cementing the stardom of its Jack and Rose, Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. After its 11 Oscar wins (including Best Picture and Director) and $2 billion-plus gross, Landau and Cameron scored another blockbuster by producing “Avatar,” and they’re currently prepping its sequel for a projected 2015 release.
The 3D “Titanic” had its world premiere in London in March, and Landau recalls it as “exactly what we wanted it to be. We wanted that night to be a celebration of the efforts of the hundreds, if not thousands, of people who contributed to making ‘Titanic’ what it was.
“To have so many cast members at the Royal Albert Hall with us, and to have [the film’s composer] James Horner conduct a live orchestra with Sissel doing vocals, you got chills. And then, to see the movie on that big a screen in 3D and see the audience transfixed and immersed in the story again, it was so rewarding.”
Even if the footage was hugely familiar as Landau and Cameron went about the 3D transformation of “Titanic” — which will make the Cinemax rounds again in its original 2D in October — the experience was fresh. “Jim and I would be there working on a scene, and it took us back to the day we shot it,” Landau reflects. “When I went in to watch it the first time in 3D, end-to-end and not just individual shots, I could see how much the 3D did transform it into a new movie.”
Two particular scenes stood out for Landau that way: “When Kate and Leo are on the bow of the ship, the 3D put me as an audience member on the bow with them. When we’re looking down at the water below, I understand the height and the exuberance they are feeling in that moment.”
Landau allows that his other chosen scene is less obvious. “It’s when Jack pulls Rose into the gymnasium and has a one-on-one talk with her. It’s a private moment in a very secluded, closed space that now, I’m suddenly a part of. The 3D puts me in the room with them, and I get to observe this intimate moment in a very personal way.”
Personally also is how Landau has viewed the progression of DiCaprio and Winslet’s careers since “Titanic.” He played a very direct role in casting them, which a “making-of” documentary on the new video release explains was done through an old-fashioned auditioning method.
“There’s a pride in the performances Jim was able to get out of them,” Landau says. “This was not something where Leo read the script and said, ‘Oh, I’m dying to do that role.’ He had difficulty seeing the acting challenge in it.
“He had done ‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape’ and ‘This Boy’s Life,’ and ‘William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet’ had not come out yet. Those characters had faults an actor could hinge on, so Jim had to explain this was a harder role to play, To watch all of them work together on making this a believable first love, that’s why the movie works.”
Getting its own 3D Blu-ray premiere Tuesday (Sept. 11) is “Ghosts of the Abyss,” Cameron’s 2003 documentary in which he and “Titanic” co-star Bill Paxton explored the ship’s undersea remains. That’s yet another outgrowth of the phenomenon “Titanic” has been for 15 years, and Landau — whose parents, Ely and Edie Landau, oversaw the American Film Theatre series of filmed plays — is forever grateful to have been involved.
“I tell people that making movies like these are like boxing,” he muses, “the 15-round championship fights like the Thrilla in Manila. Every time you come out of one, you’re bruised and you’re battered, and you just hope you gave everything you could in the ring … but you grow as an individual and as a creative person, and you’re surrounded by a great group of people. And then, you look for the next challenge.”