Worse things happen at sea

Despite early hype predicting box-office disaster to match that of `Waterworld', `Titanic' is now the hot tip to clean up at the Oscars. Billy Zane, one of the film's stars, recalls life on-board

Signing up for a James Cameron movie is like volunteering for a tour of duty in a war zone. For the macho auteur approaches each of his movies like a military campaign, of which Titanic has been the biggest, and the most gruelling, to date.

Just like in a real war there were casualties, if no actual losses: the director of photography quit; bones got broken; and Captain Jim and the actor Bill Paxton were among around 80 people affected when someone spiked the lobster chowder with angel dust.

"You'd have to pay me a lot of money to work with Jim again," said Kate Winslet, soon after the shoot. Her onscreen fiance, Billy Zane, is not surprised: "She nearly drowned a couple of times," he recalls, "and she certainly worked the longest. It was exhausting for her. She was there when the sun came up... and when the sun came up again. She was a real trooper. She's one of the most talented actresses of her generation, but it's her stamina that I now respect her for more than anything else."

As for himself, Zane (below left) says that his time under Cameron's command was an "absolute pleasure" (despite working 17-hour days), although he confirms that the popular perception of the director as a hard taskmaster, isn't without foundation.

"Jim's a daredevil visionary: he'd be the first in the water and the last out, and he demanded the same level of excellence and dedication from everyone. He doesn't baby people: it's like, you cut the mustard or you're out."

Zane, who began his movie career as a "glorified extra" in Back to the Future, isn't averse to a bit of daredevilry either. He held a lighted flare in his mouth at the end of the sea-going thriller Dead Calm, and was shut in a cage with a tiger for a scene in the comic-book adventure The Phantom. ("It was nerve- wracking. You have no idea how a tiger's going to react to a black mask or purple tights.")

Nothing Zane had done, however, prepared him for what was in store on the set of Titanic, which recently picked up four gongs at the Golden Globe awards, including Best Film and Best Director, and is expected to sweep the boards at the Oscars.

Striving for a level of realism far beyond that achieved by previous films about the ship-meets-iceberg disaster, Cameron had a 9/10th-scale replica of the Titanic built, including the luxurious first-class dining room and elegant three-storey grand staircase, which he then "sank" with some 500 actors and extras on board. Zane was among them, dressed in formal Edwardian evening wear.

"Nothing on that scale had been tried before, and we were testing it as it went. Considering the size of the ship [775-feet long, 10-storeys high] there was surprisingly little undertow as it sank. But apparently there wasn't much suction with the real Titanic either, it just went down like a cube of sugar in coffee. You'd think there'd be more, and that's why half the boats, so it is claimed, didn't come back to help people. Nonetheless, watching the ship just disappearing like that right from under you into 30ft of sea water was most bizarre. You felt that anything could happen. It was pretty hairy."

`Titanic' is on general release

Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth with Tess Daly in the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special
tvLouis Smith wins with 'Jingle Bells' quickstep on Strictly Come Dancing's Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

    £20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

    Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

    £24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

    Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

    Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

    Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

    Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

    Day In a Page

    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there