Payday Loans
(James Cameron . 1996)


“Music to drown by. Now I know I’m in First Class.”




“Memo to me… Do story with modern bookends of present-day scene of wreck, using submersible, intercut with memories of survivor and recreated scenes of the night of the sinking.  A crucible of human values under stress. A certainty of slowly impending doom. Many dramatic moments of separation, heroism and cowardice, civililty versus animal aggression.”

That was James Cameron’s notion ten years before he won any backing. For what he often called his $150m chick flick,  Back then, his notes concluded:  “Needs a mystery or driving plot element woven through...”  He found it and his pitch to 20th Century Fox was simple. “Romeo and Juiliet on the Titanic!” 


What better than a love story?

Cameron, after all, had loved this way

through five wives in 22 years

- including his actresses and producers.


It was then easy to create his lovers.  A brash, Cameronesque Irishman Jack Dawson, possessing all the natural energy and purity of spirit to transform Rose DeWitt Bukater's “Edwardian geisha” into a vibrant modern miss. With feelings... and desires.

Finding them was harder.“Who,” he asked, “was 19 or 20, and a star and who filled my requirements? The answer was... nobody!

Jack Dawson  .  Tom Cruise was keen. Tom Cruise was always keen. He was also too old. “I would have to change the whole thing.”  And Jim Cameron was not interested in making a Tom Cruise movie.

Although he had thought of him for his stymied Spider-Man film,  Leonardo DiCaprio bothered Cameron - all the more so when Leo said, flat out, he didn’t  want to do it.  He was, in fact, hesitant about such an epic. So, Cameron   examined Billy Crudup (from Stephen Frears’ Western, Hi-Lo Country). “When they asked to see me, I said no.  That  type  of proposition is never repeated.”  Or, not until he made Famous, 2000.  Next ideas: Johnny Depp, Jared Leto, vapid Chris O’Donnell, River Phoenix (who died during prepping in 1993). And Christian Bale - until Cameron felt two British leads was one too many.

“I went and auditioned for that, ‘ Matthew McConnaughey told the Hollywood Reporter.  "I wanted that. I auditioned with Kate [Winslet]. Had a good audition. Walked away from there pretty confident that I had it. I didn’t get it. I never got offered that.”

“That was one of the many, many jobs I didn’t get, ” laughed Jeremy Sisto in a 2015 Huffington Post interview.   Sisto and not DiCaprio shared Kate Winslet’s test - and those of three other hopefuls. (Sisto was too much of a gentleman to name them). “So while I was a little embarrassed to reveal one of my many failures in life, at the same time I couldn't deprive Titanic lovers of seeing that alternate universe.  It was a pretty great experience. To be involved in something that had that kind of scope - anything James Cameron does has this huge scope to it. He's trying to push the limits on things.  So I was just insanely inspired by it and a little heartbroken when the role didn't come my way.”  His day would come in the Six Feet Under and Law & Order series during 2001-2010.

Stephen Dorff craved a career to match those of Johnny Depp, Jack Nicholson, Sean Penn, with an Oscar along the way. “That  would have been impossible if I'd got Titanic. Look at Leo. His career can only go downhill from  here. He'll always  be... that guy on the boat.”   (Not quite!  DiCaprio headlined  three Martin Scorsese  films and won  an Oscar nod for Blood Diamond, 2006). .

Some Fox suits voted for their Home Alone star,  Macaulay Culkin. Others  swiftly agreed, eager to see the now overly expensive kid… drown!

Ethan Hawke had a chance but  knew he wouldn’t have handled it “as brilliantly” as his pal, DiCaprio.  Being with him after the film came out, he said, “was like hanging out with a Beatle.” Besides, Hawke was never into “the Hollywood thing,” being a brand like Cruise, Pitt, Clooney. “They’re at the top of my profession, but there’s a huge responsibility and burden that comes along with being a legitimate, full-scale movie star.”  And he addd, “you never imagine the hate mail.”

All roads led to Leo. After she testing with him, Kate Winslet told Cameron: “He's great. Even if you don't pick me, pick him.”

Rose DeWitt Bukater . At first, Cameron wasn’t too keen on these young Oscar nominees suggested by casting director Mali Finn. OK, Kate Winslet had made period movies but Cameron was seeking r “a conduit for our present-day emotions.”   

For Rose (named after his grandmother), Jim looked into  friendly Jennifer Aniston, British Gabrielle Anwar (opposite Al Pacino in  Scent of a Woman), Claire Danes (Juliet to DiCaprio’s Romeo in 1996) and the blonde with the greatest buzz around  her, Gwyneth Paltrow. But  she  never took it seriously.  “Just not my thing: all that money! I don't  think it’s a good film and I don't know anyone who does - at least not among the people I respect.”

Next came The Reliables: Christina Applegate, Drew Barymore, Jennifer Connelly, Cameron Diaz, Jodie Foster, Angelina Jolie, Nicole Kidman, Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow, Christina Ricci, Winona Ryder, , Sharon Stone, Charlize Theron, Uma Thurman and  Reese Witherspoon. 

Kate never quit the arena… She sent Cameron daily notes from England, went to LA and  kept phoning him. “You don’t understand!  I am Rose! I don't know why you're even seeing anyone else!"

Ultimately,  Cameron felt  audiences would go the distance with Leo and Kate.


“I always trust my first impression.

It sounds corny, but

that's what the audience does.”


He sweet-talked Leo (“he’s like Jimmy Stewart, pure of heart”) and suddenly saw Kate  as “the most talented actor for her age.”  Their test blew him away.  No one else saw it.  Leo refused for it to be taped. DVDs were already an influence...

And the film aided both Winslet and Paltrow. It earned Kate enough money to move home - and she sold her North London house  to…  Gwyneth  and her Coldplay singer husband Chris Martin.

Older Rose .   Retired since 1960, Marguerite Chapman was too ill, at 79, to be the old Rose.  Ann Rutherford, from Gone With The Wind and the Andy Hardy films,  passed at  79. Frances Dee, Joel McCrea,’s widow,  came out of retirement  at 87 to test. Ann Rutherford passed at 79   - well, she’d always have Gone With The Wind. (she was Scarlett’s little siste Careen).  At 90,  the King Kong scream-queen, Fay Wray, rejected Cameron’s request to play the old iceberg survivor - “To have done this film would have been a tortuous experience altogether.”. And so it was Gloria, at 87, who  hated being made up to look 101 and became the oldest person to win an Oscar nod. She said one of the  reasons of her  longevity  was... masturbation!

Caledon Hockley .    "Not my thing," Hugh Grant told Cameron about the awful fiancee of Kate Winslet. He never added that he thought the script  was "a little too  close to Judith Krantz." Both Cameron regular Michael Biehn and Canada’sX-Files heavy Nicholas Lea  tested for Caledon “Cal” Hockley. Also listed for the bounder: Pierce Brosnan,Jack Davenport, Rupert Everett, Rob Lowe, Peter Greene (The Mask), William Hurt, Jason Isaacs,  Adrian Paul, Rufus Sewell. Fioallu, Billy Zanr became  Mr Nasty.

Molly Brown .   Having proved herself an actor by in various tele-films and an award-winning Broadway debut, Reba McEntire was Cameron's first choce for the unsinkable Molly Brown - US socialite, philanthropist, activist and Titanic surivivor.    But the flame-haired Queen of Country Music was on tour. As usual.  After a (silly) thought about Barbra Streisand, Cameron then turned to his his ex-wife, Linda Hamilton.  Whether as a joke or an insult has never been explained. Linda was 26. Mollly Brown was 45.  Kathy Bates, who  replaced her in the lifeboat, was 48.

Captain Edward James Smith .  Knock, knock! And there at Dane Clark’s door was Cameron, wondering if the 84-year-old felt like stepping out of retirement to play the ship’s unfortunate skipper. Clark was flattered, but just not in the best of health.   Nor was Robert De Niro: suffering g  a gastrointestinal infection. Michael Caine was unavailable.  Cameron next called on Bernard Hill, veteran UK character star of everything… Boys From The Blackstuff, Drowning By Numbers even the role in in John Lennon: A Journey in the Life.  And much later, Theoden in The Lord of the Rings saga.

Spicer Lovejoy .   Tom Wilkinson preferred The Full Monty to playing the ex-Pinkerton detective turned  valet for the odious Hiockley. (Tom was right, Monty made him a Hollywood fixture). David Warner took over… in his second  Titanic movie; he was real-life survivor Laurence Beesley in  the 1987 tele-flick, SOS Titanic

J Bruce Ismay . Committed to a stage play,Anthony Higgins passed the head man  of the Titanic’s owners, the White Star Line, to Aussie actor Jonathan Hyde.

Thomas Andrews . Cameron loved the Irish actor Lorcan Cranitch as Detective Sergeant Jimmy Beck in Cracker (TV, 1993-1995)  but he passed; Victor Garber stepped in.

Cameron’s previous venture, True Lies, cost $100m. Titanic doubled  that - costing far more than the ocean liner, itself. And with his eighth movie, Cameron was ”king of the world” with the #1 film in history with receipts of  $1.8billion… until beaten by Cameron’s next outing, Avatar, in  2009.  Titanic also won the rarity of  eleven Oscars (like Ben-Hur and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King) including Best Film and Director. Plus  one for Kate, zero for Leo.

Final Word has to go to James Cameron the final word – from February 2010. “Secretly, what I wanted to do was I wanted to dive to the real wreck of Titanic. And that's why I made the movie.”


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