According to director James Cameron, the RMS Titanic was "the Mount Everest of shipwrecks" and it was ripe for a film revival, something that could humanize for modern audiences an event that at the time of the flick's production was 84 years old.
Released on December 19, 1997, Titanic would go on to win 11 Academy Award statues and rake in more than $1.8 billion at the worldwide box office. It made international stars of the two young leads -- Kate Winslet as Rose DeWitt Bukater and Leonard DiCaprio as Jack Dawson -- who would both go on to grittier roles in the next decade. They wouldn't team together onscreen again until 2008's Revolutionary Road.
Composer James Horner, who was responsible for the sweeping Irish lilt of the score, said the first rough cut he saw of the film was 36 hours. In the end the film would pull into theaters with a 194-minute running time. Fans flocked to see Titanic in droves, some nearly taking a dozen trips to the theater to spend three and half hours with Rose and Jack on the doomed vessel.
Next Friday, April 6, the film will be re-released in digital 2D and IMAX 3D, just a few days shy of the anniversary of the ship's demise in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
The restoration alone cost $18 million, while the picture alone came with a price tag of $200 million. Needless to say, Cameron and the two studios who bankrolled the film made their money back, with Cameron forfeiting his $8 million salary for a bite of the residuals.
No doubt the film shaped many Gen Y ideals of romance. Kids who saw it in theaters are now all reaching 30 or so, making it our Love Story, and our Twilight, though cash-grabbing sequels were literally impossible.
I was one of the goofs who saw the film with my friend Natalie in 1997-98, delighting in the spectacle, the robotic dialogue and a nude Winslet. I remember seeing it on opening night at a tiny theater in Pearland and being driven to tears, which is hard to admit now. Screw you, buddy, those kids were in love.
I think Natalie ended up seeing it a dozen times herself aside from our trips, and she bawled every time, too. She may cry when she watches it at home now, too.
A Naked Kate Winslet
Not only can we thank Titanic for bringing Winslet her first and well-deserved mainstream success, she also appeared in one of the most iconic nude scenes of the past 20 years. True, she was sort of naked in Heavenly Creatures before this, but whatever.
Her red hair and curves helped lay the groundwork for the success of girls like Christina Hendricks to come. Or is that just what I think? Because I haven't typed CH's name in a few hours.
Leonardo DiCaprio's (Quasi) Career Rebellion
Leo has spent the last decade and a half shooting and beating dudes to death, bedding hot chicks and sporting some degree of facial hair, a direct departure from his character in Titanic.
I am sure, though, that this would have been a natural progression -- and he is still one of my favorite actors -- but one can't help but wonder if it's been a direct rebellion against that cherubic poor boy from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, who died in the Atlantic Ocean.
Cameron's next picture wouldn't come until 2009, with Avatar wowing crowds with dazzling special effects and an underwhelming plot. We waited 12 years for a remake of Ferngully? A few of you liked it, because it ended up making $2 billion to become the highest-grossing of all time in just 47 days. It's safe to say that Titanic gave Cameron the balls to make something as grand as Avatar.
Making itself at home on most every Prom 1998 playlist was Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On," which still to this day has the power to make young women cry. The song's reign was short, as Aerosmith's "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing" came barreling into radio that summer.
Ugly Fake Jewelry
Remember all those ads just a few weeks after the film was released, offering you a necklace that looked almost like Rose's "Heart of the Ocean" bauble? Where are they all now, and how many dudes used these to get into the pants of suggestible high school girlfriends? Show of hands...
Elderly actress Stuart stepped into the role as the aged Rose, decades after she was a silver screen ingenue. She made three more films before passing away in 2010 at the age of 100.
Pennywhistles Making You Cry And/Or Cringe
Before Titanic, you only heard pennywhistles in Pogues songs or on PBS, but soon enough they would be all over, with preteens taking lessons all over the world to get that downtrodden sound down. Along the way even Bruce Springsteen made them a big part of his signature sound. Sigh.
"I'm The King Of The Annoying Catchphrases"
It's been hard to get onto any boat in the past 15 years without hearing a grown adult scream that they are the king of the world. Thanks, James Cameron. Same goes for "I'm flying!"
You Would Forever And Ever Be Scared To Take A Cruise
You never know when that Carnival cruise ship you are taking to Cozumel will hit an iceberg and you will be stuck somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico holding onto wreckage. I think after the movies came out that they actually started putting more lifeboats onto cruisers just as a selling point.