Although it strove to give the audience an authentic experience, James Cameron's Titanic has come under more intense scrutiny as time has gone on. However, one of the factors that the 20-year-old film has managed to get right was the Grand Staircase that was at the heart of some of the film's most memorable moments. Unfortunately, during a recent National Geographic Titanic special, the director explained that one particularly accurate detail caused some problems during the production. During Titanic: 20 Years Later, James Cameron explained exactly how the use of the wooden staircase was almost a total disaster. He said that the ship sinking scene was a definite miscalculation by the planners on the movie...
The staircase has got a steel footing, then when we sank the ship, it lifted. Wood is buoyant. It ripped off that footing and it all floated up, and it actually pinned two stunt players. Fortunately, they weren't hurt, but it was a pretty scary moment.
When pouring over my memories of Titanic, the Grand Staircase definitely comes to mind really quickly. Both Jack and Rose's meeting in formal attire, as well as their decision to go to Steerage for a dance party, took place on that spectacular set piece. Not to mention, Rose's dying fantasy of returning to the ship and reuniting with the passengers and historical figures she met on board ends with that bittersweet moment where she finally sees Jack again. But then there was the sinking sequence, where that idyllic setting turned into a nightmarish one that almost injured people with its historical accuracy.
James Cameron's attention to detail on Titanic was, at the time, the best guess possible when it came to all of the details on the ship. As time has gone on, some of those details have been corrected, and Cameron even mentioned the way the ship sank would not have worked in real life. Something that Cameron himself has been involved in from time to time, with the director most recently prepping a special with National Geographic, called Titanic: 20 Years Later. With the film being a grab bag of memorable moments, both accurate and fantastical, it's living proof that sometimes a good story and a historical truth, no matter how threatening, can turn out a successful film that makes its home between the two poles.
The entire purpose of this special is to see where James Cameron got it right, and where he got it wrong. Fortunately for him, he did manage to get the design of the Grand Staircase right, and the results are still breathtaking to watch on screen. Take another look at the flooding of the Grand Staircase, courtesy of this clip from Titanic:
Titanic turns 20 on December 19th, but if you're near a select Dolby at AMC Theaters location, this weekend starts a limited re-release of James Cameron's historical romance epic. Just in case you want to make absolutely sure Jack and Rose couldn't have sat on that door together. Meanwhile, Titanic: 20 Years Later can be found on National Geographic Channel's on-demand service.