In 1997 James Cameron was given the green light to make a blockbuster disaster movie based on the facts of the Titanic. He wanted to make an exact replica of the "unsinkable" liner in order to best recreate the terrifying final hours to make filmgoers believe they were actually there at the time of the tragedy.
They was no film studio big enough to accommodate the model. One had to be built specially. It will be remembered that in 1910 the Olympic and Titanic had required the preassembly of the Great Gantry.
Twentieth Century Fox bought 40 acres of oceanfront property in Baha, Mexico, 30 minutes’ drive from California and built a £15 million facility called "the 100 day studio" because it would take 100 days to shoot the film.
Construction crews built two huge water tanks. One was 90 foot deep and over 800 foot wide in which the model could slowly sink into 17 million gallons of water fed direct from the Pacific Ocean.
The second tank was 30 foot deep. It contained 5 million gallons of water and housed the elegant first class dining saloon and the three storey Grand Staircase.
Working from the original Harland & Wolff blueprints, the model was built to 90% full scale in such detail to include her four 65 foot funnels.
Since she was built near the coast, there was a constant ocean horizon which added to the image of being onboard the Titanic. An ideal location.
The furnishing details of the model were not really based on the real Titanic, but her sister ship, the Olympic. This was because the Titanic having sunk on her maiden voyage obviously had not been photographed as often as the Olympic. Internal views and contents photographs were used by the craftsmen to reproduce the lavish interiors once enjoyed aboard both ships. The set creators reproduced the First Class Reception Rooms, Smoking Room, Promenade, Palm Court Café and the Deluxe State Rooms. The third class berths were also reproduced with great accuracy.
A huge crane was used to film overhead shots and long views.
To recreate the final few moments of the disaster, the movie model was separated into two pieces with the front half sunk in 40 foot of water using a powerful hydraulic jack. The aft section or Poop Deck was moved onto a special tilting platform like a giant sea saw built next to the tank. It is understood that in the making of the last few scenes a few extras were injured during the plunge.
Computer generated special effects were used throughout to sharpen the film's appeal. The scene at the dock where onlookers wave the Titanic goodbye was completely shot using computers. The ship and the passengers were all digitised.
“Nothing on earth can rivsl the epic spectacular and breathtaking grandeur of Titanic. Winner of eleven Academy Awards including Best Picture, this sweeping love story sailed into the hearts of moviegoers around the globe, ultimately emerging as the most popular motion picture of all time..."