Oscar-winning Titanic co-producer Jon Landau tells Subhadra Devan what’s new in the 3-D version
JAMES Cameron’s Titanic was re-released worldwide in Real D 3-D and IMAX 3-D yesterday, marking the 100th anniversary of the ship’s ill-fated maiden voyage.
Why does the 1912 RMS Titanic sinking still reverberate in our collective memory?
It could be the much touted fact that it was the largest passenger steamship in the world then, a lot of people died when it sank including famous ones, and maritime law consequently saw changes.
Cameron’s romance-tragedy film, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Jack Dawson, Kate Winslet as Rose DeWitt Bukater, Gloria Stuart as Old Rose, and Billy Zane as Rose’s fiance, Cal Hockley, was a thrilling, engrossing cinematic watch when it came out in 1997.
The Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox and Lightstorm Entertainment-made film is one of only three films to have received a record 11 Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director.
It is co-produced by the down-to earth Jon Landau, who began his career producing films such as Dick Tracy and Honey, I Shrunk The Kids, before first collaborating with James Cameron on True Lies.
Cameron and Landau, under Lightstorm Entertainment, also co-produced the 2009 3-D spectacle Avatar.
Titanic wraps a love story — between the rich and poor, about poor people being victimised, with high seas adventure and drama, and awesome bravery — between the hit of an iceberg and a ship breaking apart.
The 1997 film made men cry, let alone women like me — and I did each of the three times I saw the film, albeit less at the last time.
The title song, My Heart Will Go On, Celine Dion’s big hit, needs only the first few flute notes to be recognised.
With all that going for it a decade later, what can a 3-D remake offer?
Says Landau: “It is now more intimate. You will feel more present, in the moment. For example, when Rose’s mother cinches her corset on her, you are in that moment with her, and can almost feel that the corset tighten.”
He has just finished showing 18 minutes of the 3-D Titanic — including the wild Irish dance scene at the third-class section — to Press and industry personnel at a new 3-D cinema mall in Hong Kong.
Landau spices up the event when he brings out the Oscar statuette, drawing gasps and “waaaahs” from all present. Laughing, Landau says that going through Customs check and the baggage scanner would inevitably draw the question: “Is that an Oscar?”
He passes the Oscar around, pretends to be a Press photographer, then throws the statuette into the air. It is a moment of disbelief, just what Landau says movies ask from their audiences.
“When an audience goes to a movie theatre, you are asking them for a suspension of disbelief. When you present in 3-D, it’s one less thing you are asking them to suspend that belief on... because we see our lives in 3-D. (So) it’s only natural.
“When you see a 2-D movie, the screen itself is an object you are aware of. It reminds you that you are in a theatre.
“When 3-D is done right, the screen itself disappears and the experience becomes voyeuristic.
“People think 3-D is for the action scenes. People are mistaken, it’s not. 3-D is for intimacy... For the moment, when they are flying on the bow of the ship... when their hands are intertwined, that’s when you feel that you are present in that moment.”
No scenes were re-edited, he adds.
“What it does is simulate the eye moment. I can see all around the chair. When you move something, there is a blank spot, that is now being filled in by the artist in 3-D.”
It took US$18 million, and 60 weeks, to convert the film into 3-D, says Landau. The film has been digitally re-mastered at 4K (four time the resolution of 2K digital cinema, and ensuring better longevity) and converted to 3-D.
“The re-released version is available in IMAX 3-D and 2-D and the 2-D prints are even better than the negative.”
“We will take into account what kind of theatres the movie will be played at, the light levels. The print masters will be done at different grades. So the master file suitable for that particular cinema will be sent there, and the audience there will get the best presentation available.
“It was difficult to convert Titanic into 3-D. The depth in the film, with use of wide angle lens, made it difficult. Companies doing 3-D conversion prefer soft lighting, and depth costs money. The Titanic 3-D conversion is done at Stereo D, a US company which has the proprietary equipment for the conversion.”
Some people won’t be able to see the difference, and Landau assures that “one in 10 people don’t see 3-D at all”. “But those who can will see more details in the 3-D film.”
Landau is working on two sequels for the Avatar, in 3-D, and “we are starting in earnest very soon”. They will be shot in True 3-D.
He explains that True 3-D is when a film is originally shot in that format, as opposed to being converted. He feels that 3-D conversion should be limited to library titles — E.T, for example — and not contemporary ones. “If you want 3-D, shoot in it.”
The global trend towards 3-D movies have increased since Avatar, with Landau saying that he has high expectations for 3-D films in Asia “The potential here is phenomenal,” he said. “We want to draw people out of their homes and into the theatre.”
Landau says he has shown the 3-D version of Titanic to DiCaprio in Sydney, where he is filming The Great Gatsby, just before coming to Hong Kong.
“In the beginning, Leo was very verbal, and said, “Oh my god, I don’t look like that anymore. Then as the movie played on, he seemed caught up in the drama... as if seeing the movie for the first time.
“When Titanic came out, Leo was just 20 years old then.”
“We are treating it as a new release, despite everyone knowing the ending. And, we are not worried about piracy,” says Landau, as everyone laughs.
The release of Titanic 3-D also marks Paramount Pictures’ centennial anniversary. Paramount handles the film’s distribution in the US.
“We think Titanic in 3-D will appeal to a new generation of viewers, and those who have already seen it will relive this great love story.
“Movies offers escapism from real life, a time when you forget about the doctor’s bills, the children’s problems. There are two things true in life — we all want true love and we all must face death. If Rose could come out of the icy waters, lose her love, and can go on living her daily life, after the Titanic, so can we — there is hope for all of us. That’s what this film brings.”
To me, it promises another weeper session at the cinema.
Titanic, both in IMAX 3-D and 3-D versions, opened in selected cinemas nationwide yesterday. It is distributed by 20th Century Fox.
Titanic movie trivia
Released in 1997 and by March 1998, it was the first film to earn more than US$1 billion (RM3 billion) worldwide. It became the highest grossing film in history, and remained so for 12 years, until Avatar surpassed it in 2010.
Titanic has won 11 Academy Awards:
Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Dramatic Score, Best Original Songs, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Costume Design, Best Sound Effects, Best Sound Effect Editing, Best Art Direction and Best Visual Effect.