(To celebrate "Titanic" and its impending 25th-anniversary re-release, we've put together a week of explorations, inquires, and deep dives into James Cameron's box office-smashing disaster epic.)
James Cameron has a bit of a reputation. Part of it is for making epic films; the other part is sometimes he's challenging to work with. Look, he's good at what he does, and the box office numbers don't lie. In fact, until just this month, "Titanic" was the highest-grossing film in Paramount's history. Many of the actors that work with him acknowledge that it's because he's good at so many jobs. In a December 2022 feature about Cameron in The Ringer, actor Stephen Lang ("Avatar: The Way of Water") says, "I used to always make this joke, and I made it many times: the two on-set jobs that Jim Cameron respects the most are acting and catering because those are the two jobs that he knows he can't do better than everybody else."
"Titanic" star Kate Winslet has frequently spoken about how difficult he was on set, including a story in The Telegraph (via Vanity Fair) about how he was "much more calm" during the "Avatar: The Way of Water" production. She revealed to The LA times in 1997 that the director "has a temper like you wouldn't believe" and that "there were times I was genuinely frightened of him." Cameron himself told The New York Times that he used to wear a hat on sets with an acronym that stood for "head motherf***er in charge."
It makes it all the more lovely to hear a sweet on-set story from Jenette Goldstein ("Aliens"), who played the Irish mother telling her children the story of Tír na nÓg as the ship sinks around them in the feature from The Ringer.
'Did I Not Do It Right?'
The scene comes late in the film as the ship begins to go down. Many of the passengers in the lower-class cabins have been locked behind metal gates, and they know they're going to drown. We see a clip of Goldstein's character telling her little children an Irish fairytale of a land of eternal youth and beauty, trying to get them to sleep before they realize what's happening.
Goldstein recalled shooting the scene and the young actors she worked with. She explained that while the little girl, Laramie Landis, had done a couple of TV shows and was comfortable with acting, the little boy, Reece Thompson, had only done a commercial. "And he was tiny," Goldstein said. "He was a little worried and scared. And we did the master. We did one take of it. And then Jim goes, 'All right. Cut. We're going again.' The little boy goes, 'Did I not do it right?' And then everybody started laughing." She continued, saying:
"And Jim goes, 'Quiet. Please, quiet.' Because it was very cute. Everybody stopped. He knows all of those people. And he just sort of went and talked to the little boy. And he spent a minute there explaining to the little boy how it works. 'We're going to do this, and then you're going to do it again. You think you can do it, like, three times? And then we're going to move the camera. Is that OK?' It was so, so sweet. And he said, 'So, is that OK? You think you can do it?' And then he started again. And it was really amazing. And everyone was just like, 'Wow.' In this huge, stressful moment, he was able to get this performance out of this little boy and calm his fears."
A Calm During The Storm
I am now deceased from cute overload and am writing this from the land of Tír na nÓg. Seriously though, what a lovely thing to be able to encourage a young boy who was doing only his second acting job. Acting is a demanding profession, and early experiences can shape a person's opinion about it. Having someone so lofty (and renowned for being a hard taskmaster) take the time to explain how it all works, despite the time constraints he was under, is touching.
A scene like that could have been scarring for a kid, and knowing the kindness that Cameron showed him makes that scene all the more poignant. By the way, if you'd like to continue your crying jag, Goldstein told Cosmopolitan in 2017 that Thompson asked her when they were shooting the next scene, the one where they get in the boats and get rescued.
"Titanic" will be re-released in theaters on February 10, 2023.
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The post James Cameron Went Out Of His Way To Coach One Of Titanic's Young Actors appeared first on /Film.