“My heart is full to bursting, except to say I’m the king of the world,” proclaimed James Cameron in his memorable speech almost 20 years ago when he won the Oscar for Best Director for “Titanic” (view that moment above). He was joyfully quoting a line spoken by lead actor Leonardo DiCaprio opposite lead actress Kate Winslet. His epic film is now marking its 20th anniversary of theatrical release in the United States on December 14, 1997.
Leading up that launch, many people don’t even recall that it had the potential to be one of the most massive box office bombs in the history of movies. Those were among the whispers throughout Hollywood as the production had gone $100 million over its original $100 million budget. It had also gone through multiple casting changes and was in constant rewrites throughout filming.
All was forgiven (or forgotten) when the film became the biggest moneymaker of all time, taking in a world wide box office of $1.84 billion in its first year, the first film to ever pass the billion dollar mark. The blockbuster movie took in an additional $350 million in 2012 when it was re-released in 3D to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the actual sinking of the Titanic.
The film would hold the record for box office until Cameron topped himself with the $2.8 billion he made from “Avatar” in 2009. It would also compete for Best Picture at the Oscars but would lose out for directing and the top category to ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow for “The Hurt Locker.”
For the fun-filled 70th anniversary Academy Awards ceremony held in 1998, “Titanic” had 14 nominations, matching the record held by “All About Eve” for 47 years. Ultimately winning 11 Oscars, the film also matched the record for Oscar victories set by “Ben-Hur” in 1959. For Best Picture, the film competed against “As Good As It Gets,” “The Full Monty,” “Good Will Hunting,” and “L.A. Confidential.”
Let’s take a look back at the astounding 11 wins that evening:
Best Picture – James Cameron and Jon Landau
Best Director – James Cameron
Best Art Direction – Peter Lamont and Michael D. Ford
Best Cinematography – Russell Carpenter
Best Costume Design – Deborah Lynn Scott
Best Film Editing – Conrad Buff, James Cameron, and Richard A. Harris
Best Original Score – James Horner
Best Original Song – James Horner and Will Jennings for “My Heart Will Go On”
Best Sound – Gary Rydstrom, Tom Johnson, Gary Summers, and Mark Ulano
Best Sound Effects – Tom Bellfont and Christopher Boyes
Best Visual Effects – Robert Legato, Mark A. Lasoff, Thomas L. Fisher, and Michael Kanfer
The three losses were for Best Actress (Winslet), Best Supporting Actress (Gloria Stuart), and Best Makeup (Tina Earnshaw, Greg Cannom, and Simon Thompson).
This record was later matched in 2011 by “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” which swept all 11 of the Oscars for which it was nominated. Just last year “La La Land” matched the record of 14 nominations but did not ultimately win for Best Picture as these other movies had done.
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