After a certain unsinkable luxury liner struck an iceberg 400 miles off the coast of Newfoundland in 1912, the movies called it A Night to Remember. Now, 85 years later, the latest recounting of the doomed voyage is making this Hollywood’s Summer to Remember.
With a shock-inducing price tag reportedly near $200 million, director James Cameron’s Titanic has become a fabled maritime voyage in its own right. Now there’s a new SOS — the film may not be ready in time for its coveted July 2 release date because of reported delays in postproduction. According to sources, the ill-fated event flick will be put in dry dock until August, or more likely November. Of the two studios splitting the film’s tab, Fox won’t comment on the delay. But Paramount exec Rob Friedman fervently denies the date changes. Titanic’s stormy passage, meanwhile, is creating an industry-wide wake. A look at who will swim and who will sink:
Swim: Paramount. Yes, the studio has watched its prestige film ram an iceberg, but Cameron’s escalating budget isn’t its problem. The studio’s coproducing deal with Fox (which gives Paramount domestic-distribution rights and Fox foreign rights) caps its investment at $65 million. Looks like studio head Sherry Lansing has been reading The Art of the Deal.
Sink: Fox. Every day that Cameron doesn’t deliver, Fox reaches further into its wallet. Its share now hovers somewhere between $115 million and $150 million.
Swim: Men in Black. The Will Smith-Tommy Lee Jones sci-fi comedy was slated to go mano a mano with Titanic. Now it may have a free ride. ”That’s my weekend, I own that,” laughed Smith last week at the Nickelodeon Awards. Smith, who opened Independence Day last July 3, adds: ”The studios gotta come and ask me for that weekend now.”
Sink: Face/Off. Paramount’s John Travolta-Nicolas Cage actioner was scheduled to open June 27. But if Paramount can’t raise the Titanic, it may plug up the Fourth of July weekend hole with Face/Off. No small challenge. Face/Off, which seemed likely to own the June 27 weekend, could end up second to Black. Not to be outdone in the questionable-moves department, Fox is moving its grumpy old comedy Out to Sea (starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau) from May 30 to July 2 as well.
Swim: James Cameron. November is Oscar consideration time. And since by all accounts Titanic is first and foremost a love story, who knows? Added benefit: The tardy auteur can make the film he wants with a four-month reprieve. Not that Fox and Paramount aren’t cracking the whip. Says a Titanic source, ”If you tell Jim he’s got until Thanksgiving, he’ll work until the last minute.”
Sink: James Cameron. At least his reputation. This is not the first time the director’s been in a jam. The Abyss, a rare Cameron dud, was reportedly four weeks late. True Lies had its opening pushed back two weeks and ran over budget. By the time Titanic does sail, it will have to fight a new wave of competitors, including Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers and the Richard Gere-Bruce Willis thriller Jackal. Until then, it’s hard not to feel a little sympathetic for Cameron’s cruise: After all, the real Titanic had only icebergs to worry about.