Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes has received plenty of praise for his meticulous depiction of World War I-era Britain – as well as plenty of criticism about his show’s supposed historical inaccuracies. But now Fellowes is accusing someone else of taking liberties: James Cameron, the writer/director/King of the World behind 1997’s blockbuster Titanic.
A few weeks ago, Fellowes declared that his upcoming four-part Titanic miniseries will tell “the whole story” of the ship’s sinking “for the first time.” Though he called Cameron’s Best Picture winner a “wonderful film,” he also described it as “a love story set against the sinking of the Titanic” – not a scrupulously accurate representation of the ship’s sinking. Now Fellowes is upping the ante even further, accusing Cameron outright of misrepresenting one of the saga’s key players.
In an interview with British magazine Radio Times, Fellowes calls Cameron’s depiction of Titanic First Officer William Murdoch “unfair.” The film’s version of Murdoch kills two third-class passengers in a climactic scene before taking his own life. (Earlier in the movie, he also accepts a bribe from Billy Zane’s villainous Cal.) But according to Fellowes, the real Mr. Murdoch was a hero rather than a coward: “He fired the pistol to just stop a potential riot,” he explains. “It was suddenly getting out of hand, and he fired it in the air. That’s not being cowardly… I don’t think you can just say, ‘Well, we’ll make this guy a villain – he’ll do.’”
Cameron hasn’t yet responded to our request for comment. (He’s probably still recovering from his historic dive to the Pacific’s deepest point, the Mariana Trench.) Even so, it’s safe to guess that the director won’t be happy when he hears Fellowes’s accusations; Cameron and his team spent more than five years studying the ship and its sinking to ensure that their film was as accurate as possible.
Either way, do you think Fellowes’s claim holds water, so to speak? And more importantly, does it make you more or less likely to tune in when ABC airs his own Titanic miniseries?