Director James Cameron with Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio (Photo: Paramount Pictures)
It's been over 14 years since the film smashed worldwide box office records and took home 11 Academy Awards, but director James Cameron told us, "'Titanic' never really went away for me."
After a successful re-release this past April, it was announced today that the epic romance "Titanic" will finally be available on Blu-ray in September. Converting the film to 3D had been in Cameron's mind since 2005, he told us, but the studios considered it a "pretty radical idea" at the time. Eventually, the technology caught up to Cameron's ambitions, and now not only can "Titanic" be seen in three dimensions in the movie theater, but also at home with the 3D Blu-ray edition.
To mark the occasion, Cameron spoke to Yahoo! Movies about the new Blu-ray sets, including the one scene he deleted from the movie that he missed the most. Plus, he explained how he helped inspire Ridley Scott for his upcoming 3D project, "Prometheus," and Cameron let us in on his plans for filming the next two sequels to "Avatar."
[Related: 'Titanic' 2D/3D Blu-ray details revealed]
Meriah Doty: What in this new Blu-ray set will be new to viewers?
James Cameron: Blu-ray is the best home video format that's ever existed by a country mile and the closest thing you can have to the actual theatrical experience. And obviously, because I love 3D, I'm most excited about the 3D presentation, which I just supervised the final mastering of -- six, seven days ago -- and it's stunning. Even on a 48-inch monitor, it's just incredible compared to anything you've seen on video before. So to me that's the most exciting thing.
It's all the deleted scenes. It's a lot of the stuff that was on the big deluxe set that we did before, but this is more accessible, meaning it's a lower price point. My goal is to just turn over to fans everything that's available that could be of interest.
MD: Of all of those deleted scenes, which one was the toughest for you to let go of in the final edit?
JC: Well, there was one scene that was quite nice in the development of the Jack and Rose relationship, which is when they're coming back from the steerage party. They're walking down the deck and they're just singing and goofing around. And there's the moment where they look up and see a shooting star, and he says, "My dad always said that when you see a shooting star, it's a soul going to heaven."
And it was an elliptical moment with later when she's lying on the piece of wood, and she doesn't know it but he's already died and she looks up and sees the shooting star. There was nice symmetry in that I hated to lose, but ultimately I took it out because the transitions from them dancing together at the steerage party to the very sort of cold and brittle breakfast with Cal the following morning, which is such a nice transition that I went with that. Plus the movie was long and that took out three minutes.
Watch James Cameron in an exclusive clip from 'Titanic' on Blu-ray:
MD: I'm also curious about your thoughts on "Prometheus" since it's coming out soon, and you're part of that franchise, having directed "Aliens."
JC: Oh, I'm dying to see it. Absolutely, I mean, the idea of Ridley Scott going back to science fiction -- here is the filmmaker that gave us two of the most important science fiction films in the entire genre, between "Alien" and "Blade Runner." And the idea that he's now making a third science fiction film, that's not to be missed. Plus, I think the trailer and the advanced materials look good and I'm just dying to see it.
MD: Do you and Ridley Scott have a friendship or a collegial relationship?
JC: We're actually collegial. We've never really hung out that much, but the few times that we've gotten together it's been great. I think it's just stimulating for both of us. He came to the performance capture set while we were doing "Avatar." And he was so excited by what he saw there that he said, "I've got to make my next film in 3D." At that time, he was thinking of a science fiction film -- a different one, ultimately, as it turns out, from "Prometheus." But that's where he sort of got the bug, so I'm proud that was the one that's been injected Ridley with his 3D virus.
MD: What can you tell us about where you're at with the sequels to "Avatar"?
JC: "Avatar 2" and "3" are being done together as a joint production. Some people use the term "back-to-back" but it's really more interleaved I would say as a more accurate way to represent it. We've spent the last year-and-a-half developing new software tools and new database management systems, and a whole bunch of new stuff that we need in order to be able to do these two films together in a reasonable period of time.
It took us four-and-a-half years to do the first movie. I'm hoping to do the second and third film together within the next four years. I'm still in early pre-production on it, writing and designing. So it will be awhile before anybody can come to a set to see that kind of activity, probably at least a year, I would say.
MD: I just read that you back a company that's exploring space mining. What is it in you that is always pushing the limit of new possibilities?
JC: I think it's curiosity more than anything. It's the curiosity of a science fiction writer, of a scientist. I'm not a scientist by trade but I appreciate scientists and the quest to understand the natural world. I've always loved exploration since I was a kid. I could have been an astronaut, I would have been, but I went down a different road. So the opportunity to be involved in a space project, that's something I don't usually turn down. I've been involved in a number of them and this is a new enterprise. I'm just on the advisory board. I'm not leading the charge on that one. So I'm definitely interested to see where it goes.
MD: What is it that fascinates you most about the ocean and the life it hosts?
JC: Oh, it's just the biodiversity, and the fact that so much of it is still unknown, and there's so much that needs to be understood. My fascination with it goes back to my teenage years, but I find myself in a different role. I think anybody who loves the ocean and its mysteries now has to embrace the fact that the human race seems hell-bent on destroying it, or destroying the balance of life within the ocean.
It's a hard thing to wrap your head around, because the ocean is so enormous. It's hard to imagine that we can have that affect on it. But we are, and we're systematically destroying the food web in the ocean with more and more intrusive fishing practices, bottom trawl netting and so on. And so I think anybody that loves the ocean and respects it needs to also become a guardian and a warrior for the ocean, which is more how I see myself going forward, even than an explorer.
MD: What did you do on a technical level to prepare "Titanic" for both the 3D re-release and the Blu-ray editions?
JC: On the re-release, we released Titanic also in IMAX, the digital IMAX format, in 2D and in 3D, and we did that in 1.78:1 aspect ratio — this is kind of geeking out for neophiles now. But the film was originally released in a CinemaScope ratio — 2.35:1 ratio. So in the new release, the DVD and the standard Blu-ray and the 2D Blu-ray is 2.35, and the 3D Blu-ray is in 17:8 or 16:9, which means that it'll fill the HD monitor. And that's not cropped, that's actually added material. And in the process of remastering the film, we had to go back and do a lot of paint work to remove dollies and microphones and things like that, that were in view just outside of the scope area.
This is more of the videophile geek fest, but the film was originally shot with Super 35 format, which meant that there was always more frame available than what we released. So we've gone back to that and we've cleaned it up and so it actually plays beautifully in 3D in the 16:9 format, I think, so it's a slightly different experience.
The other thing is that the very first thing we did when started down the path of re-releasing the film was to do a 4k up-res remaster of the film to create a brand new master. We went back in the original negative and we made a 4k transfer. We went to a company that has, I think, the best proprietary algorithms for image enhancement and noise reduction. We did their top clean -- they call it a "clean" because it was originally developed for restoring old films -- and we basically removed all the grain, sharpened it without adding any artifacts whatsoever, and then obviously I spent a lot of time perfecting the color on it. And I can safely say that you're seeing something that actually looks better than what we would have seen in 1997 from an original negative print. And I can't say that not any of my other movies, but I could say that about "Titanic" because that's the process that we went.
"Titanic" will hit stores in four-disc 2D and 3D Blu-ray sets on September 14.
Watch more film clips from 'Titanic':