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Film

The one plot decision that James Cameron regrets

There are few directors as cinematically daring as the Canadian filmmaker James Cameron, a Hollywood staple who has created some of the most stunning movies of all time. Perhaps cinema’s most bankable filmmaker, responsible for two of the top three highest-grossing films of all time Titanic and Avatar, whilst Cameron rarely creates modern masterpieces, he is highly proficient at raking in those green smackers. 

Known for his appreciation of the grand spectacle, as well as his love action-movie set pieces, Cameron is adored by film fans worldwide for cult favourites such as Aliens, True Lies and The Terminator franchise. More recently, it has been his Avatar series that has caught the attention of audiences, with his the long-awaited sequel to the original 2009 movie due to be released later in 2022. 

Whilst Avatar is undoubtedly loved, Titanic has managed to stand the test of time as an iconic romantic comedy, sparking the careers of Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet to life. Based on the real life sinking of the ocean liner of the same name that saw its demise in 1912, Cameron took plenty of historical liberties with his 1990s tale, with many finding issues with the story of  William McMaster Murdoch, played by Ewan Stewart.

A real-life individual who served as the First Officer aboard the Titanic and died as a result of its sinking, many survivors from the disaster claim that the officer commited suicide on the ship, despite the fact that there’s no living evidence to support this claim. Wishing to inject a little more drama into his story, Cameron decided to show the character kill himself in his 1997 movie. 

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Speaking on National Geographic’s Titanic: 20 Years Later, Cameron later admitted that he regretted adding this moment, explaining, “I took the liberty of showing [Murdoch] shoot somebody and then shoot himself….We don’t know he did that, but you know, the storyteller in me says, ‘Oh.’ I start connecting the dots. He was on duty, he’s carrying all this burden with him, made him an interesting character”. 

As a result of the scene, which was based on pure fiction, many residents of Murdoch’s hometown took issue with the death, including the man’s nephew who was worried that it would tarnish the name of his family.

Apologising for including the scene, Cameron stated, “I wasn’t thinking about being a historian, and I think I wasn’t as sensitive about the fact that his family, his survivors, might feel offended by that, and they were.” It goes to show that you’ve got to be careful when making a movie, even if you’re the king of the world”. 

James Cameron’s Titanic won 11 Academy Awards in 1998, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography and Best Original Song, as well as a whole host of technical awards. Released shortly after Leonardo DiCaprio had starred in the Baz Luhrmann movie Romeo + Juliet, the actor went on a significant run of Hollywood dominance, with Titanic being a considerable leg-up in the industry.