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James Cameron Made ‘Titanic’ Set Look Bigger With ‘Short Extras’: ‘Anybody Above Five Foot Eight, We Didn’t Cast Them’

James Cameron reflected on the making of “Titanic,” the most expensive film of its time, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times for the film’s 4K remastering home video release.

The complex engineering and resources needed to create the unprecedentedly large sets and sequences contributed to the high cost of making the film.

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“The scale of everything was beyond anything we could imagine in terms of our prior experience. At the time we thought, wow, there’s no way this movie could ever make its money back. It’s just impossible. Well, guess what?” Cameron said.

In an effort to keep the budget under control, producer Jon Landau said they saved $750,000 by scrapping an entire set that was planned to be canted at a three-degree angle. Instead, they stuck to two other sets — one for pre-iceberg scenes and the second one tilted at six degrees, replicating the ship sinking.

They also strategized with casting to ensure the ship maintained its massive appearance.

“We only cast short extras so it made our set look bigger,” Cameron said. “Anybody above five foot eight, we didn’t cast them. It’s like we got an extra million dollars of value out of casting.”

“Titanic” — which premiered in theaters on Dec. 19, 1997 — became the highest-grossing film of all time, until Cameron beat his own record in 2009 with “Avatar.”

“If the studio had had their way, they would have cut the entire ship sinking,” Cameron added. “The smartest thing we did was do the sinking last. It wasn’t because of strategy — it was simply because you sink the set last because otherwise it doesn’t look so good the next morning when you bring it back up.”

The two-disc “Titanic” 25th anniversary 4K Blu-ray and limited edition box set is now available in stores.

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