Jim hops into our hotel conference room labeled
"Salon 9," he's up and ready to "debrief."
JC: Hello Salon Nine from deep space
PRESS: Talk to us about the
length of this film.
JC: We did struggle with length. Most
are 45 minutes long. We pushed this one right to the
limit, which is 60 minutes. And that 60 minutes is a
hard deadline created by the platter system for IMAX
3D -- it can't take anything longer. We struggled to
get everything that we wanted into the film.
PRESS: What about the
JC: Well the DVD is a 90-minute version.
Yes, you'll see a little bit more. A little bit more
ROV stuff and some more kinda behind the scenes on
PRESS: Were there problems
with your camera system?
JC: We were just figuring out how to move
the system around the ship. The camera is very light
it's only 22 pounds. You can hand hold it for
literally hours at a time. But then you've got the
recorders over there. How do you move, if you
suddenly have a shot on another deck, how do you move
the whole thing? Eventually, we ended up wiring the
ship with HDST cabling to different nodes and then we
plugged into that. ... We were learning as we went.
It was great because it was intensive, there was no
place to go (chuckle). We were on the ship and we had
to figure it out.
PRESS: Will viewers need
JC: Do I have to wear those glasses? I
think people associate wearing the glasses with the
eyestrain that they got from badly or not optimally
shot stereo-photography in the past.... In going to
HD system, going digital, we'd given ourselves the
opportunity to improve stereo-photography a great
deal. I think we're jumping up one quantum level.
RA: Was there a stereo camera
inside the subs?
JC: Yeah, but not all the time and not on
all the dives. That was just impractical from a data
management, task-loading standpoint. You have to
dedicate a dive to doing that. So we did that once.
Most of the time the camera was operating outside the
sub, which is really right because the inside of the
sub looks the same whether you're at the surface or
at the bottom. So we had 3 cameras inside each of the
2 subs that were all recording to a stack of DVD
decks that ran for 3 hours apiece. They recorded the
feeds from the ROVs and interior cameras. So every
dive was documented from hatch closed to hatch open
100% in both subs. And you can see, a lot of that
stuff appears in PinP windows on the film. When we go
full screen in 3D, some of that stuff was shot on a
dive and some of it was recreated later where we used
as a guide what the witness or surveillance style
cameras said that people did or said. I mean, nothing
was scripted everything was in everybody's own words,
but you know, we had to bow to practicality at that
point. Also, when Bill is at the window looking out
and we're at full screen looking back at him, it was
unsafe to block the window with the 3D cam. So we
decided to record all that with a little witness
camera and then recreate it later for full screen.
Everything he says is what he said. And that's true
of the other folks as well. That was amazing, you can
get people who aren't actors, just do what you did
the first time. And they do fine -- they do
PRESS: What about the T2
JC: Yes, there is a new T2 DVD. I don't
know too much about it, but I did do a commentary for
PRESS: Down in the subs, did
you ever feel like your life was in danger?
JC: Frequently. That's the other thing that
makes diving with 2 subs great -- not just from the
imaging standpoint. If you're diving in one sub and
you get stuck at the bottom -- you die. If you're
diving 2 subs, the other one can come over and help
PRESS: Did you learn anything
new this time?
JC: We knew everything that was known when
we made [Titanic], but not everything was known. The
steel plans for the ship still existed and we got
those. But the way the ship was finished internally
-- all of our information was based on the sister
ship -- the Olympic. That was a different ship, they
did things differently from one to the other. So for
the first time, we really now know what the Titanic
really looked like. So when you're flying through the
rooms and so on in those CG shots -- that now is the
definitive representation of what the ship really
looked like. Not the movie -- although the movie
comes damn close.
PRESS: When did you decide to
go down again to the Titanic?
JC: Pretty much right away... right after
the Academy awards. ... I gave my brother Mike the
marching orders and some funding to go build the
vehicle. We didn't know if it was going to take 1
year or 2 years or 3 years, or whatever... there was
no specific film project at that point. I got busy
doing other stuff, writing scripts, Dark Angel, space
stuff all kinds of different things. Eventually, the
ROVs were done. Meanwhile, we had been developing 3D
technology for the Space project and those cameras
had been just completed... and we sort of put 2 and 2
together and said, "Hey let's go do a 3D film about
RA: I'm quite interested in
space exploration. Talk to me about Mars and your
JC: I had a couple different space
projects. One was like a real space project. We were
going to fly the stereo cam system and originally it
was going to be on the Mir space station as opposed
to the Mir submersibles. But then that got de-orbited
when we were in the middle of that process. So we
shifted it to a possible ISS mission and were
actively planning that and would be now except for
the Columbia tragedy which obviously creates a set
back. Because NASA's got a lot on their plate right
now and they don't want filmmakers cluttering up
their manifest. So that was one project and that's on
hold. The Mars project is essentially on hold in the
same way, which is, I only need to make that film
sometime before we actually go. And it looks now like
that's being pushed out because everything's getting
slowed down in space exploration unfortunately as a
result of this. They've got to figure out how to make
the space shuttle safe and how to evolve beyond that.
Now, the Mars project (and I'm still hoping to do
that in the next couple of years) is a fictional film
about the first human expedition to Mars. It's not a
flight of fantasy type of Sci-Fi film. It's a
directly iterative Sci-Fi that says, "This is how we
are going to really go and really do the most
adventurous thing the human race can conceive of
doing right now for real." This isn't about light
sabers and flying faster than the speed of light and
meeting cool 3-eyed aliens from another galaxy. This
is stuff we can do. We just have to decide to do it.
And I think that's pretty great. As much as I love
oceanography, it's nothing compared to space
PRESS: Are You still saying
no "TRUE LIES 2"?
JC: Yes! (Laughs) I was on a whole
PRESS: What was the story you
JC: Did you see the last James Bond film --
no I'm just kidding. There's no point -- it's just
dead air. I am so not interested in that project.
RA: And your thoughts on
JC: I'm not involved in T3. When I was in
post on Titanic, I was approached on that. I said,
"I'm just not that ... Ahhh, I mean, I told the
story." I mean, the reason here to make the film is
to cash in on the success of the franchise. I think
films should be made from an organic place of 'I have
a specific story to tell now I'm gonna figure out
who's ready to pay for that.' It was 18 times harder
to get the money to make Titanic than it ever would
have been to make another Terminator film because
that was a proven commodity, but I was much more
interested in Titanic and I think that's the way
films should be made.
PRESS: I asked about "True
Lies 2" because I thought you wrote a script for
JC: No, We had a draft that was generated
by another writer. I didn't write it. And I was never
terribly satisfied with that draft ... and then the
September11th attacks happened and the idea of a
domestic comedy/adventure film about an
anti-terrorism unit just didn't seem all that funny
to me anymore.
PRESS: So will you be doing
any further documentaries with this HD 3D
JC: My feeling is, any explorer anywhere
shooting anything that's worthy of photography should
be shooting using this system because it's the
closest analogue to human vision and therefore allows
you to share that with people after the fact in the
most compelling way. Some of the documentary stuff
we're going to be doing in the future will be funded
for broadcast by broadcast TV; we're still going to
shoot it into 3D. Maybe 3D becomes so standardized
down the line that people start to think of 3D as
part of the library value of a library of images. ...
In fact, that machine at the beginning of the film is
1903 stereopticon and people loved to shoot stereo at
the turn of the century. Unfortunately, they never
shot Titanic in stereo. So we had to create the
stereo on all those real stills shot by the ship
builder. It was gorgeous but it took 6 months.
RA: Of all the films you've
made, which is your favorite?
JC: Titanic...(thinks)..or maybe
Terminator, even though it was kind of cheesy,
because I was just a truckdriver before it.
As Jim gets up to leave, reporters rush over to
have him sign their studio production stills. I've
seen this before, but Jim did something none of the
other "celeb's" did. He actually looked at the
photographs, commenting and scrutinizing them as he
signed. He also mentioned that his next feature film
would be in 3D. I asked him just which one of all the
films hed made was his favorite. Without much thought
he responded, "Titanic" but then paused and smiled,
"or Terminator" he corrected remarking that that was
his first film even though it was a little cheesy and
that before it he was a truck driver.
Bright eyed and in good humor, Bill Paxton is
quick to joke, happy to talk with us and quite likely
the most relaxed candid interviewee we've had the
pleasure to meet.
BP: I survived! Unsinkable Bill Paxton!
PRESS: How long did it take
BP: About 13 hours. It takes over 2 hours
to go down.
PRESS: This is a silly
question, how do you go to the bathroom?
BP: You know what? It's not a silly
question. I think we're all humans and that's one of
the first things we think about ... I'm sorry that's
not in the documentary. I never asked Lori Johnston
what she did down there. But they have this big glass
beaker thing, looks like its from a 1930 Frankenstein
set with a big rubber stopper on the end of it. And I
don't know... I'm a very nervous pisser as it were
... and some guy's like shoved up against me ... I
could be there for hours just trying to squeeze out a
PRESS: Did you get
BP: Yeah, when they first let you go on the
surface, it's like being in a gyroscope...bobbing
around. ...So we all got pretty violently ill, but
the Russian pilots in the subs are stoic, they just
sort of nod off and go to sleep.
PRESS: What did you think of
the Academy awards?
BP: Everyone just wanted to see how
politically correct or not it was going to be. God, I
admire Steve Martin. He got on that bucking horse and
rode it well.
PRESS: And Michael
BP: I felt he did a disservice to the cause
he was trying to promote. I thought he handled it
wrong. I was more touched by people's appeal in a
positive way for peace, than this man's angry
denouncement of this war. Look, I have a lot of mixed
feelings about this. But I support the troops. This
is tough time right now. I think a lot of people in
our industry are afraid to speak out. I had a drink
with Sean Penn the other night. He went over to
baghdad in December just to see for himself what was
going on. And that guy is as American as anybody I
ever met. I said to him you know I admire you for
standing up and saying what you believe or telling us
what you saw, I think that takes a lot of guts. But
my career is in enough trouble right now