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James Cameron had clever casting rule to make Titanic more spectacular

James Cameron is a master of cinematic trickery, and he used all of his talents while making the mega-blockbuster drama movie Titanic.

Kate Winslet in Titanic

For many, James Cameron is the undisputed king of epic blockbusters, with only names like Steven Spielberg and Christopher Nolan providing any real competition. With the two Avatar movies, Aliens, The Terminator and T2, and Titanic he’s a master of action and, most importantly, scale.

That is, after all, one of his defining trademarks, which was most obviously on display with the astonishing Titanic. Often regarded as James Cameron‘s most impressive work and one of the best drama movies ever, it’s an astonishing technical achievement that truly makes you believe it’s filmed on the largest ship of its era. But, of course, the setting of the director’s best movie is an illusion, and Cameron was forced to employ some real trickery to make it all work, including one ingenious, low-tech touch.

“We only cast short extras so it made our set look bigger. Anybody above 5’8, we didn’t cast them. It’s like we got an extra million dollars of value out of casting,” Cameron explained to The LA Times.

It’s a genius move from the director when you really stop and think about it. It’s impossible to notice when you watch the film itself, though it will inevitably, unconsciously make the surroundings all look larger than they actually are. We’re only talking a matter of inches, of course, but it’s that minute attention to detail that sets Cameron apart, with him going on to win the Best Director award at the year’s Oscars.

The trick in the James Cameron movie is almost the complete reverse of what audiences saw in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. The best fantasy movie of the lot, The Fellowship of the Ring, begins in The Shire, and some of the sets used for this portion of the movie were constructed to be larger in order to make the Hobbits all look smaller.

Now, of course, two and a half decades after Titanic, Cameron has immersed himself entirely in the world of Pandora with his burgeoning Avatar franchise. Pushing the limits of cinema, the two films so far have been technical marvels with Cameron integrating physical production design with motion capture and startlingly impressive CGI, too.

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With all the work that goes into the Avatar movies, it’ll come as no surprise that the Avatar 3 release date is still a way away, currently being scheduled to arrive at the end of 2025.

While it’ll be a joy to see another installment in one of the best science fiction movie series ever made, we can’t help but mourn the fact that the franchise will most likely define the rest of his career, preventing us from enjoying his talents in other forms. We’d love, for example, to see the man try his hand at Star Wars, but that’s admittedly wishful thinking.

For more on Cameron, read our retrospective Aliens review, and see our picks for the best action movies and best disaster movies.