Gar­ber awash in ‘Ti­tanic’ mem­o­ries

Cana­dian ac­tor says tough con­di­tions on set helped cast mates form close bond

The Hamilton Spectator - - A&E - VIC­TO­RIA AHEARN

The first time Cana­dian ac­tor Victor Gar­ber met direc­tor James Cameron on the set of Ti­tanic, the Canuck film­maker lived up to his rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing in­tensely com­mit­ted to the job.

“When I got there, they put me through hair and makeup and I got into cos­tume and was taken to a tank where James Cameron was in one of those un­der­wa­ter suits with a snorkel,” Gar­ber, who played the mighty liner’s Ir­ish ship builder Thomas An­drews in the block­buster film, re­called in a re­cent tele­phone in­ter­view.

“I just saw this huge tank and all these peo­ple in it and it was just crazy,” he said of the epic filmed in Mex­ico.

“The set was oth­er­worldly. It was like be­ing in, well, it was lit­er­ally an­other world.”

As Cine­plex En­ter­tain­ment cel­e­brates the 20th an­niver­sary of the ro­mance dis­as­ter — there was a screen­ing on Sun­day and an­other Feb. 15 to launch its Clas­sic Film Se­ries — Gar­ber still marvels at the ex­pe­ri­ence.

“It’s one of the things I’m rec­og­nized most for wher­ever I go,” said the Lon­don, Ont., na­tive, whose cred­its also in­clude the TV se­ries “Alias” and “The Flash,” and the films “God­spell” and “Argo.”

“For me, it’s amaz­ing. I sort of have to pinch my­self when I think about be­ing in­volved with that movie be­cause it was such a cult and huge suc­cess. That story is some­thing that grabs, es­pe­cially young kids.”

And yet Gar­ber said he and his cast­mates — from Leonardo DiCaprio to Kate Winslet to Billy Zane — didn’t fully re­al­ize just how epic the film would be.

Re­leased in De­cem­ber 1997, it was the most ex­pen­sive movie in Hol­ly­wood his­tory at the time, with a bud­get of close to $200 mil­lion US. It went on to earn a record-ty­ing 14 Os­car nom­i­na­tions and won 11, in­clud­ing Best Pic­ture.

“There were lots of jokes be­cause Water­world had bombed and we thought, ‘We could be the next,’” said Gar­ber.

“We didn’t know. It wasn’t re­ally un­til I saw the pre­mière in Los An­ge­les, when I flew out there to see it, and I sat down and it started and I thought, ‘Holy ---- this is re­ally great,’” he said, us­ing an un­print­able ex­ple­tive.

Pro­duc­tion on Ti­tanic lasted about six months and Gar­ber con­sid­ered him­self lucky he didn’t have to get wet like many of the ac­tors, some of whom suf­fered var­i­ous ail­ments from spend­ing so much time in the tank. Still, “it was rough,” he added. “We shot mostly at night, which is my worst night­mare, lit­er­ally. I hate that. I just don’t like work­ing all night and I can’t sleep dur­ing the day. Ev­ery­one was sleep-de­prived: the crew, every­body.”

But Gar­ber has fond mem­o­ries of bond­ing with his cast­mates and play­ing Scrabble to­gether.

He still keeps in touch with David Warner, who played the valet and body­guard of Zane’s char­ac­ter, and has a rev­er­ence for Cameron.

“He’s ar­guably one of the great­est di­rec­tors we’ve ever known,” said Gar­ber. “What impressed me most was his com­plete com­mit­ment. He ex­pects ev­ery­one to be as com­mit­ted as he is.

“Com­ing from the stage, my back­ground is to be pre­pared and to just be al­ways at­ten­tive to what the direc­tor re­quires and wants. So I had a great time with him.”

Cine­plex’s Clas­sic Film Se­ries also in­cludes the 25th an­niver­sary of “A Few Good Men” and the 50th an­niver­sary of “The Grad­u­ate.”

Cine­plex Cin­e­mas will be screen­ing “Ti­tanic” at se­lect the­atres Feb. 15 to mark the 20th an­niver­sary of its release.


Victor Gar­ber played Ir­ish ship builder Thomas An­drews in “Ti­tanic.”

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