Frances Fisher recalls 'Titanic' tryout

By KAREN BUTLER, United Press International  |  Sept. 10, 2012 at 1:25 PM
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NEW YORK, Sept. 10 (UPI) -- Frances Fisher says she won the role of Ruth DeWitt Bukater in the Hollywood blockbuster "Titanic" after she asked writer-director-producer James Cameron to stand on a conference-room table while she auditioned.

The idea, the 60-year-old actress explained to United Press International in a recent phone interview, was to get him to see what she, sitting below him in a chair, would look like as a woman pleading with her teenage daughter to leave the deck of the doomed luxury liner and get in the lifeboat with her as it was being lowered into the ocean.

Fisher's technique worked, she got the part and the rest, as they say, is history.

"I just loved the movie so much. I just felt really connected to Ruth and very confident in how I would portray her," Fisher told UPl, recalling how she got Cameron and various other members of the filmmaking team to hop up on the table during her audition for the role of a Philadelphia socialite on the brink of financial ruin.

"He understood my passion for the character and my portrayal of her was what he wanted because I ended up getting the role," she added.

The 1997 romantic disaster film uses a mix of fictional and real characters to recreate the tragedy in which 1,502 people were killed when Titanic struck an iceberg and sank during its maiden voyage across the Atlantic Ocean in 1912.

Cameron's film sailed on to become one of the biggest box-office successes of all time and the winner of 11 Academy Awards. It was re-released in 3D last spring to mark the 100th anniversary of the real ship's sinking and was made available on Blu-ray for the first time Monday.

In the movie, Fisher's fictional character engineers the marriage of her independent-minded daughter Rose, played by Kate Winslet, to wealthy snob Cal, played by Billy Zane, in to regain the family fortune. The plan fails when Rose falls in love with penniless artist Jack, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, and refuses to leave him on the sinking ship.

Although she didn't have as many stunts to do as Winslet and DiCaprio, Fisher said she never felt like she was shooting a family drama while the rest of the cast and crew were making an action picture.

"My character was part of the action and the sinking of the ship. It was all one piece. Different scenes shot different days, but it was all one movie brilliantly written and executed by Jim Cameron," Fisher said.

Asked if she remembers her reaction the first time she saw the completed film, the actress replied: "Oh, my God. We were in London at the Royal Albert for the big premiere and I was wearing a beaded dress and had this little, tiny purse that held my lipstick, a little bit of money and a mirror; that's it. ... But by the end of the movie, I was crying my eyes out and I had no place to wipe my tears. My makeup was starting to run, so I leaned over -- [Prince Charles] was sitting right in front of us -- and I said, 'Your Royal Highness, do you mind if I borrow the doilie on your chair to wipe my tears?' And he handed it to me and said, 'It's a marathon, darling.' I still have that doilie today in my memorabilia."

So, is it strange to be talking about "Titanic" again given Fisher has appeared in dozens of films and TV series since 1997?

"It's kind of weird to revisit it 15 years later because I have done so many projects since then, but it is a great reunion," she said. "It was lovely to see the cast and Jim and everyone at the [3D] premiere and catch up and know we're all still alive and kicking and moving forward."

Fisher also marveled at the way the filmmakers were able to improve upon the already visually stunning epic with the 3D and Blu-ray versions.

"Jim Cameron is such a genius and was so great to work with on the set of 'Titanic' 15 years ago and the fact they were able to make 'Titanic' into 'Titanic 3D' was an amazing accomplishment and I saw it in London at the premiere and it was even better than the first time," she said.

Fisher said she hopes the Blu-ray release will introduce the film to some people who haven't seen it, as well as be a gift to fans who have loved it since it first hit theaters.

"It reached a huge audience 15 years ago," the actress noted. "I think the Blu-ray will appeal to people who are interested in the technical aspects of it ... and people will also want to see it and compare it to the original and younger people will want to watch it."

The Blu-ray set has 2 1/2 hours of special feature content, including commentaries, deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes featurettes, an in-depth look at the visual effects and "Titanic" parodies.

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