James Cameron and Crew Recall That Time They Were Drugged With PCP While Filming Titanic
Titanic was one of the biggest movies ever made, but it was reportedly kind of a nightmare to make. One of the most famous behind-the-scenes stories from the production of the movie, is that time when everybody got dosed with PCP and production became a drug-fueled nightmare for a few hours. 25 years later, nobody is sure who is responsible for drugging the chowder during production on a party scene. On August 6, 1996, the production's "lunch" break during a late night shoot went sideways when the seafood chowder being provided to the cast and crew turned out to be drugged.
According to a new report recalling the events of the night, one of the assistant directors became aware of some weird behavior on set, and divided the crew into two groups: those who were showing signs of being drugged, and those who weren't. Some headed to the hospital as a precautionary measure, as members of the cast and crew started to feel the effects in waves and the sober crew members scrambled to figure out how it all happened.
"We had a room for the grips and electricians, and one of the guys started talking really hyper," crew member Jake Clarke told Vulture. "He's a big guy, like six-four, and he says, 'Do you guys feel okay? Because I don't. I feel like I'm on something, and believe me, I would know.' He was just chattering on like that. And just as he was saying this, we saw James Cameron run by the door and this extra running behind him. He said, 'There's something in me! Get it out!'"
The late Bill Paxton, on the other hand, was apparently pretty chill about the whole thing, which presumably wsa the most downtime the actors had been able to enjoy on this massive shoot.
"Bill Paxton was a real sweetie," says Claude Roussel, a set decorator on the film. "He was sitting next to me in the hallway of the hospital, and he was kind of enjoying the buzz. Meanwhile, grips were going down the hallway doing wheelies in wheelchairs."
Between 50 and 80 people were taken to Dartmouth General Hospital in Nova Scotia, high on PCP. And just like how the cast slowly started to feel its impact, the symptoms got bigger and crazier over the course of a few hours, as the drugs set in and things got increasingly boisterous and difficult for hospital staff to control.
"People are moaning and crying, wailing, collapsed on tables and gurneys," Cameron told Vanity Fair about the incident in 2009. "The DP, Caleb Deschanel, is leading a number of crew down the hall in a highly vocal conga line. You can't make this stuff up."
"Some people were laughing, some people were crying, some people were throwing up," Paxton told Entertainment Weekly back in 1996. "One minute I felt O.K., the next minute I felt so goddamn anxious I wanted to breathe in a paper bag. Cameron was feeling the same way."
Luckily for him, Clarke had a seafood allergy, and did not partake. So he has a fairly clear memory of the night, which has gone down in "strange Hollywood trivia" history.
"Their eyes were beet-red, like unbelievably. Jim had a bottle of Scotch, and Bill Paxton had a bag of joints because he was a real stoner," Clarke said. "I'm kind of laughing about it because I didn't eat the chowder, and then I'm there in the trailer smoking a joint."