We hear stories about celebrities who turn up in Minnesota, and no one bothers them. Lady Gaga is sighted in Minneapolis, but not thronged or annoyed. James Cameron turns up in Duluth, and the news reports say “everyone left him alone.” It’s so Minnesota. Oh, just let the man enjoy his pie.
Perhaps someone said, “No, I have to ask, because I don’t know if that’s James Cameron or James Cromwell, who plays morally compromised authority figures in all his movies, except for ‘Babe.’ They kinda look alike, ya know.”
“I don’t think James Cameron made ‘Babe.'”
“I didn’t say he did! That was a surprisingly heart-warming turn written by George Miller, a remarkable departure from his post-apocalyptic violent movies like ‘Mad Max’ and . . . Oh, look, he’s signaling for the check. We’ll see how he signs it.”
Then the server delivers the check and says, “Thanks! Hope ya liked the pie there, just as much as some of us enjoyed the way ‘The Abyss’ was a counter-narrative to the overt militarism of ‘Aliens.'”
Some suspected he was scouting for an Edmund Fitzgerald movie, because naturally he wants to do another ship-sink flick. Cameron is one of those filmmakers who makes long movies, so it’s possible his film would be even longer than the Gordon Lightfoot song. (Radio DJs everywhere were grateful for the song’s popularity, because it meant a leisurely stroll to the restroom instead of a fast dash.)
But why would he make a movie about that wreck when he could make the long-desired “Titanic” sequel?
There were two other ships in the Titanic’s class. This is widely known, right? There was the Titanic, the Olympic and the Britannic. The Olympic was launched first and was the biggest ship in the world, and then the Titanic came along and took the title for a day or two . . . . annnnnd then the Olympic was the biggest ship again.
The Britannic was launched in 1914, and never got the chance to be a luxury liner: It was pressed into service as a hospital ship during WWI. It hit a mine in the Aegean Sea in 1916 and sank. There’s your sequel! It’s right there!
The disaster of the Britannic was not like the Titanic. None of this “oh it can’t sink” nonsense. The ship had improvements to its watertight bulkheads, which made it more likely than the Titanic to survive some flooding, but someone had left the windows open — literally, the portholes were open for ventilation — and the sea poured in. Within the hour it was headed to the bottom of the sea.
But most of the people on board survived: 1,036 lived, with 30 hands lost. Which makes you ask: “So, 15 people?” No, 30. “So, 60 hands, then.” OK, if you must. But that’s not how the term works. Otherwise you might as well say, “It sank with 300 fingers lost” (assuming no crew members had lost one along the way).
Evacuating a hospital, full of the infirm, in such a short time would make for a cracking yarn. Add a romance between Violet Jessup, a scrappy, proto-feminist nurse who had survived the sinking of the Titanic and knew what to do, and Josh McSternjawe, a roguish soldier whose hatred of war hides his history of great bravery.
Instead of having the musicians on the deck playing dinner-music-to-drown-by, they could play snappy, uptempo numbers because the ship’s going down fast. Maybe even have that cad Cal who was supposed to marry Rose in the first movie make an appearance: He’s wounded from his war service, trying to escape while wearing a nurse’s uniform, gets yanked from the boat, only to fall, and is diced into chunks o’ cad by the spinning propellers. (Gory, yes, but it would get the movie the coveted R rating.)
You could frame the movie the same way as ‘Titanic,” because the Britannic’s wreck was found by that famous ocean guy, Jacques Cousteau. Get Bill Murray to play Cousteau, the old person who goes back to the wreck, narrates the story and drops something sentimental in the water at the end. Maybe an ashtray.
(They did make a TV movie about it 23 years ago, but it was a bit of a bore. Lacked Cameron’s touch.)
As for the Olympic? It was in service until it was retired in 1935. You can be sure the lads in the crow’s nest muttered “third time’s the charm” a lot.
It’s not likely Cameron was scouting Britannic movie locations or is interested in making another movie about a ship that sinks. Why he was here doesn’t matter. What’s good is us getting a rep for leaving celebs alone, because then more will come, and they will make movies here. Someone in the IDS Center will see Tom Cruise walking up the 30th floor window with suction cups and remind everyone not to wave or point. The man’s working, ya know. Leave him alone! It’s the Minnesota way.
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