Fall Movie Preview DECEMBER

Entertainment Weekly Cover Story, December 1997


STARRING Kate Winslet, Leonardo DiCaprio, Bill Paxton, Billy Zane, Kathy Bates, Frances Fisher DIRECTED BY James Cameron

The roughest and costliest voyage of this cinematic year began in 1995 with cameramen making two-and-a-half-mile-deep dives in the North Atlantic for footage of the real thing. Then came the start of principal photography in Nova Scotia, during which cast and crew members were poisoned by PCP-laced food. Then came the bank-busting six-month shoot in Mexico on board a 775-foot replica of the vessel. Finally, there was all the corporate hysteria over whether the film would make its original July 2 release date. While it's hard to imagine that Titanic won't arrive a bit tired, a July test screening at Minnesota's Mall of America finally brought some good news -- a chorus of bravos from amateur critics who proclaimed Cameron's epic ''fantastic,'' praised its ''serious suspense,'' and called the sinking of the ship a ''jaw dropper.''

Winslet (Sense and Sensibility), playing the upper-class passenger who romances a lower-class lothario (DiCaprio), reports that a viewing of a rough cut ''totally blew me away and reduced me to a ridiculous spate of tears.'' (She means that as a compliment.) Adds Zane (The Phantom), who plays her robber-baron boyfriend and the movie's chief villain: ''Contrary to a lot of the press about the picture, I had an absolute joyride -- hard work, but not without rewards. Watching that incredible superstructure lower beneath your feet into sea-water 30 feet deep -- it was the best ride you could imagine.''

Tell that to Fox and Paramount, the studios footing the bill, which has been reported as high as $285 million, including marketing. Says Cameron, who's now fine-tuning the three-hour-plus opus with such digital effects as freezing breath on the actors, ''Despite the wild ruminations, as of this date there is no 2 in front of the number of our budget, which is not to say we didn't spend a lot more money than we planned on spending.'' (He also claims that postponing the film saved money by reducing overtime for the post-production crews.)

''The film speaks for itself,'' says Cameron. ''People have heard the hype, the counter-hype, and the counter-counter-hype. I think they'll go see it for themselves.'' Before that theory is put to the test, Cameron, who recently married his Terminator star Linda Hamilton, plans to take a vacation. It probably won't be a cruise. (Dec. 19)

//UPSIDE// Although it missed the summer-movie gravy train, the holiday release makes it seem more Oscar-worthy. //DOWNSIDE// No A-list box office stars, and whatever the final budget is, jeez!


STARRING Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Jada Pinkett, David Arquette, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jerry O'Connell, Liev Schreiber, Laurie Metcalf DIRECTED BY Wes Craven

Last year's out-of-the-blue $103 million hit, Scream, was a gooey, red-Karo-syrup-filled fountain of youth for a genre that seemed to have been sequeled to death. And so it's a little appalling and not one bit surprising that Miramax's horror and sci-fi division, Dimension Films, wasted no time coming up with part deux. ''As soon as the film reached $50 million, everyone at Miramax was chanting 'Sequel,''' says screenwriter Kevin Williamson. ''I cranked it out in about three weeks, turning in 10 pages at a time.''

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