It wouldn’t be a wild exaggeration to say that the most compelling part of Titanic’s story took place not on screen, but off screen.
And it had nothing to do with the feverish on-screen romance between Rose and Jack, or a ship splitting in two.
Because you can see the dazzling story of what’s on the Titanic is set in Nova Scotia and the dozens of cast and crew who end up in a Canadian hospital in the middle of the night.
This week marks the 25th anniversary of the release of Titanicand that is the beginning of a series of memories of a dramatic production.
Vulture spoke to two crew members about the infamous night when an unknown perpetrator spiked the clam chowder with PCP, a powerful hallucinogenic drug.
According to Vulturesimultaneous reports and memories told to Vanity purse, The Los Angeles Times and Vice in the years following the PCP incident, what happened broke out around midnight on August 9, 1996.
The production had filmed the film’s modern sequences, which centered on an ancient rose and the crew of deep-sea explorers led by Bill Paxton’s character.
Marilyn McAvoy, a standby painter, said things started to go haywire about 30 minutes after eating. McAvoy said, “Everyone seemed confused. Everyone was struggling to get their work done.”
An assistant director began separating the “bad crew” from the “good crew,” meaning those who seemed affected and those who weren’t.
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According to Titanic crew member Jake Clarke, who hadn’t eaten the chowder because of a shellfish allergy: “We had a room for the handles and electricians, and one of the guys started talking really hyper.
“He’s a big guy, about six-four, and he’s like, ‘Are you guys feeling alright? Because I don’t. I feel like I’m on to something, and believe me, I would know.’
‘He just kept talking like that. And just as he said this, we saw James Cameron running past the door and this extra running after him.
“He said, ‘There’s something in me! Throw it out!'”
By 1 a.m., the cast and crew poured into the nearby hospital, Dartmouth General Hospital. “They didn’t know what to do with us, it got pretty chaotic,” McAvoy said.
It is estimated that between 50 and 80 people were hospitalized that night, including Cameron and Paxton.
“Bill Paxton was a real sweetheart,” said decorator Claude Roussel. “He sat next to me in the corridor of the hospital and he enjoyed the hustle and bustle. Meanwhile, (crew) went down the hall doing wheelies in wheelchairs.
Cameron himself recalled in 2009: “People are moaning and crying, wailing, collapsing on tables and stretchers. The (director of photography) Caleb Deschanel leads some of the crew around the room in a very vocal conga line. You can’t make this up. ”
Clarke said he remembered Cameron and Paxton walking back on set around 4am. “Their eyes were beet red, unbelievable. Jim had a bottle of whiskey and Bill Paxton had a bag of joints because he was a real stoner.
“I kind of laugh about it because I didn’t eat the chowder and then I’m in the trailer smoking a joint.”
The health department and police had to get involved, and testing revealed that the chowder was laced with PCP, otherwise known as angel dust.
A criminal investigation was launched, but closed two years later with no arrests and no answers.