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Behind the ''Titanic'' delay

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Titanic may have left the summer waters for its Dec. 19 release date, but its wake is still being felt. Last month, director James Cameron laid a chunk of blame for the delay on an inability to complete the $200 million film’s visual effects. Understandably, that bruised more than a few egos at Digital Domain, the visual-effects studio in charge of the movie’s estimated 300 digital shots. Although the company officially refrained from comment — unsurprising, since Cameron is a part-owner of the shop — staffers privately complain that an overly ambitious Cameron is really the one at fault.

While Titanic‘s five-month shoot only went four weeks over schedule, a DD source says that Cameron was as late as 10 weeks in delivering certain scenes to the F/X house. In addition, says the source, ”when he got back from [shooting in] Mexico, he added 100 effects shots.” Another insider points out that DD had never missed a deadline: ”Here’s a company that was able to deliver when Dante’s Peak was moved from June to January.”

For his part, Cameron concedes that filming did run late, and that while he added shots, he eliminated others, so that the overall number balanced out. As for DD disgruntlement, Cameron seems surprised and is quick to praise his laboring artisans. ”They’re doing unprecedented stuff,” he says. ”Everyday we look at it and go, ‘Cool!”’ Ultimately, Cameron predicts, the ends will justify his widely criticized means: ”Nobody ever walked out of a theater saying, ‘That movie sucked, but boy, they brought it in on time and on budget!”’

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