Credit: Merie W. Wallace

When EW reviewed James Cameron’s Titanic in 1997, Owen Gleiberman gave it an A. “It’s the first disaster movie that can truly be called a work of art,” he wrote. But Kathy Bates, who costarred with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet as good ol’ gal Molly Brown, is quick to remind us that after a year of industry insiders wondering whether Hollywood’s biggest gamble (which Cameron referred to as “a $190 million chick flick” in EW’s 1997 cover story detailing the film’s long, arduous journey to the screen), not everyone was anticipating a rave.

“There was a long shoot, and a lot of people thought that it was gonna be a disaster movie of another kind, that it was never gonna make any money,” she tells EW. “And I remember we had a band from Switzerland who specialized in playing music from that period, which was odd because they were never allowed to actually play. So they were always standing there in the Palm Court pretending to play. And we got a very funny Christmas card that year, because the shoot kept going on and on. Of course, they had to bring another studio onboard to get everybody paid. I can’t remember his name now. It was such a funny card: It was a picture of himself, there was a bowl of soup under his nose, and in it, the Titanic was sinking, and he said ‘Merry Christmas.’ I think we all sort of lost faith at times, and thought, Oh, here we go. This is just gonna be the biggest bomb, but Jim was right…”

Bates does more reminiscing in the video interview below: “I’ll never forget that wonderful shot of Kate’s hat when she looks up when she sees the ship. [Jim] did a beautiful, beautiful job with it. I can’t imagine but that it’s gonna be stunning in 3-D. I hope I look skinnier in 3-D,” she jokes. “I hope I don’t look three times as fat. That’ll be disappointing.”

Titanic hits theaters in 3-D on April 4.

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