An interview with KIT BONNER by Andrea Leigh Wolf
March 14th, 2004
An interview with KIT BONNER by Andrea Leigh Wolf
The success of the film, that is sure to be dubbed, the best film of the 20th Century. As of February 22, Titanic had grossed $402,561,881.00 in only 66 days of release, December 19, 1997. Kit is also an exceptional speaker at seminars were he and his lovely wife pair up to give attendees an insiders peek into the making of Titanic. They make a very effective team as Kit speaks, she is busy operating the slide projector. Kit was gracious enough to grant me this interview.
Titanic: Interview with Kit Bonner, the naval historian on the film.
AW: How were you first contacted about working on TITANIC?
KB: By phone via the Treasure Island Museum in San Francisco.
AW: Did you have an agent at the time who actually secured the deal?
AW: At what point were you brought onto the project?
KB: September, 1996, when they were setting up in Mexico.
AW: Where you consulted as Cameron wrote the script?
KB: No, the script was finished.
AW: Did you have input during shooting?
KB: Yes, when it related to shipboard operations.
AW: As naval historian, what portion of the project were you in charge of?
KB: All shipboard operations (bridge, engine room, etc.)
AW: When did you first meet James Cameron?
KB: November, 1996.
AW: Were you given any parts in the film?
AW: What did you think of the film making process?
KB: It was tedious and exacting.
AW: Were you involved in any other part of the film besides your expertise as a naval historian?
KB: Yes, I helped with the props, art department, the engine room and research.
AW: What was an average day on the set like for you?
KB: It began at 4pm and I worked until the following day when the sun came up. I spent time on the set with officers and crew to advise and assist. Id answer questions from the director and his staff.
AW: What was the cost to build the original Titanic?
KB: 7.5 million -- thats 75 million in 1998 dollars.
AW: What was the cost of the Replica built for the film?
KB: Estimated 18 million in 1998 dollars.
AW: I understand that the original blueprint was actually used in the building of the replica of the Titanic set. How hard was it to locate?
KB: Harland and Wolff Shipbuilders cooperated and provided all info required.
AW: How many extras worked on Titanic? Where they brought from Los Angeles?
KB: Approximately 500-800 at any one time. Most came from San Diego or Baja California.
AW: With such care taken to have everything duplicated as it was on Titanic, what was it like to stand on her bridge? Stand in her dining room? Stand in her cabins?
KB: It was like going back to 1912. This realism was provided to create this same feeling for the actors and others.
AW: Were any of the original survivors on the set during shooting?
KB: Not that I know of.
AW: Have you personally met the survivors?
KB: Yes, I met one years ago.
AW: What was it like hanging with some of the biggest creative talents in the business?
KB: All of us contributed too this film. I was not in awe of any of them after working with them for several months. It was a professional relationship based on skill and dedication.
AW: What was it like working with so many of Hollywoods top actors?
KB: They were just people and not superhuman. They did their utmost to make this film the best. It was not a job; it was a contribution to our art form -- the American cinema.
AW: Did working on Titanic make you want to write a script of your own?
KB: Yes, and perhaps I will someday.
AW: How many hours of film was actually shot that did NOT appear in the film at time of release?
AW: Are their plans to put the film that didnt make it into the movie on Video?
KB: I am not certain of this. All of us have gone on to other projects.
AW: Was there really UNNAMED casualties such as suggested in the character of Jack Dawson?
KB: None that I ever found in research.
AW: How far into filming were you before you realized that this was not just another Titanic film?
KB: The first day.
AW: A few days ago I heard a DJ on the radio say he hadnt gone to see the film because, "he already knew how it ended." I was furious, because he didnt know the ending of THIS Titanic. What would YOU have responded to such a statement?
KB: He was just trying to get a laugh. He had probably already gone to see it and loved it like everyone else.
AW: What are your feelings of raising Titanic and all that remains of her?
KB: It should be left to history, although I approve of bringing various artifacts to the surface for public viewing.
AW: Ive heard that treasure hunters have been diving on Titanic and taking things. In your opinion, should there be some sort of protection for this site?
KB: Yes, however it is in international waters and it is legal to plunder the wreck. Self regulation and abiding by commonly accepted methods of preservation are about the realistic limits of our expectations for treasure hunters.
AW: I understand that Cameron himself dove down to the Titanic 12 times. Who else had the opportunity? Did you?
KB: Just Jim and the crews of the Mirs.
AW: Are you surprised by the phenomenal popularity of Titanic?
KB: Yes, but happy for all who worked on it.
AW: Titanic has won 14 Academy nominations: Best Picture -- Best Actress (Kate Winslet) -- Best Supporting Actress (Gloria Stuart) -- Best Director (James Cameron) -- Best Art Direcction -- Best Cinematography -- Best Sound Effect Editing -- Best Original Dramatic Score (James Horner) -- Best Original Song ("My Heart Will Go On") James Horner and Will Jennings) -- Best Costumes -- Film Editing -- Best Make-up -- Visual Effects. Why do you think Leonardo DiCaprio was over-looked?
KB: I have no idea. That is for others to speculate about.
AW: Are there any special moments on the set youd like to share?
KB: There is not enough time or paper.