|They had two days off and in
that time they got the film from the first two dives. After reviewing the film, Cameron
found it to be slightly over exposed and the pan and tilt system was a little shaky. The
adjustments would be made before dive four. Dive four went very well. On dive five, which
was on September 17, Cameron got some great footage from the ROV. They found out that wood
paneling still existed, all of which had been painted white. The paint had flaked off, but
all the wood boring organisms had died off, so the wood was still intact. Dive six was a
waste, it had to be aborted before Mir 2 made it to the bottom, because Mir 1 had a total
failure of the hydraulic propulsion steering. Dive seven wasnt any better, thruster
problems with Mir 1 caused another early abort and Cameron was getting pissed off. Dives
eight and nine went flawlessly.
On September 24, Dive 10 was set to begin at 8am. The weather on the surface was the calmest they had seen it, but that was not the case at the bottom. When they reached the bottom they were greeted by a strong current, which made it tough to move. Mir 1 moved slowly along the port side of the ship when a current coming over the ship sucked them toward the port hull, slamming them into it, and they were held there by the current. They finally rose above the rail and then were blown away from the wreck. Using the sonar, they slowly worked their way back to the ship, when suddenly they were sent tumbling by a sudden burst of turbulence. They regained control and started moving toward the ship. As they approached, Cameron told Sagalevitch to slow down, he tried to reverse thrust, but it had little effect. The next thing you know, Cameron saw a wall of rivets appear in the porthole and he scrambled to reposition the camera, trying to keep the glass dome from crashing into the hull. He managed to turn it enough to where the titanium cylinder took most of the hit. If the glass would have failed, an implosion would have occurred and Mir 1 may have imploded by the force from the imploding camera. Luckily there was not an implosion.
Cameron immediately aborted the dive, but the fun had not stopped. When Mir 1 tried to ascend, the ballast pump failed, keeping them at the bottom. This was due to a lack of power, since the batteries had drained heavily with all the power used to move through the current. After several attempts, they finally got enough weight dropped to start the climb, but it would take 6 or 7 hours to reach the top. This would have placed the away from the Keldysh, which would make a recovery more difficult. They dropped some emergancy weights and made it up in 4 hours.
On dive 11, Cameron decided to ride in Mir 2 and control the ROV, which was nicknamed Snoop Dog. On this dive, the Snoop Dog got tangled inside the wreck and Mir 1 lost the shroud that covers the main propellers, in an effort to help loosen Snoop Dog. They finally got it free, after several hours of work.
On the last dive, number twelve, Cameron wanted to film the Renault that belonged to William E. Carter, but the path was very narrow and Cameron decided it was too risky for a relatively low return. The rest of the dive was used to get more footage from the interior of the ship.
In the months following the dive, Cameron met with Fox and they thought the footage, that was collected, was good enough to continue with the project. They told Cameron to come up with a budget and submit it to them. Cameron started to bring in the key players he would need, as well as, trying to determine the logistics of how and where to construct and film the set. They searched all the major locations that could house a project like this, only to find none that quite fit the bill. Their next thought was to refit a 700-800 foot barge with a fake hull, to film the boat at sea. That idea didnt last long. Jon Landau, a producer hired by Cameron, saw some of Digital Domains early attempts at computer-generated water, and suggested a land-based operation. Once again they went searching for sites and finally determined the site in Rosarito, Mexico, would be the setting. The only problem was there wasnt a studio there, so they decided to build one.
Camerons first budget submission was $125 million and he was told to lower it to below $110 million. The next hurdle was the release date. After some debate Fox decided the summer of 1997, since it had no other big movies slated for that time. That gave Cameron a little over a year to finish the movie, which would be tough, but not impossible.
The next task Cameron had was casting, but Dicaprio and Winslet were not his first choices. Winslet was given a reading after the casting director, Mali Finn, convinced Cameron she was perfect for the part. Camerons misgivings about Winslet was the fact she had already been in a couple of period projects. Winslet did the reading with an American accent, she is British, and Cameron thought something was missing, so he had her do the reading in her normal British accent, and he fell in love with her. Cameron had more actresses to interview, and before he told her, she kept calling him expressing how much she wanted the part.
Dicaprio definitely was not Camerons first choice, before he met him. On their first meeting Dicaprio made the impression of being a "slacker punk", although a handsome one. Although Cameron was impressed enough to fly Winslet in from England for a reading with Leo. After the reading, she told Cameron that even if you dont hire me, you have to hire him. After the meeting, Cameron gave her the part. Dicaprio, on the other hand, had to be convinced to take the part, he didnt like all the aspects of the character, Jack. He wanted Cameron to make a lot of changes to Jack, which intially made Cameron mad, but got him to really think about who Jack really was. Cameron didnt give in, and did convince Dicaprio to take the part. The studio wasnt impressed with Camerons choices, and wanted bigger names to play the leading roles. The problem was, everyone they wanted played too old for the characters.
Fox started to get cold feet, and they wanted to get another studio to help finance the film. Fox was also concerned about the budget, which was still over the $110 million they wanted. To ease their minds, Cameron gave up his own fees and profit participation in the film, which was over $4 million. He was finally given the full green light, which started with the ground breaking at the Fox Baja Studios. The studio would consist of 3 tanks, one that held 17 million gallons of filtered sea water, as well as several sound stages.