This 2022 has been the 25th anniversary of the premiere of ‘Titanic’ and 26 of a very peculiar night and a mystery: who drugged the movie crew with clam chowder? This story that has recovered vulture to commemorate the anniversary is probably the craziest and funniest of that shoot.
It was the night of August 9, 1996 and ‘Titanic’ was filmed on the Halifax sets in Nova Scotia, specifically there the scenes of the expedition team looking for the remains of the ship and finding Rose’s necklace were recorded. Dinner time came and the caterer served clam chowder, but not a regular chowder, a PCP-flavored soup, also known as angel dust, peace pill, or weed, Come on, phencyclidine. Their efects? Mainly hallucinogenic. “We had a room for handymen and electricians and one of the guys started talking very, very fast.”recalls Jake Clarke, the film’s technician, “He’s a big guy, almost seven feet tall, and he’s like, ‘Are you okay? Because I’m not. I feel like I’m high, and trust me, I’d know it.’ He was just blurting it out like that and just as he was saying this we saw James Cameron running out the door and an extra running after him. He said “There’s something in me! Get it out of me!”
Neither Leonardo DiCaprio nor Kate Winslet were involved in that part of the film, so they weren’t on set that day, but the one who was around and ate the magical dinner was Bill Paxton: “It was a true love”recalls the decorator Claude Roussel to Vulture, “He sat next to me in the hospital hallway and sat enjoying the high. Meanwhile, the workers were going down the aisle doing wheelies in wheelchairs.” Roussel only has one way of describing all of that: “It was a strange experience.”
So surreal it can only be true
When Cameron spoke about this anecdote with Vanity Fair in 2009, he said: “People began to moan and cry, wailing and collapsing on tables and stretchers. And the cinematographer, Caleb Deschanel, was leading part of the crew down the hall on a very loud conga. You can’t make things up like this.”
The authorities never found out who had put the drug in the soup and much of the team ended up in Dartmouth General Hospital. Clarke was one of the few who didn’t eat any soup, so he stayed in the studio until around 4 in the morning. When the comedown was coming and the euphoria was diminishing, the technician met Cameron and Paxton: “They had beet red eyes, it was unbelievable, Jim (James Cameron) had a bottle of scotch and Bill Paxton a huge bag of joints because he was a real stoner. I have to laugh because I didn’t eat the soup and I ended up there, in the trailer, smoking a joint.”
In addition to celebrating a quarter century of ‘Titanic’, Cameron just released ‘Avatar: The Sense of Water’ this year, the belated sequel to ‘Avatar’ 13 years later, and you already have it in theaters.