Bill Mechanic Remembers ‘Titanic’ Producer John Landau

Veteran filmmaker Bill Mechanic shares some memories of producer John Landau, who died on July 5 at the age of 63, and the experiences they shared while filming James Cameron’s filmepic 1997 Titanicwhich was backed by Fox Filmed Entertainment when Mechanic was the company’s chairman and CEO.

I always looked at John as someone who was born into the world of film. His parents, Eli and Eddie, were respected producers, and he knew everything there was to know about film production.

When I joined Fox, John was the head of production, meaning he oversaw every film we made from a studio perspective. It was a surprise—and a loss—to us when he left the studio to produce TitanicBut it was also great to know that we had someone with such knowledge working on a film that was expected to be as ambitious as Jim’s.

No one could have predicted the difficulties that lay ahead for this film, but even in the most difficult moments, John was someone we had complete confidence in. When disagreements arose about how to proceed to completion, he was the arbiter—to the extent that anyone can—between the production and the studio, and again made it easier because both sides were confident that every dollar spent was in the interest of delivering something special.

Reflecting on that period, those of us closest to the film believed that the film had a chance to become not just a hit, but something truly great. However, there were no guarantees. The stress level was extremely high, and there was no doubt that this was weighing on John. But he never lost his sense of humor or his decency, because he was a soldier. He remained confident and positive, no matter the moment, and he knew his craft.

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We’ve all had a rough ride, but it’s a testament to John’s talent that the studio and production team felt he was the perfect fit for the job. This movie needed a lion, and he proved he could roar.

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