Scripts

The final script, as adapted by Eric Hughes and written by Adam Kennedy, underwent so many rewrites that by the time it had metamorphosed into its final form, any similarity with the original book was practically invisible.  Even Bernard Kingham could not recall exactly how many drafts the script went through, though it was certainly in double figures, and as the constant re-drafting continued, so the similarity between the novel and the screenplay began to diverge.  In pursuit of the family audience at which the film was aimed, virtually all of the characteristics that had made the book so attractive in the first place were cut, with the result that by the time the final version had been condensed into a finished film of less than two hours there was really very little left.  

For Clive Cussler, the fall-out was to have a more far reaching consequence.  Like any writer selling the film rights to a novel, he was hamstrung by a specific clause in his contract that allowed a film producer to make any dramatic alternations that he saw fit.  It would seem however, that even he was ill-prepared for the final cut of the film, and he was reported to have been so upset with the end result that he has since joined the ever expanding list of disenchanted authors who have vowed never again to allow their books to be filmed.

He had a point.  With a screenplay as flawed as this one the artists were on to a loser right from the word go, and the hackneyed story line of the heightened enmity between Pitt and Seagram, stemming from both men having been involved with the same woman, only serves to underline just how little the script had to offer.   In all fairness to the other actors, however, accusations of wooden acting and lack of conviction are a little unfair in light of some of the appalling dialogue that they were given.

David Robb reported to me that when Hollywood producers asked the Pentagon to provide assistance for their film, they were told that they must submit their script to the Pentagon, in which case it usually mean that the Pentagon would want the producers to make significant changes.  That was the case with the script for “Raise the Titanic.”

Numerous Pentagon and State Department documents dealing with their concerns about making “Raise the Titanic” into a movie. One such document, written by James Siena, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, dated Oct. 17, 1979, states:

     “We understand that the State Department has expressed concern about the ‘Cold War’ aspects of the screenplay.  We support this position.  We do not believe that this screenplay either meets the established criteria or is the type of motion picture which the Defense Department should be supporting.  While our relationship with the Soviet Union does have aspects of confrontation, as well as cooperation, we find nothing to be gained by highlighting these on the public screen, in fictional circumstances, with the full support of the Defense Department.”

The producers agreed to make numerous script changes, and in the end, the Pentagon was satisfied and lent the production full assistance.