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‘Titanic’ Producer Jon Landau Remembered by Bill Mechanic

‘Titanic’ Producer Jon Landau Remembered by Bill Mechanic

Veteran film executive Bill Mechanic shares some memories about producer Jon Landau, who died on July 5 at the age of 63, and the experiences they shared during the making of James Camerons 1997 epic Titanic, which was backed by Fox Filmed Entertainment when Mechanic was that company’s chairman and CEO.

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I always looked at Jon as a born film person. His parents, Ely and Edie, were respected producers, and he knew everything there was to know about movie production.

When I joined Fox, Jon was the head of production, meaning he oversaw every film we made from the studio’s point of view. It was a surprise — and a loss — for us when he left the studio to produce Titanic. But it was also great knowing that we’d have someone so knowledgeable working on a movie that promised to be as ambitious as Jim’s picture.

No one could have foreseen the difficulties that lay ahead with that film, but even at the toughest moments, Jon was someone we absolutely trusted. When there were arguments about how to forge through to completion, he arbitrated — to the degree anyone could — between the production and the studio, and again made it easier because both sides trusted that every dollar was being spent was in the interests of delivering something special.

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Reflecting back on that time, those of us closest to the film believed it had a chance to become not only a hit, but something truly great. There were, however, no assurances. The stress level was off the charts, and there was no question it weighed heavily on Jon. But he never lost his sense of humor or decency, because he was a soldier. He remained confident and positive, regardless of the moment, and he knew his craft.

We all had a difficult journey, but it’s a statement of how good Jon was that both the studio and the production felt he was the perfect person for the job. That movie required a lion, and he proved he could roar.

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