Titanic: The Hectic Day the Actors Were Mysteriously Poisoned with Angel Dust

The poisoning case during the filming of 'Titanic' remains a mystery 25 years after its release.

Isabel Cara

personas en rodaje de película

It’s been 25 years, and Titanic will forever remain one of the most acclaimed films in history, but what makes it even more impressive is the number of behind-the-scenes stories surrounding it. One that became quite a case was the day the actors and some of the production crew were poisoned with a substance known as PCP or ‘angel dust’ during the filming of the movie.

Also known as phencyclidine, this is a dr*g that was used in the 1950s as an analgesic; it produces hallucinogenic effects. Considering this, imagine having the cast and crew of one of the most popular films in history under the effects of this substance while the expensive team tries to make something of the shooting day! This is what happened.

Titanic movie cast poison mystery story 1 - titanic: the hectic day the actors were mysteriously poisoned with angel dust
Photo: 20th century fox

The Day the Titanic Crew Was Mysteriously Poisoned

On August 9, 1996, around 80 people on the set of Titanic experienced first-hand one of the worst and most dangerous experiences of their lives, to the point of ending up in the hospital.

Lunchtime had arrived, and the production crew, including some of the actors, gathered in the dining room. The menu offered a delicious clam chowder; unfortunately, what no one knew was that it was ‘seasoned’ with ‘angel dust.’ Suddenly, the intoxicated victims, including Bill Paxton and director James Cameron, began to show reactions such as laughing, crying, and even vomiting. “Some people were laughing, some were crying, some were vomiting. One minute I felt fine, the next minute I felt so anxious I wanted to breathe into a paper bag, (James) Cameron felt the same way,” Paxton said not long ago in an interview with Entertainment Weekly.

The alarms went off and authorities were soon involved in what is still a mystery case. An investigation was opened with no success; 25 years after what happened, it is considered a mere anecdote, since the person or persons responsible for such an atrocious act were never found. James Cameron himself admitted that he always suspected that the person in charge of ‘poisoning’ them was a member of the crew whom he fired just one day before it happened.

Titanic movie cast poison mystery story 2 - titanic: the hectic day the actors were mysteriously poisoned with angel dust
Photo: 20th century fox

The director still remembers some details of that day when they were poisoned at lunchtime; he recalled that they ran out of clam chowder, and so as not to end up in the hospital, he preferred to vomit the affected food on his own. Later, the infected were given a toxicology test, whereby experts concluded what to this day remains a mystery: the clam chowder contained PCP.

And in case you were wondering: no, Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio were not exposed to the poisoning. What is troubling is that those involved did not think about the serious consequences of this terrible act that sent 80 people to the hospital.

Did you already know this behind-the-scenes story from Titanic?

Story written in Spanish by Nayeli Párraga in Cultura Colectiva