I suppose we all have ways of coping with our darker moods. For me personally, the best remedy has always been a change of scenery: traveling someplace where I can shut out the world for a while and be alone with my thoughts. The opportunity to take a step back, clear my head, and regain a bit of perspective is invaluable. That’s why, whenever I’m feeling blue, I just go down to the wreck of the Titanic.
There’s just something about descending through miles of pitch blackness and putting down on the rusted hull of the greatest maritime tragedy in history that yanks me right out of whatever funk I’m in.
Maybe it’s because there’s no one else around and it stays pretty quiet down there. Or perhaps it’s knowing that outside my vessel the pressure is strong enough to crush me—and any problem I might be having—like an empty Coke can. Whatever the reason, as soon as my depth gauge hits 12,500 feet, the silt settles, and the decaying Grand Staircase becomes visible from my craft’s porthole, my mood instantly improves.
Whenever I find myself in a stressful situation, like losing financing for a project or getting into an argument with a studio exec, all I can think about is the sunken ruin of the Titanic.
Let me tell you, after I lost the Oscar for Best Director to my ex-wife a few years ago, the first thing I did was walk out of the Kodak Theatre, hop on a flight to Newfoundland, and get myself down to the barnacle-encrusted remains of the B Deck’s elegant À la Carte Restaurant. It was the only thing that could soothe my frayed nerves.
But even when everything is going smoothly, when life just seems to be going well, there can be days when the melancholy creeps in. You probably know the feeling: that sense of doubt and despair when you begin to question what you’re doing with your life, what the point of it all is. I know that no diversion, no piece of advice, no pat on the back can get me out of my bad mood. At times like these, there’s only one thing that can get me right again: crouching inside a deep-submergence vehicle, piloting it to the bottom of the North Atlantic, and whizzing around a saltwater-filled ballroom for a good long think.
Down in that watery grave, amidst the massive hunks of twisted steel and the marine life slowly eating it all away, I can just be myself. With no fickle friends, or pushy Hollywood types, or work deadlines to worry about, I can be alone with just my thoughts and the scattered personal effects of 1,500 lost passengers.
You could say the final resting place of the Titanic is where I feel most at home. No matter how low my spirits, it always cheers me up to just troll around the 15-square-mile debris field for a while, check out what’s left of the crow’s nest, or maybe bat around some chandeliers with my robotic arm while I chew over whatever’s bothering me. Seeing 100-year-old suitcases, silverware, pocket watches, handheld mirrors, furniture, vials of perfume, and shoes—so many shoes—strewn across the ocean floor helps me focus on the moment and puts my mind at ease.
Sure, I also get some measure of relief from my sorrows by taking a walk outside or exploring the wreck of the Japanese attack sub I-52, but nothing buoys my spirits quite like the RMS Titanic, particularly the well-preserved bow section.
I must have spent nearly a week down there after I had a falling out with composer James Horner, and then I practically lived down there for a summer after my last divorce. But the thing is, I can be sitting inside my DSV in my black beanie cap, so irate about my kids’ grades or a recent production decision that I blow through half my oxygen supply during the two-and-a-half-hour descent. But then a funny thing happens. Somewhere between the heavily rusted promenade and the bridge decks, I’ll feel a wave of calm wash over me. Propelling my way down the ghostly corridors of the luxury liner’s wreckage, perhaps pausing to direct a powerful beam of light into Col. Astor’s first-class cabin, I’m able to let go of all the problems of life above.
Just relaxing there, next to my favorite collapsed bulkhead, I can’t help but feel a heck of a lot better.
It works for me, and it sure beats running off to an enchanted labyrinth every time you feel down like my friend Guillermo del Toro does.