The late actor spoke to ET about his experience in 2003.
Bill Paxton feared the Titanic submersible dives. In the wake of the Titanic tourist submersible tragedy, ET is looking back at its interview with the late actor back in 2003, when he admitted that he was nervous about going deep down in the ocean to see the wreckage of the famed ship.
The actor, who starred in Titanic as Brock Lovett, spoke to ET ahead of the premiere of Ghosts of the Abyss, the documentary in which director James Cameron discussed his inspiration for the film and took several people, including Paxton, on an unscripted tour of the famous wreckage.
"Each dive, I had to kind of look myself in the mirror and go 'OK, are you ready for this?'" Paxton, who died in 2017, told ET at the time. "It's one of those things where Jim [Cameron] asked me in passing to go and...the opportunity of a lifetime. I jumped at it."
"But then you start thinking about physically what's going to be required of you to get into a three-man, deep-sea Russian submersible for a 13-hour dive," he added. "To go down two and a half miles to a place where the sun has never penetrated. And you're starting to think 'OK, I've got young kids. I need to get them to an age where they can support themselves before I do something this crazy.'"
Nevertheless, Paxton decided to go, noting, "Jim is an infectious guy. And also, God, who wouldn't go on this adventure?"
As for what it was like inside the submersible, Paxton recalled it being "relatively comfortable," before noting that "certainly there are things that can go wrong."
"If they do go wrong, it's not going to matter anyway. And it's going to happen so quickly that you're not even gonna know it happened, probably," he noted. "These are the thoughts you have going in."
Despite all of that, Paxton said he considered "the price of admission" to be "kind of low" given the "great experience." That experience wasn't without some conflicting emotions, though.
"You approach the bow and then you rise up over it. And you're looking down on the ship and you are a ghost of the abyss. And the images stay with you. The images, they really have an effect," he said, before reflecting on the "personal story" of the doomed ship.
"I think all of us at some time in our dreams or even our waking moments have pictured ourselves: What would it have been like to be on that deck? Knowing that the lifeboats had gone away. What were you gonna do? Contemplating your own fate. It's this ultimate parable of, how would you measure up?" he questioned, calling the Titanic "a perfect tragedy."
"You think about the people on the water. You think about the people on the boats looking back and seeing the stern of that ship come up out of the water like a city rising up out of the sea," he said. "You think about the people in the water. I swam in the water out there, which was a very disconcerting experience because you think there's that much ocean underneath you."
As for those aboard the Titan submersible, the U.S. Coast Guard announced this week that "presumed human remains" of the five men have been recovered, less than a week after officials said they were all presumed dead.