Actor Bill Paxton recalls how filming of Titanic was disrupted by ‘PCP-laced chowder’

Actor Bill Paxton, who played the character of treasure hunter Brock Lovett in Titanic

The 1996 epic Titanic is either fondly remembered, or fiercely loathed, depending on your opinion of the film and tolerance for Celine Dion ballads. However, regardless of what you think of the movie, you’ll probably agree that the cast and crew eating a bowl of lobster chowder laced with PCP – the drug also known as angel dust – is just downright hilarious, although a little concerning.

A report filed by E! Online way back in 1996 sets the scene of the fateful feast. “After a meal on August 9, about 80 members of the Titanic crew got sick; many were hospitalized, complaining of hallucinations,” wrote E! Online.

“Authorities initially suspected food poisoning–but not like this. Someone apparently spiked the lobster chowder with PCP, Canadian police announced.”

“Testing revealed some of the meal contained the drug phencyclidine [PCP],” said Constable Gary Martin of the Halifax Police Department. “Further tests will be conducted with other foods that were served at the meal.”

The 1996 article by E! Online, though intriguing, claimed that “none of the movie’s cast” of big-name stars – including Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio – were affected by the special chowder. However, recent comments by fellow actor Bill Paxton, who played treasure hunter Brock Lovett in Titanic, would suggest otherwise.

“People started laughing out loud,” Paxton told journalists in a recent interview. “Others started crying. It was total Bedlam. Just as I was starting to wonder what was happening, I started feeling weird.” Another actor who attended the chowder meal added: “There were people rolling around, completely out of it… Some of them said they were seeing streaks and psychedelics. I thought it was food poisoning.”

Paxton described how the chowder affected Titanic director, James Cameron: “[He] had one eye completely red, like the Terminator’s eyes – no pupil, no iris, just red. The other eye looked like he’d been sniffing glue since the age of four.”

Luckily for Cameron and the 80 other cast and crew members involved in the PCP chowder incident, all were released from hospital within 24 hours and were able to return to the set.

With the victims back to work, the focus turned to trying to identify the culprit or culprits behind the PCP spiking. The initial focus was on a pair of chefs who had reportedly been recently fired by Cameron, although they denied all involvement.

Paxton also told journalists that he ate some of the chowder laced with the PCP and experienced ill effects himself. However, instead of reporting to hospital for treatment, he opted for a home remedy, telling director Cameron: “I’m not gonna hang out here, this is bedlam. I’m gonna wander back down to the set and just drink a case of beer”.

According to Paxton’s account, the beer seemed to help with the PCP hallucinations.