25 years ago in the cinema: "Titanic" soundtrack "My Heart Will Go On": Celine Dion really didn't feel like her mega hit

Titanic hit theaters in December 1997 and was a huge hit.

25 years ago in the cinema: "Titanic" soundtrack "My Heart Will Go On": Celine Dion really didn't feel like her mega hit

Titanic hit theaters in December 1997 and was a huge hit. Hollywood director James Cameron reimagines the sinking of the legendary ship that sank in the Atlantic on its maiden voyage in 1912 and embedded the tragedy in a poignant love story. Leonardo di Caprio and Kate Winslet rose to stardom in the roles of Jack and Rose. "Titanic" won eleven Oscars and was the most commercially successful film for a long time. But not only the film, but also the soundtrack to it became a mega hit: Celine Dion's song "My Heart Will Go On".

When the fate of everyone involved is sealed, the Titanic has sunk and Jack has drowned, the credits roll. And with it the voice of Celine Dion as an emotional highlight, which finally caused tears to flow in many viewers. The Canadian singer touched countless hearts with her ballad. And not just in the cinemas: "My Heart Will Go On" has sold more than ten million copies. Celin Dion almost missed out on her biggest success – she actually didn't want to sing this song at all. And director Cameron wasn't too enthusiastic about the idea at first.

Cameron commissioned James Horner to compose the Titanic soundtrack. At first, the director only thought of instrumental pieces to accompany certain scenes in his film. There are different speculations about the reason for this. Some think that hiring a singer was too expensive for the producers - in the end "Titanic" was the most expensive film ever with a total cost of 150 million US dollars. Other sources claim that Cameron felt a pop song would not fit into a period drama. Either way, according to the director, a motif should serve as the basis for the soundtrack and ultimately also form the conclusion.

But Horner, who was previously responsible for the soundtracks of "Apollo 13" and "Braveheart", among other things, developed other ideas of his own while working on the soundtrack. He sometimes has little use for James Cameron's ideas. "I wanted it to feel a little more timeless. The last thing I wanted for the end credits was a replay," he said. "I wanted to do something different, something elegant, tasteful, contemporary." Should mean: a sung piece at the end of the film. And so Will Jennings, who also wrote the lyrics to Tears in Heaven, wrote My Heart Will Go On. Inspiration for this came from Titanic survivor Beatrice Wood, whom Jennings had personally met. "When she shook my hand, I had such a feeling of vitality and vitality - I've never felt anything like it before or since," he said in an interview with "Songfacts".

Horner had chosen Celine Dion as the interpreter. The Canadian was anything but unknown at the time: her last two albums had been huge successes, and she was known to a large audience through her appearance at the opening ceremony of the 1996 Winter Olympics in Atlanta. But when Horner played her the ballad, it fell on the singer's deaf ears. Dion turned down his offer to sing the theme song for Titanic. "We knew James Cameron was working on this film, but there were rumors behind the scenes that 'Titanic' was going to sink a second time," Dion later said in a television interview. "And the song James Horner played me on the piano sounded terrible." In addition, she did not want to produce another soundtrack - Dion had already recorded a number of songs for films, including the title track for the Disney film "Beauty and the Beast".

It took her husband René Angélil, who also worked as Celine Dion's manager, to convince her. He recognized the song's potential and persuaded his wife to at least record a demo version. Celine Dion sang the piece in a studio in New York - and it was perfect. "Everyone started crying and I too was overcome by the emotion and story of the film," the pop star recalled of the session. It didn't take more than this one take, everyone involved agreed. It is this version that everyone still has in their ears today.

Now, however, James Cameron still had to be convinced, who knew nothing about all the developments. "He didn't want a song in his film. He said, 'My film is big enough, I don't need anything bigger,'" Celine Dion said in an interview 20 years later. James Hornung carried the recording around with him for weeks, waiting for a moment when Cameron was in a particularly good mood to play him the song. The calculation worked, Cameron let himself be persuaded – and so the heartrending ballad was played at the end of the film.

"My Heart Will Go On" was released in late November 1997 and got off to a slow start. The film hit theaters in the US six weeks later, and in other countries in January. "Titanic" became an international box office hit and with it Celine Dion's song. "It was like pouring gasoline on a campfire," said Tommy Mottola, then Sony record company boss. "The song exploded." Overall, the song has grossed more than $1 billion in sales. In 1998, Celine Dion was at the top of the charts in various countries for weeks, she was awarded the Oscar and the Golden Globe for the best film song.

"My Heart Will Go On" still moves some to tears, others react with disgust to the kitsch song. The song has long since become independent, but it remains inextricably linked to "Titanic" and Celine Dion. The 54-year-old has sung her hit song hundreds of times at her legendary Las Vegas shows, though at times she gets fed up with it. And while Dion has a somewhat ambivalent relationship to her biggest hit, she's proud of it: "Thanks to 'My Heart Will Go On' I'm involved in a classic that will live forever."

Sources: "Songfacts" / "Vogue" / "Billboard" / "Mental Floss" / NDR