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Julian Fellowes criticises vilification of characters in James Cameron's Titanic

Julian Fellowes

Story by Jack Foley

JULIAN Fellowes has spoken of his objections to the vilification of certain characters in James Cameron’s Oscar-winning Titanic.

Speaking while promoting his own forthcoming mini-series called Titanic, the writer (and brains behind Downton Abbey) said that his drama would not turn victims of the disaster into villains… unlike Cameron’s version of events.

Fellowes said he particularly objected to the inaccurate treatment of first officer William Murdoch, who was seen committing suicide after shooting dead two passengers amid the chaos of the sinking in the 1997 movie. He described that as “unfair” in the interview with Radio Times magazine.

Indeed, Murdoch’s surviving relatives received an apology from Titanic‘s producers about his treatment, after having to launch their own successful campaign that showed the real Murdoch had in fact worked diligently until the ship’s final moments and perished at sea.

Commenting on that incident, Fellowes – who is notoriously fussy about attention to historical detail – said: “That was very unfair how Murdoch was depicted. He wasn’t cowardly. He fired the pistol to just stop a potential riot. It was suddenly getting out of hand, and he fired it in the air. That’s not being cowardly.”

If anything, Murdoch is credited with saving the lives of 75 Titanic passengers, according to Fellowes, which makes the movie’s mistake all the more objectionable.

“I think with real people you have a kind of imperative to be true to who they were,” he explained. “I don’t think you can take someone who was moral and decent and make them do something immoral and indecent. I would feel uncomfortable doing that.”

Hence, viewers of the ITV mini-series will get a different Murdoch – one that does fire a pistol.

“There is a little bit of setting the record straight,” he added.

Fellowes’ four-part series will premiere Sunday, March 25, at 9pm on ITV in the UK, while Cameron’s film will be re-released in 3D on April 6 to mark its 15th anniversary and the centenary of the sinking.

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