'Titanic II'? There's a Ghost of a Chance

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

This is Hollywood, where the goose that laid the golden egg would definitely not be killed but instead signed on the spot to produce the sequel: "Golden Egg II." Picture the frustration engendered by "Titanic's" grosses and its newly won 11 Oscars--after all, there's no getting around it, at film's end, the ship sinks, taking the film's hottest young star along with it. This puts what you might call a real damper on the prospect of a sequel.

On the other hand, in the Hollywood dream factory, sheer implausibility has never been a deterrent, especially when economics are involved. With a little creativity, anything's possible, even "Titanic II." Here, then, are some suggestions on how to capitalize further on the world's most famous shipwreck.

1. The Sequel. In a flashback, it's revealed that the David Warner character was actually a German doctor who, in a groundbreaking experimental operation, switched Jack's and Billy Zane's faces while Rose was momentarily oblivious in a post-coital swoon. Thus the real Jack is still alive. He finds Rose amid the survivors and, by sketching her in the nude, convinces her that he has Jack's personality and artistic talent despite being stuck with Zane's face and hairline.

They sell the Star of the Sea to pay for risky plastic surgery to restore Jack's face to its original condition so he can go back to looking like Leonardo DiCaprio. Though momentarily jeopardized by a volcanic eruption that creates a red-hot lava flow headed directly for the hospital, the operation is a success. To celebrate, Jack and Rose book passage on the Lusitania.

2. The Prequel. Jack is an art student in Paris, where he plays cards, drinks, paints pictures of naked women and hangs out with Picasso and Einstein at the Lapin Agile. Meanwhile, Rose's twin sister, Lily, down on her luck, is forced to become an Apache dancer and meets Jack when she accidentally kicks him in the head during a spirited routine.

He persuades her to leave her vicious dancing partner, Billy Zane, and they embark on a madcap tour of Paris by night, which is unfortunately interrupted by a tornado. Lily's clothes are ripped off by the high winds and Jack is able to complete a hasty sketch of her in the nude before she spirals away over the rooftops. Thus begins a fevered quest that can end only with his discovery of her twin, Rose, on board ship.

3. It Was Only a Dream. (Hey, it worked for "Dallas.") After a restless night caused by eating some bad sushi, Jack and Rose wake up together in their Venice beach cottage in 1998, where Jack's surfer dude attitude seems a tad more appropriate to his new chosen profession, surfer dude. Rose busies herself making art pottery for a housewares boutique on Abbott Kinney, pausing occasionally to be sketched in the nude by Jack. All is bliss.

Unfortunately their happiness is soon threatened by the arrival, in rapid succession, of an earthquake, a tidal wave and Billy Zane as a vicious bike cop who hates all surfers. Rose saves the day and stands Jack's bail when she discovers that the only thing she was able to salvage from the earthquake and tidal wave, a painting she bought at a yard sale, is actually a genuine Picasso nude of her great-grandmother.

4. "Titanic" Meets "Ghost." Even though he's technically dead, Jack's spirit can't rest until he's warned Rose that Bill Pullman is still trying to get his hands on her Star of the Sea (the part where she threw it overboard was only a dream). While old Rose is in her studio working the clay on her potter's wheel, Jack's disembodied spirit shows up for an erotic fantasy sequence.

Rose soon realizes that Jack has taken over the body of her psychically susceptible caregiver, played by Whoopi Goldberg, when Whoopi insists on sketching her in the nude. Whoopi, Rose and Jack's spirit manage to foil Pullman and his fellow treasure-seekers and turn the Star of the Sea over to Elizabeth Taylor, Courtney Love and Sharon Stone (playing themselves) to be sold at auction, with the money going to AIDS research. In a stunning emotional climax, Whoopi morphs into Jack, and he waltzes Rose around in her wheelchair to "Unchained Melody" by the Righteous Brothers.

5. The Remake. Unbeknownst to anyone, the American president (played by Harrison Ford), is actually on board ship. He has never left his private stateroom because he's involved in an extramarital affair with his secretary of state, played by Uma Thurman. When the iceberg hits, the president swings into action and, via shortwave radio, contacts his head Secret Service agent, played by Jackie Chan.

Then it's a cat-and-mouse game of Jack, Rose and the Prez matching wits with the evil Billy Zane to get as many steerage passengers as possible off the ship and into the lifeboats. Meanwhile, Chan swings into action, commandeers a blimp and performs an amazing aerial rescue as the ship sinks. The film ends with a shivering blanket-wrapped Jack and Rose being married by the blimp captain (an uncredited cameo by Robert De Niro).

6. The Teensploitation Flick. When Rose finally reaches shore, she learns that Jack's identical twin brother (Leonardo DiCaprio in a dual role) has been confined in a mental institution in Montana for predicting that Picasso will become a commercially successful and renowned artist. Jack's twin, Zack, is forced to wear an iron hockey mask because he's too handsome for the nurses to stand looking at without falling in love with him, and also because it's creepy.

Rose enlists the help of a bunch of much better actors to fight their way into the institution and release Zack so he can marry her and provide her with a father for the child she conceived with Jack in the car on the boat. Meanwhile, Jack has been turned into a vampire by Brad Pitt, who was hanging out on the iceberg when the Titanic hit due to some Anne Rice-ish plot twist I haven't figured out yet.

The film climaxes as Jack and Zack battle it out on horseback on the wind-swept Montana prairie. Things are looking bad for Zack when, in the nick of time, Sarah Michelle Gellar shows up to slay Jack. With Jeremy Irons, John Malkovich, Gabriel Byrne, Gerard Depardieu, the entire cast of "Party of Five" and Kenneth Branagh as the doctor.

7. The TV Series. Each week a new pair of star-crossed lovers encounters the challenge of a lifetime aboard the ship that wasn't meant to sink. One lives, the other doesn't--the fun's in figuring out which is which. Kind of like "Love Boat," only this would be the "Death Boat." Hosted by Beau Bridges. (If you don't think they can handle the special effects on TV, just remember the old "Star Trek" in which nobody seemed to mind that when the starship was being buffeted by lasers, everyone leaned to the left and then to the right. This would be even easier, because everybody would have to lean in only one direction.)

I and my representatives would be happy to discuss the above WGA-registered concepts further with Jim Cameron, Fox, Paramount or any of their designated representatives at a mutually convenient time and place, say Monday night at Morton's. And if you guys have the bright idea you can just step in and rip off any of these notions without talking to me first, I have two words for you: Art Buchwald.

For the Record Los Angeles Times Thursday March 26, 1998 Home Edition Calendar Part F Page 51 Entertainment Desk 1 inches; 20 words Type of Material: Correction Wrong actor--An article about suggested "Titanic" sequels in Wednesday's Calendar misidentified an actor in the film. He is Bill Paxton.
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