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'Titanic' film crew drugged in 1996, Halifax police told to release more details

Director James Cameron speaks during a press conference to promote his 3-D version of "Titanic" in Tokyo Friday, March 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi) Director James Cameron speaks during a press conference to promote his 3-D version of "Titanic" in Tokyo Friday, March 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)
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We may soon learn more about what happened when dozens of crew members from the movie "Titanic" were fed soup laced with a hallucinogenic drug while filming in Nova Scotia.

A new report from the province's information and privacy commissioner is telling Halifax Regional Police (HRP) to disclose more details about the August 1996 incident, which sent around 80 "Titanic" crew members to hospital in Dartmouth, N.S., including director James Cameron.

Initially fearing food poisoning, all had in fact unknowingly eaten lobster chowder spiked with the drug phencyclidine, which is also known as PCP and angel dust.

Speaking about the infamous incident, crew members have described a long and strange night of chaos and confusion that even involved a hospital conga line.

"Some people were laughing, some people were crying, some people were throwing up," actor Bill Paxton told Entertainment Weekly at the time.

The commissioner's report was made in response to a freedom of information request complaint. While Halifax police initially released 10 pages of records, much of it was heavily redacted.

"The responsive records consist of HRP's rapid incident report," Nova Scotia information and privacy commissioner Tricia Ralph explained. "This report is essentially 10 pages of narrative text regarding HRP's investigation into the alleged lacing of food with PCP. It details who HRP officers talked to and what those people said."

In her report, Ralph concluded that police were only authorized to withhold identifying personal information, and not witness testimonies themselves.

"Names, pronouns, contact information, and work history of third party witnesses meet the definition of 'personal information,'" Ralph wrote in her March 28 decision. "In contrast, some of the information withheld consists of factual observations made by third party witnesses. With personal identifiers … removed, this information does not meet the definition of personal information and so it cannot be withheld."

If Halifax police comply with Ralph's recommendations and deadline, the nearly 30-year-old records could be released as soon as mid-May.

A suspect was never named and the case was reportedly closed in February 1999.

The "Titanic" crew was in Atlantic Canada to film the movie's modern-day scenes, which did not involve stars Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. The crew members all recovered from the unexpected experience.

"Bill Paxton was a real sweetie," set decorator Claude Roussel recalled in a 2022 interview with Vulture. "He was sitting next to me in the hallway of the hospital, and he was kind of enjoying the buzz. Meanwhile, grips were going down the hallway doing wheelies in wheelchairs."

Police in Halifax said in an email to CTV News Monday that the force is reviewing the recommendations to determine whether any further action will be taken.

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