It was unlike any press conference ever held in Washington. Reporters got to ask the same questions over and over again while the man behind the podium got to give the same answers over and over again until it came out right.
"How do you propose to raise the Titanic?" was a question, and half way through the answer someone would yell, "cut," and they would start all over again.
The man under fire from the rehearsed press was Jason Robards playing the part of retired Admiral James Sandecker in the Marble Arch production of "Raise the Titanic," a movie taking several years to film and costing an estimated $30 million.
The press conference scene, being shot in the East Room of the Mayflower Hotel, spilled into the lobby as Robards left and in front of the hotel onto Connecticut Avenue as the actor-reporters crowded around him.
If morning commuters found they couldn't take a left on DeSale Street and had to drive to I Street for the left turn to the office, it was because the heavy equipment trucks used for shooting had the short street blocked off.
The movie, adapted from the book of the same name written by Clive Cussler, tells about a plan in Washington to raise the ship to regain a vital material called "Visanium" locked deep in its hold that could be used to make America impregnable to atomic attack forever.
The plan is leaked to a woman reporter on a Washington paper by a high government official she is having an affair with and she goes to press with it.
Author Cussier, besides making a bundle of money for the movie rights, had one request: to play a reporter in the press conference.
Wearing a beige jacket and a yellow turtle neck, he got to ask before the cameras, "And now what happens?" many times.
Talking about his role as a retired admiral, Robards said, "I was a radioman first class in the Navy. I put in seven years. I was around a lot of admirals, I served on destroyers, cruisers and a flat top for a little while."
Thinking back to when he joined he said, "It was 1939, there was no money or jobs around. I did my parents a favor and joined the Navy.
"It was inevitable that we were going to get into the war.
"There was no draft then. The Navy didn't begin to draft until much later."
Gabriele De Cuir, from Hollywood, played the part of a reporter and said, "I didn't know what paper I'm representing, but I have experience, I played in "The Front Page" when I was at U.C.L.A."
Unit Publicist Arthur Wilde told of the extent of the shooting and said, "When the tall ships were in New York in 1976 we shot all the crowds, the fire boats, tug boats, the whistle blowing, but we didn't film the tall ships, and that will be the scene that greets the Titanic when she steams into the harbor."
There are dozens of Washington scenes, including a presidential yacht on the Potomac, foreign embassies, government and Pentagon offices, museums, parks and beach houses.
After another three weeks here, the film crew will move to Alaska, Malta, Greece and England.
On Malta, a giant tank the size of two football fields holding nine million gallons of water has been constructed for the raising of the 55-foot replica of the Titanic as she appeared on her maiden voyage, built from the original blueprints "authentic down to the last rivet."
A mothballed steamship approximately the size of the Titanic, located off the Greek coast, has been overhauled and outfitted and will be towed into New York harbor amid the dramatic, jubilant "tall-ship" footage.
All of it moving a man on the set to say, "It might have been easier to raise the Titanic than to make the movie."