"I hope readers see Pitt as a normal, average guy who is down to earth. He likes the Air Force, tequila, and an occasional cigar.
"I used myself as a model for Dirk. We are both 6'3", have green eyes, and at that time were the same weight and the same age."
He added: "The only differences are that he is better with the girls and he has aged about 10 years while I have aged about 50."
After selling the Sahara story to the billionaire Philip Anschutz, Cussler later sued, telling a US court in 2007 Hollywood "tore the heart out" of the book.
The movie grossed $119 million (£92.1m) worldwide but was still considered a box-office failure as it failed to recoup its own filmmaking costs.
The novelist said the company broke its contract by changing the story without his consent.
"I thought it was just awful," he said of the film, adding that he considered the re-written dialogue to be silly.
One his earlier works, Raise the Titanic! was also made into a movie in 1980. The film, starring Jason Robards, Richard Jordan, David Selby, Anne Archer, and Sir Alec Guinness, proved to be a similar flop.
Cussler wrote more than 80 books in total, including the Isaac Bell Adventures and Fargo Adventures series.
Known as an expert in shipwrecks, Cussler founded the non-profit National Underwater and Marine Agency.
His non-fiction book Sea Hunters was so extensive in its underwater knowledge the Maritime College in the State of New York gave him a doctorate.