Best known for such box-office hits as the first two Terminator films (1984 and 1992) Aliens (1986), Titanic (1997) and Avatar (2009). His films typically have strong female leads, superb action sequences, and a heavy emphasis on technology and machinery.
“The king of the world” when it comes to action spectacles, James Cameron has directed the two most successful movies of all time: “Avatar” and “Titanic“. So, why doesn’t he get more artistic respect?
At least you’ve heard of him, for better or for worse; you have probably never heard of Joss Whedon, the director of “Avengers”, the third most successful movie. Notorious for being exacting, impatient, temperamental and unkind, it would seem that Cameron is more at home with technology than less-perfect humans. Though technology is his films go-to bad guy, James has contributed substantially to advances in film tech, and has a professorial knowledge of both deep-space and deep deep-sea exploration.
Its no surprise that Cameron started out on the visual side, including a stint making miniatures for the king of the B World, Roger Corman. A special-effects designer for John Carpenter and a production designer on some early ’80s sci-fi, Cameron was helping out on “Piranha II” in Italy when, sick with food poisoning, he had a nightmare that gave him the idea for “The Terminator“.
Cameron kept shopping studios until one would let him direct his futuristic vision of a robot come from the future to change the past. James directed Arnold Schwarzenegger into cult status as the Austrian-accented robot. His other great tough guy, Sigourney Weaver, he brought to cult status a la “Aliens“. The first sequel to Ridley Scotts classic “Alien“, Cameron’s vision brought in a host of Oscars, including Best Actress for Weaver.
“The Abyss” is interesting for being the first of a series of underwater films that Cameron has been involved with, including documentary films of “Titanic” and other explorations. Cameron exhibits a scientific curiosity that validates the fiction in his science fiction. An avid proponent of human exploration of Mars, he is even more avid — and, verily, talks like a scientist — when it comes to the human exploration of the oceans. Spending some of his hundreds of millions on a deep-sea sub, Cameron, the National Geographic explorer, is the first person to go solo to the bottom of the Marianas Trench, the deepest point on the planet. Talk about your abyss.
Although more of an action film, “True Lies” successfully puts Arnold into a romantic comedy role and shows the humor of Cameron, beyond his action one-liners.
“Titanic”, the most successful film for years, before he topped it with “Avatar”, owes at least part of its success to the love story and performances of Leonardo di Caprio and Kate Winslet. If Cameron and the actors hadn’t been able to make us care about his tragic heroes”, Titanic” would have been just another disaster film.
Also an avid proponent of 3D film technology, Cameron had to wait to make “Avatar” until the technology could support his vision, which included the making of special 3D cameras. His skill with the medium is such that after only a few minutes the viewer feels immersed in a whole new world, and forgets the heavy hand of 3D. As with the influential movies of his youth, Cameron is as skilled as his heroes, Lucas and Spielberg, at taking us where we’ve never been before.
Cameron has said that he is only interested in pursuing an “Avatar” trilogy for awhile, at least as far as feature directing is concerned. Though he has delivery dates for those films, it wouldn’t be too surprising if he decided to hold up production to let technology once again catch up with his otherworldly visions. It is apt that this vision is one where humans are the invaders.
— Nate Lee
“People call me a perfectionist, but I’m not. I’m a rightist. I do something until it’s right, and then I move on to the next thing.”
“I went from driving a truck to becoming a movie director, with a little time working with Roger Corman in between.
A director’s job is to make something happen and it doesn’t happen by itself. So you wheedle, you cajole, you flatter people, you tell them what needs to be done. And if you don’t bring a passion and an intensity to it, you shouldn’t be doing it.”
“On Stanley Kubrick: I remember going with a great sense of anticipation to each new Stanley Kubrick film and thinking, “Can he pull it off and amaze me again?” And he always did. The lesson I learned from Kubrick was, never do the same thing twice.”
“[on his reputation as a harsh and demanding taskmaster] I push people to get the best out of them. And the same applies to me. If I come home at the end of a day of filming and my hands are not black, I feel that was a day wasted.”
“[on making Aliens (1986) at Pinewood Studios in England] The Pinewood crew were lazy, insolent and arrogant. We despised them and they despised us. The one thing that kept me going was the certain knowledge that I would drive out of the gate of Pinewood and never come back.”
According to Cameron, he got his big break while doing pick-up shots for Galaxy of Terror (1981) as second unit director. He was shooting scenes of a dismembered arm teeming with maggots (actually mealworms). In order to make them move, he hooked up an AC power cord to the arm, and an unseen assistant would plug it in when the film was rolling. Two producers were strolling through, and when Cameron yelled “Action!” the worms began to writhe on cue. When he yelled “Cut!” the worms stopped. The producers were so amazed at his directing prowess that they began talking with him about bigger projects.
While editing Titanic (1997), Cameron had a razor blade taped to the side of the editing computer with the instructions written underneath: “Use only if film sucks!”.
First director to film both a $100 million (Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)) and a $200 million (Titanic (1997)) movie.
The mandibles of the Predator from Predator (1987) were his idea.
A magazine article written about him in the 1980s described how he had three desks set up in his house. At one desk, he was writing the script to The Terminator (1984), on another, he was finishing the script to Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985) and on the third, he was writing Aliens (1986).
Is left-handed. He drew the picture of Rose (Kate Winslet) in the movie Titanic (1997). The image was flipped so it would appear that Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) was drawing it with his right hand.
|Piranha II: The Spawning
|Terminator 2: Judgment Day
|Ghosts of the Abyss
|Aliens of the Deep