James Cameron (b. 1954) is lauded as one of the most successful and innovative filmmakers of the last thirty years. His films often break records, both in their massive budgets and in their box-office earnings. They include such hits asThe Terminator,Aliens,The Abyss,Titanic, andAvatar. Part scientist, part dramatist, Cameron combines these two qualities into inventive and captivating films that often push the boundaries of special effects to accommodate his imagination.James Cameron: Interviewschronicles the writer-director's rise through the Hollywood system, highlighted by his "can-do" attitude and his insatiable drive to make the best film possible.
As a young boy growing up in Canada, Cameron imagined himself an astronaut, a deep-sea explorer, a science fiction writer, or a filmmaker. Transplanted to southern California, he would go on to realize many of those boyhood fantasies.
This collection of interviews provides glimpses of the filmmaker as he advances from Roger Corman's underling to "king of the world." The interviews are drawn from a number of sources including TV appearances and conversations on blogs, which have never been published in print. Spanning more than twenty years, this collection constructs a concise and thorough examination of Cameron, a filmmaker who has almost single-handedly ushered Hollywood into the twenty-first century.
Front MatterFront Matter (pp. i-iv)
Table of ContentsTable of Contents (pp. v-viii)
IntroductionIntroduction (pp. ix-xx)BD
It was one day on the set ofThe Abyssthat James Cameron almost died. At the bottom of a gigantic underwater set, Cameron ran out of oxygen. His First AD was supposed to monitor his O₂ levels while he was under but failed to do so on this particular occasion. Cameron knew he couldn’t ascend with all his gear on so he stripped most of it off, including his helmet. As he rose, a safety diver saw the situation and tried to assist Cameron by sticking a spare regulator in his mouth. However, the regulator was faulty and Cameron...
ChronologyChronology (pp. xxi-xxiv)
FilmographyFilmography (pp. xxv-2)
How To Direct a TerminatorHow To Direct a Terminator (pp. 3-7)Thomas McKelvey Cleaver
“I was sick and dead broke in Rome, Italy,” director James Cameron reminisces, “with a fever of 102, doing the final cut ofPiranha II. That’s when I thought ofTerminator. I guess it was a fever dream!”
Terminator, the second movie helmed by the Canadian-born filmmaker, also marks the debut of Arnold Schwarzenegger (Starlog#88) in a new screen role—as a villain.
“I would have to say that in my febrile youth, I was an absolutely rabid science-fiction fan,” Cameron continues, detailing his background. “I read all the classics, all the old Ace paperback novels. When I went...
The 1984 Movie Revue: James Cameron Interviewed by David ChuteThe 1984 Movie Revue: James Cameron Interviewed by David Chute (pp. 8-14)David Chute and James Cameron
James Cameron, writer-director ofThe Terminator, was one of the last cum-laude graduates of the Roger Corman School of Survival Filmmaking—New World Pictures as it existed before Corman sold the company and moved on.
Cameron’s stripped-down box-office winner looks like something a Corman protégé might devise: It’s almost nonstop, flamboyant action, kicked off when a killer android from the future (Arnold Schwarzenegger) pops up stark naked in contemporary downtown L.A. and begins implacably stalking his assigned victim, Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton). Her unborn child will lead a revolution against the coming dictatorship of intelligent machines. Michael Beihn plays Reese,...
Writer-Director Shows the Special Effect Energy Can RadiateWriter-Director Shows the Special Effect Energy Can Radiate (pp. 15-18)JoAnn Rhetts
Once upon a time in America—in late October 1984 to be precise—Orion Pictures dumped onto the market a little science-fiction thriller. Two weeks, the marketing whizzes obviously figured, thenDune, 2010, and all the other big-deal Christmas movies would stomp Arnold Schwarzenegger and his nobody costars to steel splinters. No big deal.
The Terminator, however, proved to be a very large deal. A $6.5 million picture about a killer cyborg (Schwarzenegger in the role of his career) sent back from the future to contemporary Los Angeles to assassinate the woman who would someday bear the savior of her...
Aliens: An Out of This World Communication with Director James CameronAliens: An Out of This World Communication with Director James Cameron (pp. 19-22)Victor Wells, James Cameron and Prevue
“There are three kinds of pictures: high-budget movies, low-budget flicks, and no-waste films. I’m a no-waste filmmaker,” says James Cameron, underscoring the fact that, in a business where the average product costs more than $10 million, a careful, imaginative artist can generate maximum box office with minimal expenditure.
The triple-threat entrepreneur began his career with Roger Corman, working in various capacities, art directedBattle Beyond the Stars, co-supervised special fx for John Carpenter’sEscape from New York, acted as production designer and second unit director forPlanet of Horrors, and directedPirahna II.
Additionally, Cameron is an accomplished illustrator whose...
James Cameron Takes the PlungeJames Cameron Takes the Plunge (pp. 23-28)Alan Jones
The Abysshas predictably polarized critical opinion.Rolling Stonesaid, “It outET’sET,” whileFilm ’89commented on how bad the script was. The dispassionate view probably lies somewhere in the middle ground between the two. What no one can dispute, though, is how director James Cameron has once more pushed the movie making state-of-the-art to new limits. No one else comes even close to Cameron’s hardware sensibility or his clearly defined understanding of what plot motors heighten suspense and emotional responsiveness.
InThe TerminatorandAliens, thrills, excitement, and shock were Cameron’s driving forces. But inThe Abyss,...
James Cameron Takes a Second PlungeJames Cameron Takes a Second Plunge (pp. 29-34)Alan Jones
The Abysswas filmed at the never-completed Cherokee Nuclear Power Station outside Gaffney, South Carolina. Said Cameron, “The reactor was never installed in what became our tank, so there was no danger of lurking radioactivity. The project ran out of funds while 50 percent complete and their white elephant loss was our opportunity gain. The station core was flooded with seven million gallons of water and it gave us the control to build an elaborate set that in the ocean would have been much cruder by necessity.
“At sea we would have had to literally build Deepcore, the oil drilling...
Aliens: James Cameron InterviewAliens: James Cameron Interview (pp. 35-40)Nigel Floyd and James Cameron
With the release of theAliens: Special Editionvideo, curiosity has been aroused about alternative versions of other James Cameron films, including the rumored “extended play, dance mix” ofThe Abyss. Nigel Floyd dips into his Cameron interview files to give you the official version, straight from the director’s mouth, on those re-cut, extended, and alternative versions.
Nigel Floyd: Did you get a directing credit onPiranha II: Flying Killers, sometimes known asPiranha II: The Spawning?
James Cameron: Yeah, I did, kind of against my will. I wanted them to take it off, but they wouldn’t do it. The...
The Hero’s JourneyThe Hero’s Journey (pp. 41-49)Syd Field
The eighteenth-century English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge declared that when you approach a work of art, you must leave your perception of reality behind and approach the work on its own merits, its own level. He described it as “the willing suspension of disbelief.” We must willingly suspend our disbelief no matter how far the subject matter strays from what we know to be true, or not true. No matter how outrageous the premise, no matter how unpredictable the characters, situations, reactions, or plot developments are, all have to be left behind when we approach “the work.”
I thought about...
Approaching the SequelApproaching the Sequel (pp. 50-56)Syd Field
Writing a film sequel is always difficult. If you think about the sequels that are successful—theRockyseries,Lethal Weapon, orAliens, to name just a few recent examples—they always start with the same characters and generate a new story line. They break new ground.
Most film sequels are not successful because they try to put the characters into the same, or similar situations. Look atDie Hard 2. Basically it was the same type of story, but instead of setting it in a building likeDie Hard, they set it in an airport. The action, with only...
Iron JimIron Jim (pp. 57-70)John H. Richardson
By February the town was starting to talk—James Cameron was at it again. When he madeThe Abysshe went over budget and over schedule, missing his release date by four weeks. When he madeTerminator 2: Judgment Dayhe broke budget records and kept three editors working frantically to make a July 1 release. This time he wasn’t just pushing the envelope—he was ripping it to shreds, he wasvaporizingit. He’d been shootingTrue Liesfor five months and counting. Word around town put the budget at $120 million. “They say he’s totally out of his...
Rich and StrangeRich and Strange (pp. 71-76)Ray Greene, James Cameron and Boxoffice
In actual fact, the following interview with James Cameron was solicited by Boxoffice based on false assumptions. We were present at NATO/ShoWEST last March when the writer/director/producer received NATO’s “Producer of the Year” award and gave a stirring address about the role of exhibition in the face of new technological developments. We were also aware ofStrange Days, Cameron’s latest producing venture (directed by Kathryn Bigelow), which, in capsule form, seemed to fit right into this issue’s discussion of new technologies. So talking to Mr. Cameron seemed like a natural idea in this, our first ever issue-length examination of the...
20,000 Leagues Under The Sea: The Movie Director as Captain Nemo20,000 Leagues Under The Sea: The Movie Director as Captain Nemo (pp. 77-109)Bill Moseley, James Cameron and Omni
Nemolike James Cameron dove in a Russian submersible two and a half miles under the sea to visit—and film—theTitanicfor his epic movie on the mythic doomed ship. Then he re-created a nearly full-size model of the vessel in Baja California, replete with historically precise details composed from information gathered in his twelve dives and the five-year research effort of his entire team.
“We wanted to tell a fictional story within absolutely rigorous, historically accurate terms. If something is known to have taken place, we do not violate it. Likewise, there’s nothing we show that could not...
A Drive of Titanic ProportionsA Drive of Titanic Proportions (pp. 110-132)Academy of Achievement and James Cameron
Q: What was your childhood like?
Cameron: It was not remarkable from the standpoint of outside influences.
I lived in a small town. It was two thousand people in Canada. A little river went through it and we swam—you know, there was a lot of water around. Niagara Falls was about four or five miles away. And so, you know, I’ve always sort of loved the water—possibly as a result of that, and that has manifested itself obviously in my work.
It’s also a big part of my private time. I do an awful lot of scuba diving....
The Final FrontierThe Final Frontier (pp. 133-138)Anne Thompson, James Cameron and Premiere
Ever since he saw2001: A Space Odysseyat age fourteen, James Cameron has been in love with film, space, and technology. Like that of the late Stanley Kubrick, Cameron’s moviemaking has been notable for its technological innovations, from the morphing shots inThe AbyssandTerminator 2: Judgment Dayto the computer-generated passengers on board theTitanic. Since accepting the 1997 Oscars for best director and best picture, he has kept busy preparing myriad projects for Lightstorm Entertainment, the production company he runs with partners Rae Sanchini andTitanicproducer Jon Landau. Lightstorm successfully launched its first TV series,...
James Cameron: The Second ComingJames Cameron: The Second Coming (pp. 139-143)Jenny Cooney Carrillo and James Cameron
James Cameron’sDark Angelhas, in the course of its first year, established itself as a challenger to the crown of top SF TV show. As the second season begins, Jenny Cooney Carrillo meets theTitanicego who is out to build a betterAngel.
Everything that James Cameron touches seems to turn to gold. In his long and established career he has brought movies to audiences that have become hugely successful and starred some of the biggest names in Hollywood. After his Oscar win forTitanic, Cameron declared he was “King of the World.” Though he may not be...
Sound of SilenceSound of Silence (pp. 144-146)John Reading
Andrei Tarkovski’s original Russian language movie ofSolarisis one of the classics of sci-fi cinema, but it dates from the age beforeStar Wars—when science fiction didn’t necessarily mean action, adventure, and lightsabers. In view of that, you have to wonder how modern audiences will react to Stephen Soderburgh’s remake of the classic tale of paranoia and psychological instability aboard a distant space station. It might be in English, but could moviegoers feel let down by the lack of action?
“Did that makeContacta bad movie?” comments the remake’s producer, self-proclaimed King of the World James Cameron....
James CameronJames Cameron (pp. 147-168)Adrian Wootton and James Cameron
Following an Imax screening of hisGhosts of the Abyss, Iron Jim Cameron (aka “The King of the World”) took to the stage to discuss the three Ts (technology, Terminators, and theTitanic) with Adrian Wootton.
Adrian Wootton: We’re going to talk aboutGhosts of the Abyssand the audience will get a chance to ask some questions about it, but before that, I’d like to ask you a bit about the beginning, actually; to talk to you about your start in the industry. I’m particularly interested in the fact that, after you got your first short film made in...
My Titanic ObsessionMy Titanic Obsession (pp. 169-173)James Rampton
The director James Cameron would be the first to admit that he is obsessed by the ocean. Ever since he first plunged into the murky depths at the age of sixteen, the filmmaker has been unable to kick the underwater habit.
He has dived into the subject again and again in his films—from his debut feature in 1981, the ultimate schlock-horror B-movie,Piranha Part Two: The Spawning(which he now laughingly calls “the finest flying piranha film ever made”), to the eerie deep-ocean fantasy,The Abyss, in 1989, and of course, the multi Oscar-winningTitanic.
According to the director,...
King of All He SurveysKing of All He Surveys (pp. 174-177)James Rampton
“I’m the king of the world!” James Cameron cried at the 1998 Oscars, echoing his leading character inTitanic. When the director picked up eleven Academy Awards and his epic netted box-office receipts of $1.8bn, he defied critics who’d predicted that the film would be sunk by a fatal combination of hubris and testosterone.
At that moment, Cameron did seem to be master of all he surveyed. After a decade of hits—The Terminator(1984),Aliens(1986),Terminator 2(1991), andTrue Lies(1994)—Titanicwas merely the latest Cameron boxoffice behemoth to crush everything in its path.
James Cameron: A Life in PicturesJames Cameron: A Life in Pictures (pp. 178-188)Francine Stock and James Cameron
TheTitanicmay have floundered but James Cameron’s film remains buoyant as the biggest box office success in history. Nothing this director does is modest in scale: he waited fifteen years for technology to catch up with his ideas to makeAvatarin groundbreaking 3D. His previous, otherworldly films includeAliens, The Abyssand Arnold Schwarzenegger’s trademark screen role,The Terminator. This is his life in pictures.
James Cameron: Thank you. Thank you for that.
Francine Stock: Let’s start at the beginning: born 1954, Ontario, Canada—
JC: —I don’t recall—
FS: —More or less. Not far from Niagara Falls.
James CameronJames Cameron (pp. 189-199)Tavis Smiley and James Cameron
Tavis Smiley: Pleased to welcome James Cameron to this program. The Oscar-winning filmmaker is one of the most successful directors, writers, and producers of our time, with seminal films likeTitanic, The Terminator, andAliens.
His latest is easily one of the most talked-about projects of the year,Avatar. The film opens in theaters around the country this weekend. As I mentioned at the top, it’s up for four Golden Globe awards, including best director. Here now a sneak preview ofAvatar.
Tavis: I heard you whisper during the airing of that clip, “Interesting clip, good clip.”...
James Cameron Interview: Avatar Blu-ray; Also talks Titanic 3D and Avatar 2James Cameron Interview: Avatar Blu-ray; Also talks Titanic 3D and Avatar 2 (pp. 200-206)Sara Wyland and James Cameron
According to director James Cameron, the groundbreaking sci-fi epicAvataris not only the highest-grossing film of all time, but it is also the most pirated film of all time. However, that hasn’t deterred its box office numbers and, if Blu-ray/DVD sales are any indication, it’s not negatively impacting those numbers either.
In line with his strong environmental values, Cameron talked to press to promote the Blu-ray and DVD release scheduled for Earth Day (April 22) at a private estate in the hills of West Hollywood that makes use of solar paneling. During the interview, he was adamant that 16x9...
James Cameron Interview! Talks Avatar Re-release, Sequels, 3D Conversions, and Working with Del ToroJames Cameron Interview! Talks Avatar Re-release, Sequels, 3D Conversions, and Working with Del Toro (pp. 207-214)Jim Dorey and James Cameron
Jim Dorey: Today I have with me mega-director James Cameron, whose highest-grossing movie of all time,Avatar, is being re-released on August 27 with an additional eight minutes of highly anticipated footage for us. Welcome, Jim.
James Cameron: Hey, thanks for having me on.
JD: You bet.
JC: I guess it’s inevitable that I talk to you.
JD: Yeah, yeah. A lot has happened since the last time we spoke.
JC: The failing advocacy of the 3D medium.
JD: You got it right. Well, we’re all excited with the re-release but I do have some 3D housekeeping questions I’d like...
IndexIndex (pp. 215-219)