James Francis Cameron (born August 16, 1954) is a Canadian filmmaker, philanthropist, and deep-sea explorer. After working in special effects, he found major success after directing and writing the science fiction action film The Terminator (1984). He then became a popular Hollywood director and was hired to write and direct Aliens (1986); three years later he followed up with The Abyss (1989). He found further critical acclaim for his use of special effects in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991). After his film True Lies (1994), Cameron took on his biggest film at the time, Titanic (1997), which earned him Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Film Editing.
After Titanic, Cameron began a project that took almost 10 years to make: his science-fiction epic Avatar (2009), which was in particular a landmark for 3D technology, and for which he received nominations for the same three Academy Awards. Despite Avatar being his only movie made to date in 3D, Cameron is the most successful 3D film-maker in terms of box-office revenue. In the time between making Titanic and Avatar, Cameron spent several years creating many documentary films (specifically underwater documentaries) and co-developed the digital 3D Fusion Camera System. Described by a biographer as part scientist and part artist, Cameron has also contributed to underwater filming and remote vehicle technologies. On March 26, 2012, Cameron reached the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the ocean, in the Deepsea Challenger submersible. He is the first person to do this in a solo descent, and is only the third person to do so ever.
In total, Cameron's directorial efforts have grossed approximately US$2 billion in North America and US$6 billion worldwide. Not adjusted for inflation, Cameron's Titanic and Avatar are the two highest-grossing films of all time at $2.19 billion and $2.78 billion respectively. Cameron also holds the distinction of having directed two of the three films in history to gross over $2 billion worldwide. In March 2011, he was named Hollywood's top earner by Vanity Fair, with estimated 2010 earnings of $257 million. In October 2013, a new species of frog Pristimantis jamescameroni from Venezuela was named after him in recognition of his efforts in environmental awareness, in addition to his public promotion of veganism.
Cameron was born in 1954 in Kapuskasing, Ontario, Canada, the son of Shirley (née Lowe), an artist and nurse, and Phillip Cameron, an electrical engineer. His paternal great-great-great-grandfather emigrated from Balquhidder, Scotland, in 1825.
Cameron grew up in Chippawa, Ontario, and attended Stamford Collegiate School in Niagara Falls, Ontario. His family moved to Brea, California in 1971, when Cameron was 17 years old. He dropped out of Sonora High School, then attended Brea Olinda High School to further his secondary education.
Cameron enrolled at Fullerton College, a two-year community college, in 1973 to study physics. He switched to English, then dropped out before the start of the fall 1974 semester. Next, he worked several jobs, including as a truck driver, writing when he had time. During this period he taught himself about special effects: "I'd go down to the USC library and pull any thesis that graduate students had written about optical printing, or front screen projection, or dye transfers, anything that related to film technology. That way I could sit down and read it, and if they'd let me photocopy it, I would. If not, I'd make notes."
Cameron quit his job as a truck driver to enter the film industry after seeing Star Wars in 1977. When Cameron read Syd Field's book Screenplay, it occurred to him that integrating science and art was possible, and he wrote a 10-minute science-fiction script with two friends, titled Xenogenesis. They raised money, rented camera, lenses, film stock and studio then shot it in 35 mm. They dismantled the camera to understand how to operate it and spent the first half-day of the shoot trying to figure out how to get it running.
He was the director, writer, producer, and production designer for Xenogenesis (1978). He then became an uncredited production assistant on Rock and Roll High School in 1979. While continuing to educate himself in filmmaking techniques, Cameron started working as a miniature model maker at Roger Corman Studios. Making rapidly produced, low-budget productions taught Cameron to work efficiently. He soon found employment as an art director in the sci-fi movie Battle Beyond the Stars (1980). He did special effects work design and direction on John Carpenter's Escape from New York (1981), acted as production designer on Galaxy of Terror (1981), and consulted on the design of Android (1982).
Cameron was hired as the special effects director for the sequel to Piranha, entitled Piranha II: The Spawning in 1981. The original director, Miller Drake, left the project due to creative differences with producer Ovidio Assonitis, who then gave Cameron his first job as director. The interior scenes were filmed in Rome, Italy, while the underwater sequences were shot at Grand Cayman Island.
The movie was to be produced in Jamaica. On location, production slowed due to numerous problems and adverse weather. James Cameron was fired after failing to get a close up of Carole Davis in her opening scene. Ovidio ordered Cameron to do the close-up the next day before he started on that day's shooting. Cameron spent the entire day sailing around the resort, reproducing the lighting but still failed to get the close-up. After he was fired, Ovidio invited Cameron to stay on location and assist in the shooting. Once in Rome, Ovidio took over the editing when Cameron was stricken with food poisoning. During his illness, Cameron had a nightmare about an invincible robot hitman sent from the future to kill him, giving him the idea for The Terminator, which later catapulted his film career.
After completing a screenplay for The Terminator, Cameron decided to sell it so that he could direct the movie. However, the production companies he contacted, while expressing interest in the project, were unwilling to let a largely inexperienced feature film director make the movie. Finally, Cameron found a company called Hemdale Pictures, which was willing to let him direct. Gale Anne Hurd, who had started her own production company, Pacific Western Productions, had previously worked with Cameron in Roger Corman's company and agreed to buy Cameron's screenplay for one dollar, on the condition that Cameron direct the film. Hurd was signed on as a producer, and Cameron finally got his first break as director. Orion Pictures distributed the film. Hurd and Cameron were married from 1985 to 1989.
For the role of the Terminator, Cameron envisioned a man who was not exceptionally muscular, who could "blend into" a crowd. Lance Henriksen, who had starred in Piranha II: The Spawning, was considered for the title role, but when Arnold Schwarzenegger and Cameron first met over lunch to discuss Schwarzenegger's playing the role of Kyle Reese, both came to the conclusion that the cyborg villain would be the more compelling role for the Austrian bodybuilder; Henriksen got the smaller part of LAPD detective Hal Vukovich and the role of Kyle Reese went to Michael Biehn. In addition, Linda Hamilton first appeared in this film in her iconic role of Sarah Connor, and later married Cameron.
The Terminator was a box-office hit, breaking expectations by Orion Pictures executives that the film would be regarded as no more than a sci-fi film, and then only last a week in theaters. It was a low-budget film which cost $6.5 million to make, cutting expenses in such ways as recording the audio track in mono. However, The Terminator eventually earned over $78 million worldwide.
During the early 1980s, Cameron wrote three screenplays simultaneously: The Terminator, Aliens, and the first draft of Rambo: First Blood Part II. While Cameron continued with The Terminator and Aliens, Sylvester Stallone eventually took over the script of Rambo: First Blood Part II, creating a final draft which differed radically from Cameron's initial vision.
Cameron next began the sequel to Alien, the 1979 film by Ridley Scott. Cameron named the sequel Aliens and again cast Sigourney Weaver in the iconic role of Ellen Ripley. According to Cameron, the crew on Aliens was hostile to him, regarding him as a poor substitute for Ridley Scott. Cameron sought to show them The Terminator but the majority of the crew refused to watch it and remained skeptical of his direction throughout production. Despite this and other off-screen problems (such as clashing with an uncooperative camera man and having to replace one of the lead actors when Michael Biehn of Terminator took James Remar's place as Corporal Hicks), Aliens became a box-office success. It received Academy Award nominations for Best Actress for Weaver, Best Art Direction, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, Best Sound, and won awards for Best Sound Editing and Best Visual Effects. In addition, the film and its lead actress made the cover of TIME magazine as a result of numerous and extensive scenes of women in combat; these were almost without precedent and expressed the feminist theme of the film very strongly.
Cameron's next project stemmed from an idea that had come up during a high school biology class. The story of oil-rig workers who discover otherworldly underwater creatures became the basis of Cameron's screenplay for The Abyss, which cast Ed Harris, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Michael Biehn. Initially budgeted at $41 million United States (though the production ran considerably over budget), it was considered to be one of the most expensive films of its time and required cutting-edge effects technology. Because much of the filming took place underwater and the technology wasn't advanced enough to digitally create an underwater environment, Cameron chose to shoot much of the movie "reel-for-real", at depths of up to 40 feet (12 m). For creation of the sets, the containment building of an unfinished nuclear power plant was converted, and two huge tanks were used. The main tank was filled with 7,500,000 US gallons (28,000,000 L) of water and the second with 2,500,000 US gallons (9,500,000 L). The cast and crew resided there for much of the filming.
After the success of The Terminator, there had been talking about a sequel to continue the story of Sarah Connor and her struggle against machines from the future. Although Cameron had come up with a core idea for the sequel, and Schwarzenegger expressed interest in continuing the story, there were still problems regarding who had the rights to the story, as well as the logistics of the special effects needed to make the sequel. Finally, in the late-1980s, Mario Kassar of Carolco Pictures secured the rights to the sequel, allowing Cameron to greenlight production of the film, now called Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
For the film, Linda Hamilton reprised her iconic role of Sarah Connor. In addition, Schwarzenegger also returned in his role as The Terminator, but this time as a protector. Unlike Schwarzenegger's character—the T-800 Terminator which is made of a metal endoskeleton—the new villain of the sequel, called the T-1000, is a more advanced Terminator made of liquid metal, and with polymorphic abilities. The T-1000 would also be much less bulky than the T-800. For the role, Cameron cast Robert Patrick, a sharp contrast to Schwarzenegger. Cameron explained, "I wanted someone who was extremely fast and agile. If the T-800 is a human Panzer tank, then the T-1000 is a Porsche."
Cameron had originally wanted to incorporate this advanced-model-Terminator into the first film, but the special effects at the time were not advanced enough. The ground-breaking effects used in The Abyss to digitally depict the water tentacle convinced Cameron that his liquid metal villain was now possible.
TriStar Pictures agreed to distribute the film, but required a locked release date, intended to be about one year after the start of shooting. The movie, co-written by Cameron and his longtime friend, William Wisher Jr., had to go from screenplay to finished film in just that amount of time. Like Cameron's previous film, it was one of the most expensive films of its era, with a budget of about $100 million. The biggest challenge of the movie was the special effects used in creating the T-1000. Nevertheless, the film was finished on time and released to theaters on July 3, 1991.
Terminator 2, or T2, as it was abbreviated, broke box-office records (including the opening weekend record for an R-rated film), earning over $200 million in the United States and Canada, and over $300 million in other territories, and became the highest-grossing film of that year. It won four Academy Awards: Best Makeup, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Effects Editing, and Best Visual Effects. It was also nominated for Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing, but lost both Awards to JFK.
James Cameron announced a third Terminator film many times during the 1990s, but without coming out with any finished scripts. Kassar and Vajna purchased the rights to the Terminator franchise from a bankruptcy sale of Carolco's assets. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was eventually made and released in July 2003 without Cameron's involvement. Jonathan Mostow directed the film and Schwarzenegger returned as the Terminator.
Cameron reunited with the main cast of Terminator 2 to film T2 3-D: Battle Across Time, an attraction at Universal Studios Florida, Universal Studios Hollywood, and Universal Studios Japan. It was released in 1996 and was a mini-sequel to Terminator 2: Judgment Day. The show is in two parts: a prequel segment in which a spokesperson talks about Cyberdyne, and the main feature, in which the performers interact with a 3-D movie.
Before the release of T2, Schwarzenegger came to Cameron with the idea of remaking the French comedy La Totale! Titled True Lies, with filming beginning after T2's release, the story revolves around a secret-agent spy who leads a double life as a married man, whose wife believes he is a computer salesman. Schwarzenegger was cast as Harry Tasker, a spy charged with stopping a plan by a terrorist to use nuclear weapons against the United States. Jamie Lee Curtis and Eliza Dushku played the character's family, and Tom Arnold the sidekick.
Cameron's Lightstorm Entertainment signed on with Twentieth Century Fox for the production of True Lies. Made on a budget of $115 million and released in 1994, the film earned $146 million in North America, and $232 million abroad. The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Visual Effects.
Cameron expressed interest in the 1912 sinking of the ship RMS Titanic and decided to script and film his next project based on this event. The picture revolved around a fictional romance story between two young lovers from different social classes who meet on board. Before production began, he took dives to the bottom of the Atlantic and shot actual footage of the ship underwater, which he inserted into the final film. Much of the film's dialogue was also written during these dives.
Subsequently, Cameron cast Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane, Kathy Bates, Frances Fisher, Gloria Stuart, Bernard Hill, Jonathan Hyde, Victor Garber, Danny Nucci, David Warner, Suzy Amis, and Bill Paxton as the film's principal cast. Cameron's budget for the film reached about $200 million, making it the most expensive movie ever made at the time. Before its release, the film was widely ridiculed for its expense and protracted production schedule.
Released to theaters on December 19, 1997, Titanic grossed less in its first weekend ($28.6 million) than in its second ($35.4 million), an increase of 23.8%. This is unheard of for a widely released film, which is a testament to the movie's appeal. This was especially noteworthy, considering that the film's running time of more than three hours limited the number of showings each theater could schedule. It held the No. 1 spot on the box-office charts for months, eventually grossing a total of $600.8 million in the United States and Canada and more than $1.84 billion worldwide. Titanic became the highest-grossing film of all time, both worldwide and in the United States and Canada, and was also the first film to gross more than $1 billion worldwide. It was the highest-grossing film from 1998 until 2010, when Cameron's 2009 film Avatar surpassed its gross.
The CG visuals surrounding the sinking and destruction of the ship were considered spectacular. Despite criticism during production of the film, it received a record-tying 14 Oscar nominations (tied with All About Eve) at the 1998 Academy Awards. It won 11 Oscars (also tying the record for most Oscar wins with Ben-Hur and later The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King), including: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Visual Effects, Best Film Editing, Best Costume Design, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, Best Original Dramatic Score, Best Original Song. Upon receiving the Best Director Oscar, Cameron exclaimed, "I'm king of the world!", in reference to one of the main characters' lines from the film. After receiving the Best Picture Oscar along with Jon Landau, Cameron asked for a moment of silence for the 1,500 men, women, and children who died when the ship sank.
In March 2010, Cameron revealed that Titanic would be re-released in 3D in April 2012, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the real ship. On March 27, 2012, Cameron attended the world première with Kate Winslet at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Following the re-release, Titanic's domestic total was pushed to $658.6 million and more than $2.18 billion worldwide. It became the second film to gross more than $2 billion worldwide (the first being Avatar).
Cameron had initially next planned to do a film of the comic-book character Spider-Man, a project developed by Menahem Golan of Cannon Films. Columbia hired David Koepp to adapt Cameron's treatment into a screenplay, and Koepp's first draft is taken often word-for-word from Cameron's story, though later drafts were heavily rewritten by Koepp himself, Scott Rosenberg, and Alvin Sargent. Columbia preferred to credit David Koepp solely, and none of the scripts before or after his were ever examined by the Writers Guild of America, East to determine proper credit attribution. Cameron and other writers objected, but Columbia and the WGA prevailed. In its release in 2002, Spider-Man had its screenplay credited solely to Koepp.
Unable to make Spider-Man, Cameron moved to television and created Dark Angel, a superheroine-centered series influenced by cyberpunk, biopunk, contemporary superhero franchises, and third-wave feminism. Co-produced with Charles H. Eglee, Dark Angel starred Jessica Alba as Max Guevara, a genetically enhanced super-soldier created by a secretive organization. According to a website called DarkAngelFan.com, Cameron's work was said to "bring empowered female warriors back to television screens [...] by mixing the sober feminism of his Terminator and Aliens characters with the sexed-up Girl Power of a Britney Spears concert." While a success in its first season, low ratings in the second led to its cancellation. Cameron himself directed the series finale, a two-hour episode wrapping up many of the series' loose ends.
In 1998 James and John David Cameron formed a digital media company, earthship.tv, which became Earthship Productions. The company produced live multimedia documentaries from the depths of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. With Earthship Productions, John Cameron's recent projects have included undersea documentaries on the Bismarck (Expedition: Bismarck, 2002) and the Titanic (Ghosts of the Abyss (2003, in IMAX 3D) and Tony Robinson's Titanic Adventure (2005)). He was a producer on the 2002 film Solaris, and narrated The Exodus Decoded.
Cameron is an advocate for stereoscopic digital 3D films. In a 2003 interview about his IMAX 2D documentary Ghosts of the Abyss, he mentioned that he is "going to do everything in 3D now". He has made similar statements in other interviews. Ghosts of the Abyss and Aliens of the Deep (also an IMAX documentary) were both shot in 3-D and released by Walt Disney Pictures and Walden Media, and Cameron did the same for his new project, Avatar for 20th Century Fox & Sony Pictures' Columbia Pictures. He intends to use the same technology for The Dive, Sanctum and an adaptation of the manga series Battle Angel Alita.
Cameron was the co-founder and CEO of Digital Domain, a visual-effects production and technology company.
In addition, he plans to create a 3-D project about the first trip to Mars. ("I've been very interested in the Humans to Mars movement—the 'Mars Underground'—and I've done a tremendous amount of personal research for a novel, a miniseries, and a 3-D film.") He is on the science team for the 2011 Mars Science Laboratory.
Cameron announced on February 26, 2007, that he, along with his director, Simcha Jacobovici, have documented the unearthing of the Talpiot Tomb, which is alleged to be the tomb of Jesus. Unearthed in 1980 by Israeli construction workers, the names on the tomb are claimed, in the documentary, to correlate with the names of Jesus and several individuals closely associated with him. The documentary, named The Lost Tomb of Jesus, was broadcast on the Discovery Channel on March 4, 2007.
As a National Geographic explorer-in-residence, Cameron re-investigated the sinking of the Titanic with eight experts in 2012. The investigation was featured in the TV documentary special Titanic: The Final Word with James Cameron, which premiered on April 8 on the National Geographic Channel. In the conclusion of the analysis, the consensus revised the CGI animation of the sinking conceived in 1995.
In June 2005, Cameron was announced to be working on a project tentatively titled "Project 880" (now known to be Avatar) in parallel with another project, Alita: Battle Angel (an adaptation of the manga series Battle Angel Alita). Both movies were to be shot in 3D. By December, Cameron stated that he wanted to film Battle Angel first, followed by Avatar. However, in February 2006, he switched goals for the two film projects and decided to film Avatar first. He mentioned that if both films were successful, he would be interested in seeing a trilogy being made for both. Alita: Battle Angel eventually began production in 2016 with Cameron writing and producing and Robert Rodriguez directing.
Avatar had an estimated budget of over $300 million and was released on December 18, 2009. This marked his first feature film since 1997's Titanic. It is composed almost entirely of computer-generated animation, using a more-advanced version of the "performance capture" technique used by director Robert Zemeckis in The Polar Express. James Cameron had written an 80-page scriptment for Avatar in 1995 and announced in 1996 that he would make the film after completing Titanic. In December 2006, Cameron explained that the delay in producing the film since the 1990s had been to wait until the technology necessary to create his project was advanced enough, since at the time no studio would finance for the development of the visual effects. The film was originally scheduled to be released in May 2009 but was pushed back to December 2009 to allow more time for post-production on the complex CGI and to give more time for theatres worldwide to install 3D projectors. Cameron originally intended Avatar to be 3D-only.
Avatar broke several box office records during its initial theatrical run. It grossed $749.7 million in the United States and Canada and more than $2.74 billion worldwide, becoming the highest-grossing film of all time in the United States and Canada, surpassing Cameron's Titanic. Avatar also became the first movie to ever earn more than $2 billion worldwide. Including revenue from the re-release of Avatar featuring extended footage, it grossed $760.5 million in the United States and Canada and more than $2.78 billion worldwide. It was nominated for nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, and won three for Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography and Best Visual Effects.
Avatar's success made Cameron the highest earner in Hollywood for 2010, netting him $257 million as reported by Vanity Fair.
Cameron served as the executive producer of Sanctum, a film detailing the expedition of a team of underwater cave divers who find themselves trapped in a cave, their exit blocked and with no known way to reach the surface either in person or by radio contact.
In August 2013, Cameron announced his intention to film three sequels to Avatar simultaneously, to be released in December 2016, 2017, and 2018. However, on January 14, 2015, Cameron announced that the release dates for the three sequels were each delayed a year with the first sequel scheduled to be released in December 2017. In September 2017, the sequels to Avatar started production with the plan for the first to be released in December 2020, the next in 2021 and a further two in 2024 and 2025 respectively. Deadline.com estimated that the budget for these would be over $1 billion in total.
Avatar 2 and Avatar 3 started preliminary shooting simultaneously in Manhattan Beach, California on August 15, 2017, followed by principal photography in New Zealand on September 25, 2017. The other sequels are expected to start shooting as soon as Avatar 2 and 3's filming wraps.
Although the last two sequels have been greenlit, Cameron stated in a November 26, 2017 interview: "Let’s face it, if Avatar 2 and 3 don’t make enough money, there’s not going to be a 4 and 5".
His original plans were to do Battle Angel next, but he changed his mind due to Avatar's success; "My intention when I made Avatar was to do Battle Angel next. However, the positive feedback for Avatar and the support of the message of Avatar, encouraged me to do more of those films." Cameron's Lightstorm Entertainment bought the film rights to the Taylor Stevens novel The Informationist in October 2012 with plans for Cameron to direct it. A screenwriter will be hired to adapt the novel while Cameron works on the Avatar sequels. Another project Cameron has announced is a personal commitment to shoot a film on the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as told through the story of Tsutomu Yamaguchi, a man who survived both attacks. Cameron met with Yamaguchi just days before he died in 2010.
In January 2017, it was reported that Cameron would be returning to the Terminator franchise as producer and creative consultant for the next film installment, with Tim Miller signed on as director. In May 2017, Arnold Schwarzenegger confirmed that he will return in the film and that James Cameron will be involved. In January 2017 it was also announced that Cameron would be making a documentary about the history of science fiction. Cameron stated, "Without Jules Verne and H. G. Wells, there wouldn’t have been Ray Bradbury or Robert A. Heinlein, and without them, there wouldn’t be [George] Lucas, [Steven] Spielberg, Ridley Scott or me."
In the mid-1990s, Cameron announced that he would make a Spider-Man film, with Leonardo DiCaprio starring as Spider-Man and Arnold Schwarzenegger starring as Doctor Octopus. The project was cancelled and dropped by Cameron, and his script was rewritten by David Koepp for the 2002 movie Spider-Man, directed by Sam Raimi.
Although Cameron has resided in the United States since 1971, he remains a Canadian citizen. Cameron applied for American citizenship in 2004, but withdrew his application after George W. Bush won the presidential election. Cameron divides his time between his home in California and his second home in New Zealand, a country he fell in love with when he was filming Avatar. In 2016, Cameron partnered with Tourism New Zealand to produce a series of videos that expressed his love for the country.
He has been a close friend of fellow filmmaker Guillermo del Toro since they met during the production of Del Toro's 1993 film Cronos. Around 1997, Del Toro's father, Federico del Toro Torres, was kidnapped in Guadalajara; immediately after learning of the kidnapping, Cameron took Del Toro and gave him over $1 million in cash he just withdrew to help paying the ransom. After the ransom was paid, Federico was released, having spent 72 days abducted. The culprits were never apprehended, and the money of both Cameron and Del Toro's family was never recovered; Del Toro and his family moved outside of Mexico after the event, in fear of a similar event happening again.
Cameron has been married five times to the following spouses: Sharon Williams (1978–1984), Gale Anne Hurd (1985–1989), director Kathryn Bigelow (1989–1991), Linda Hamilton (1997–1999, daughter Josephine born in 1993), and Suzy Amis (2000–present). Cameron had dated Hamilton since 1991. Eight months after the marriage, however, they separated, and within days of Cameron's Oscar victory with Titanic, the couple announced their divorce. As part of the divorce settlement, Cameron was ordered to pay Hamilton $50 million. Hamilton later revealed that one reason for their divorce was that he had been dating Suzy Amis, an actress he cast as Lizzy Calvert in Titanic. He married Amis in 2000, and they have one son and two daughters. Hurd was the producer of Cameron's The Terminator, Aliens, and The Abyss, and the executive producer of Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Hamilton played the role of Sarah Connor in both Terminator films. Amis played the part of Lizzy Calvert, Rose's granddaughter, in Titanic. Both Cameron (Avatar) and Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) were nominated for the Oscar, the Golden Globe, and the BAFTA Award for Best Director for films released in 2009. Cameron won the Golden Globe, while Bigelow won the Oscar and the BAFTA for Best Director, becoming the first woman to win either.
Cameron became an expert on deep-sea exploration in conjunction with his research and underwater filming for The Abyss (1989) and Titanic (1997). In June 2010, Cameron met in Washington with the EPA to discuss possible solutions to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon (BP) oil spill. Later that week at the All Things Digital Conference, he attracted some notoriety when he stated, "Over the last few weeks I've watched...and been thinking, 'Those morons don't know what they're doing'." Reportedly, Cameron had offered BP help to plug the oil well, but it declined. The oil spill was eventually stopped using techniques similar to those Cameron recommended.
On March 7, 2012, Cameron took the Deepsea Challenger submersible to the bottom of the New Britain Trench in a five-mile-deep solo dive. On March 26, 2012, Cameron reached the Challenger Deep, the deepest part of the Mariana Trench. He spent more than three hours exploring the ocean floor before returning to the surface. Cameron is the first person to accomplish the trip solo. He was preceded by unmanned dives in 1995 and 2009 and by Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh, who were the first men to reach the bottom of the Mariana Trench aboard the Bathyscaphe Trieste in 1960. Cameron has made a three-dimensional film of his dive. During his dive to the Challenger Deep, the data he collected resulted in interesting new finds in the field of marine biology, including new species of sea cucumber, squid worm, and giant single-celled amoeba, which are exciting finds due to the harshness of the environment.
In 2012, Cameron, his wife and his children adopted a vegan diet. Cameron explains that "By changing what you eat, you will change the entire contract between the human species and the natural world".
When asked what's the best thing an individual can do to fight climate change, Cameron said, "Stop eating animals."
Cameron and his wife are featured in Eating You Alive, a 2016 American documentary. His The Game Changers (2017) showcases vegan athletes and other icons
Cameron is a member of the NASA Advisory Council and is working on the project to put cameras on an upcoming human mission to Mars. Cameron has also given speeches and raised money for the Mars Society, a non-profit organization lobbying for the colonization of Mars.
Early in 2014, Cameron purchased the Beaufort Vineyard and Estate Winery in Courtenay, British Columbia, at a price of $2.7 million, as well as a number of other businesses in the area, including cattle ranching operations, to pursue his passion for sustainable agribusiness.
In an interview in November 2017, Cameron revealed that he had a hostile altercation with Harvey Weinstein at the 70th Academy Awards in 1998 after Weinstein came to him trying to promote his company Miramax. Cameron, whose friend Guillermo del Toro was unhappy with the way Miramax had treated him on his film Mimic, proceeded in return to "read him chapter and verse about how great I thought he was for the artist", which led to a dispute that almost resulted in an actual fight. Cameron recalled "[almost] hitting him with my Oscar", adding that "[a lot of people] would’ve preferred I had played through on that one", referring to the recent Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse allegations.
In June 2013, British artist Roger Dean filed a legal action at a court in New York against Cameron. Dean accused Cameron of "wilful and deliberate copying, dissemination and exploitation" of his original images, relating to Cameron's 2009 film Avatar and sought damages of $50m. Dean subsequently lost the case.
Cameron's directorial style has had significant influence within the Hollywood film industry. Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly creator Joss Whedon stated that Cameron's approach to action scenes was influential to those in The Avengers. Whedon also admired Cameron's ability of writing female characters such as Ellen Ripley. He also cited Cameron as "the leader and the teacher and the Yoda". Michael Bay considers Cameron an idol and was convinced by him to use 3D in Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Cameron's approach to 3D also inspired Baz Luhrmann to use it in The Great Gatsby. Other directors that have drawn inspiration from Cameron include Peter Jackson, Neill Blomkamp and Quentin Tarantino.
In 1999, Cameron was labeled selfish and cruel by one collaborator, author Orson Scott Card, who had been hired a decade earlier to work with Cameron on the novelization of The Abyss. Card said the experience was "hell on wheels":
He was very nice to me, because I could afford to walk away. But he made everyone around him miserable, and his unkindness did nothing to improve the film in any way. Nor did it motivate people to work faster or better. And unless he changes his way of working with people, I hope he never directs anything of mine. In fact, now that this is in print, I can fairly guarantee that he will never direct anything of mine. Life is too short to collaborate with selfish, cruel people.
After working with Cameron on Titanic, Kate Winslet decided she would not work with Cameron again unless she earned "a lot of money". She said that Cameron was a nice man, but she found his temper difficult to deal with. In an editorial, the British newspaper The Independent said that Cameron "is a nightmare to work with. Studios have come to fear his habit of straying way over schedule and over budget. He is notorious on set for his uncompromising and dictatorial manner, as well as his flaming temper."
Sam Worthington, who worked with Cameron on Avatar, stated on The Jay Leno Show that Cameron had very high expectations from everyone: he would use a nail gun to nail the film crew's cell phones to a wall above an exit door in retaliation for unwanted ringing during production. Other actors, such as Bill Paxton and Sigourney Weaver, have praised Cameron's perfectionism. Weaver said of Cameron: "He really does want us to risk our lives and limbs for the shot, but he doesn't mind risking his own." Michael Biehn has also praised Cameron, claiming "Jim is a really passionate person. He cares more about his movies than other directors care about their movies", but added "I’ve never seen him yell at anybody." However, Biehn did claim Cameron is "not real sensitive when it comes to actors and their trailers."
Composer James Horner refused to work with Cameron for a decade following their strained working relationship on 1986's Aliens. They eventually settled their differences, and Horner went on to score both Titanic and Avatar.
In 2014, Cameron was the keynote speaker at the first annual Fame and Philanthropy, a charity fundraiser which raised money for several high-profile celebrity charities. Cameron was one of several guest speakers at the event along with Charlize Theron and Halle Berry.
In a 2015 joint interview, actresses Sigourney Weaver and Jamie Lee Curtis, who both worked with Cameron, commented very positively on him. Curtis stated, "the truth is he can do every other job [than acting]. I'm talking about every single department, from art direction to props to wardrobe to cameras, he knows more than everyone doing the job." Weaver answered "There are very few geniuses in the world, let alone in our business, and he's certainly one of them." She also said, "he's misunderstood in the industry, somewhat. He is so generous to actors."
Cameron did not receive any major mainstream filmmaking awards prior to Titanic. For Titanic, he won several, including Academy Awards for Best Picture (shared with Jon Landau), Best Director and Best Film Editing (shared with Conrad Buff and Richard A. Harris). Cameron is one of the few filmmakers to win three Oscars in a single evening and Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture – Drama and Best Director.
In recognition of "a distinguished career as a Canadian filmmaker", Carleton University, Ottawa, awarded Cameron the honorary degree of Doctor of Fine Arts on June 13, 1998. Cameron accepted the degree in person and gave the Convocation Address.
In 1998, Cameron attended convocation to receive an honorary doctorate of Laws from Ryerson University, Toronto. The university awards its highest honor to those who have made extraordinary contributions in Canada, or internationally.
In 1999, Cameron received the honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from California State University, Fullerton, where he had been a student in the 1970s. He received the degree at the university's annual Commencement exercises that year, where he gave the keynote speech.
In recognition of his contributions to underwater filming and remote vehicle technology, the University of Southampton awarded Cameron the honorary degree of Doctor of the University. Cameron did not attend the Engineering Sciences graduation ceremony in July 2004 where the degree was awarded but instead received it in person at the National Oceanography Centre.
On June 3, 2008, it was announced that he would be inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame. On December 18, 2009, the same day Avatar was released worldwide, Cameron received the 2,396th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. After the release of Avatar, on February 28, 2010, Cameron was also honored with a Visual Effects Society (VES) Lifetime Achievement Award.
For Avatar, Cameron won numerous awards as well, including: Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture – Drama (shared with Jon Landau) and Best Director. He was nominated for three Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director and Best Film Editing (shared with John Refoua and Stephen E. Rivkin). However, Cameron and Avatar lost to his former wife Kathryn Bigelow and her film, The Hurt Locker.
On September 24, 2010, James Cameron was named Number 1 in The 2010 Guardian Film Power 100 list. In a list compiled by the British magazine New Statesman in September 2010, he was listed 30th in the list of "The World's 50 Most Influential Figures 2010".
Cameron has received numerous awards; mainly for Titanic and Avatar.
|Piranha II: The Spawning
|Terminator 2: Judgment Day
|Ghosts of the Abyss
|William Wisher, Jr.1||4|
1 Apart from acting, Wisher Jr. also collaborated with Cameron in writing credits.
2 Biehn's reprise of the role of Kyle Reese was cut from the theatrical release, but was restored in the Special Edition on DVD/Blu-ray.
Cameron's films have recurring themes and subtexts. These include the conflicts between humanity and technology, the dangers of corporate greed, strong female characters, and a strong romance subplot. In almost all films, the main characters usually get into dramatic crisis situations with significant threats to their own life or even the threat of an impending apocalypse. The Abyss dealt with deep sea exploration (shot in an unfinished nuclear reactor filled with water) and Cameron himself became an expert in the field of deep-sea wreckage exploration, exploring the wreckage of the Titanic and the Bismarck. Cameron will return to this theme with The Dive, shooting from a minisub.
|1981||Piranha II: The Spawning||Ovidio G. Assonitis and Charles H. Eglee||Columbia Pictures|
|1984||The Terminator||Gale Anne Hurd||Orion Pictures|
|1986||Aliens||David Giler and Walter Hill||20th Century Fox|
|1991||Terminator 2: Judgment Day||William Wisher||TriStar Pictures|
|1994||True Lies||Randall Frakes||20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox
|2009||Avatar||N/A||20th Century Fox|
|2020||Avatar 2||Josh Friedman|
|2021||Avatar 3||Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver|
Cameron has written the scripts to all the movies that he has directed. He has contributed to many more projects as a writer, director, and producer, or as a combination of the three.
In addition to works of fiction, Cameron has directed and appeared in several documentaries including Ghosts of the Abyss and Aliens of the Deep. He also contributed to a number of television series including Dark Angel and Entourage.
Critical, public and commercial reception to films James Cameron has directed as of May 7, 2015.
|Film||Rotten Tomatoes||Metacritic||CinemaScore||Budget||Box office|
|Piranha II: The Spawning||7% (15 reviews)||15 (5 reviews)||N/A||$145,786||N/A|
|The Terminator||100% (58 reviews)||83 (11 reviews)||N/A||$6,400,000||$78,371,200|
|Aliens||98% (65 reviews)||86 (10 reviews)||A||$17,000,000||$131,060,248|
|The Abyss||89% (44 reviews)||62 (14 reviews)||A||$70,000,000||$90,000,098|
|Terminator 2: Judgment Day||93% (74 reviews)||75 (22 reviews)||A+||$94,000,000||$519,843,345|
|True Lies||72% (47 reviews)||63 (17 reviews)||A||$115,000,000||$378,882,411|
|Titanic||88% (181 reviews)||75 (35 reviews)||A+||$200,000,000||$2,186,772,302|
|Ghosts of the Abyss||80% (102 reviews)||67 (24 reviews)||N/A||$13,000,000||$28,780,668|
|Aliens of the Deep||84% (61 reviews)||71 (18 reviews)||N/A||$12,770,637|
|Avatar||83% (299 reviews)||83 (35 reviews)||A||$237,000,000||$2,787,965,087|
After the success of The Terminator, Cameron was announced as writer and director of a $60 m big-screen adaptation of the comic book classic. But thanks to a tangled web of litigation, studio bankrupticies, and wrangling over screenplay credits, that movie never saw light... What remains, however, is Cameron's tantalising 47-page Spidey 'scriptment', a compacted screenplay-cum-narrative that mapped out his entire film in brief... Koepp's first draft is taken often word-for-word from Cameron's story, though later versions were heavily rewritten by numerous screenwriters. Despite this—and much to Cameron's chagrin— Koepp's name is the only one on the screenplay.
The turn happened, Amis Cameron says, when the couple went vegan in 2012 after watching the documentary Forks over Knives.
He drives a Toyota Hybrid that is a whole six years old and recently became vegan, along with his family of five children, aged from five to 23.
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