James Cameron, one of the biggest names in the entertainment business has made some of the most ground breaking commercial movies of our generation Avatar, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Terminator, Aliens, True Lies and Titanic. You might know him well from his Hollywood’s two of the highest-grossing movies Titanic and Avatar. He was born in Kapuskasing, Ontario in 1954. James Cameron is a director who loves to make movies larger than life in style but keeps them simplistic when it comes to substance.
James Cameron’s mother Shirley worked as a nurse while his father Philip was an electric engineer.
James studied in Stamford Collegiate School in Niagara Falls before the family moved to California. His schooling was from Troy High School before he joined Fullerton College where he studied physics.
After he dropped out of the college, he became a truck driver. Whenever he could get time off the truck-driving job James would write. He would go to a nearby USC library and particularly read books on film technology, reading theses by graduate students on subjects like front screen projections and optical printing.
After seeing Star Wars in 1977, James Cameron became sure about what he wanted to do with his life. He read ‘Screenplay’ a book by Syd Field, which inspired him to write a 10-minute science fiction short film script, titled ‘Zeno Genesis’.
James Cameron and a few similar thinking friends raised money, had the camera film stock and studio rented and shot the short film in 35 millimeters. Cameron says they had no idea how camera worked and they spent half of the day just to find that out. Cameron became a production assistant on a movie called ‘Rock and Roll High School’ in 1979. He was not given the credit but working on the film set acquainted him with filmmaking in a more structured environment. He dabbled with low-cost productions and continued educating himself with different filmmaking techniques.
He bagged the job of an art director in a film called ‘Beyond the stars’ in 1980. Cameron then went on to do set designs for movies like ‘Escape from New York’, ‘Galaxy of terror’ and ‘Android’.
While working as the special effects director for ‘Piranha II- The Spawning’ in 1981, he along with the crew found themselves embroiled in many technical problems including bad weather. The director was especially livid with Cameron for not getting the close-up of actress Carol Davis for the crucial opening scene. The following day was not a good day as the weather was worse. Ovidio then asked Cameron just to assist in shooting the film. The next part of the segment was being shot in Rome when Ovidio was doing the editing; Cameron was stuck with food poisoning. He had a nightmare about an all-powerful robot hitman sent from the future to eliminate him this was the birth of the Terminator.
James Cameron was assigned to direct the sequel to ‘Alien’ in the year 1979 directed by Ridley Scott. The movie sequel ‘Aliens’ in 1986 had Sigourney Weaver in the memorable role of Ellen Ripley. Cameron went on record to say that he faced many issues directing the film as many actors and important crewmembers thought of him as a poor choice for Ridley Scott. Even terminator did not convince them. In fact, most of them had not even seen the film in the first place. The outcome was far from negative.
Aliens became a huge box-office success, bagging Sigourney Weaver Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in a leading role as well as nomination for Best Visual Effects, Best Movie Editing, Best Original Score, Best Sound Effects and Best Art Direction.
The idea for ‘The Abyss’ took shape from oil rig workers who come face to face with underwater creatures. The movie went over budget at 71 million dollars and at that; time was one of the most expensive movies ever made. The movie was a blockbuster and critically acclaimed as well earning 90 million dollars.
Terminator 2: Judgement Day
One of the most repeatedly watched still so fresh movies of all Time ‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day’ was mooted with the idea to make a franchise out of it. Linda Hamilton reprised the role of Sarah Connor while Schwarzenegger returned as Terminator, this time as a protector rather than the destroyer. Mario Kassar of Kuroko Pictures bought the rights and Tristar pictures distributed it. The budget was an overwhelming 100 million dollars and released on July 3, 1991 ‘T2’ or ‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day’ broke all previous box-office records and earned 300 million dollars in US and Canada.
Apart from 300 million dollars in other countries, it was the highest-grossing movie of 1991 and won numerous Academy Awards including Best Visual Effects, Best Makeup, Best Sound and Best Sound Editing.
Just before Terminator was being made, Schwarzenegger asked Cameron if he would be OK to remake a French coming-of-age movie he personally loved called ‘La Sol Tal’. The story revolved around a secret spy who according to his wife is a computer salesman. Apart battling his own comedy of errors, this agent has to also bust a terrorist threat. After Cameron expressed an interest to develop the story and direct the film, his company Lightstorm entertainment teamed with 20th Century Fox to produce ‘True Lies‘. Made with 115 million dollars, this pulsating comic action thrill made 147 million dollars in US and 235 million dollars worldwide.
Cameron was always fascinated by the infamous sinking of the ‘unsinkable’ the RMS Titanic. He decided to put history on celluloid with a romantic story between two young lovers from different socioeconomic backgrounds who meet on the ship. Most of the dialogue of the film was written on the research period when James along with the crew dive to the bottom of the Atlantic and took actual footage of the ship underwater, most of which he retained in the film. Titanic that went way above the budget at 200 million dollars was criticized by skeptics during the making for its needless expenditure and schedules. A huge segment of critics criticized the running time of 3+ hours.
The movie released late in December 19, 1997. The prediction of cynics seemed to come true when the movie wreck just 28.6 million dollars. The second week transformed everything with an increase of 23.9% occupancy. Titanic soon became a hit ruling on the number one spot on the box-office not just in US but in many countries including many nations across Asia for months. Even in India where Bollywood movies usually reign, Titanic pushed the business of indigenous movies down. Titanic became the highest-grossing movie of all time crossing the 1 billion dollar mark only to be beaten by James Cameron’s next movie Avatar in 2009.
Titanic won 11 Oscars including the ‘Best Film’ and ‘The Best Director’ for him.
James Cameron had actually written the script for Avatar in 1995 and had decided to make it after Titanic. He however pushed the film all the way back to 2009 because Cameron felt that the technology to match his vision was not ready in the 1990s and the first half of 2016 work pushed the release date from May to December 2009.
Avatar was the first Hollywood movie to cross 1 billion dollars. In fact, it made $2.74 billion becoming the highest-grossing movie of all time crossing the Titanic. It was nominated for 9 Academy Awards. Though it missed the Best Director and Best Picture, it won awards for Best Art Director, Best Visual Effects and Best Cinematography.
The sequel to the film Avatar is what we all were waiting for. Finally, we got the name ‘Avatar: The way of water’ made on a whooping budget of 400 million dollars. James Cameron written, produced and directed movie is said to be released on theaters on December 6, 2022. He already amazed us on the previous journey to the skies and now it seems we might as well explore the deep oceans.
James Cameron has a net worth of 900 million dollars in total. Cameron’s films have grossed approximately 2 billion USD in North America and 6 billion USD worldwide.
The lesson and the firing that Cameron got when he failed to get the right kind of lighting for ‘Piranhas’ too helped him get the best out of him. The attention to detail and the scintillating backdrop replete with natural lighting is the hallmark of his cinema. Cameron’s films are often based on themes, which explore the conflicts between artificial intelligence and humanity or nature, strong female characters and a romance subplot. James Cameron is known to be a strict disciplinarian to the point of being temperamental. Actor Sigourney Weaver have praised Cameron and said that he really cares for his films unlike many other directors.
Here are some of the most inspiring James Cameron quotes
“Curiosity is the most powerful thing you own.”
“Imagination is a force that can actually manifest to reality”
“If you set your goals ridiculously high and it’s a failure, you will fail above everyone else’s success”
“Hope is not a strategy. Luck is not a factor. Fear is not an option.”
“People call me a perfectionist but I’m not. I am a rightist. I do something until it’s right and then I move on to the next thing”
“Pick up a camera shoot something no matter how small no matter how cheesy no matter whether your friends and your sisters star in it. Put your name on it as director. Now you’re a director. Everything after that, you’re just negotiating your budget and your fee.”
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