Date of Birth16 August 1954, Kapuskasing, Ontario, Canada
Birth NameJames Francis Cameron
Height6' 2" (1.88 m)
Mini BiographyJames Cameron was born in Kapuskasing, Ontario, Canada, on August 16, 1954. He moved to the USA in 1971. The son of an engineer, he majored in physics at California State University but, after graduating, drove a truck to support his screen-writing ambition. He landed his first professional film job as art director, miniature-set builder, and process-projection supervisor on Roger Corman's Battle Beyond the Stars (1980) and debuted as a director with Piranha Part Two: The Spawning (1981) the following year.
In 1984, he wrote and directed The Terminator (1984), a futuristic action-thriller starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Biehn, and Linda Hamilton. It was a huge success. After this came a string of successful science-fiction action films such as Aliens (1986) and Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991). Cameron is now one of the most sought-after directors in Hollywood. He was formerly married to producer Gale Anne Hurd, who produced several of his films. He married Kathryn Bigelow in 1989.
|Suzy Amis||(4 June 2000 - present) 3 children|
|Linda Hamilton||(26 July 1997 - 16 December 1999) (divorced) 1 child|
|Kathryn Bigelow||(17 August 1989 - 10 November 1991) (divorced)|
|Gale Anne Hurd||(1985 - 1989) (divorced)|
|Sharon Williams||(14 February 1978 - 14 July 1984) (divorced)|
Trade MarkStrong female characters.
Frequently casts Michael Biehn, Jenette Goldstein, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
His films frequently feature scenes filmed in deep blues.
Plots or events involving nuclear explosions or wars
Likes to make nice/effective cuts
Likes to show close-up shots of feet or wheels, often trampling things
Tight/close-up tracking shots on vehicles, especially during chase scenes.
Brings camera in close during fight scenes, achieving a claustrophobic effect.
Cameron's films tend to include broken, swinging flourescent lights, especially in fight scenes. See: The Abyss (1989), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), True Lies (1994), and Strange Days (1995).
Often includes sequences in which a video monitor is the perspective of the camera. For example, the T-800's viewpoint in infrared in The Terminator (1984) and Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), the video log in Avatar (2009),the helmet cameras in Aliens (1986), Little Geek exploring the submarine in The Abyss (1989), television newscasts in The Abyss (1989), the surveilance cameras in True Lies (1994), the SQUID sequences in Strange Days (1995), and Brock's "Geraldo Moment" at the beginning of Titanic (1997). He uses this perspective at least once in every movie he is tied with.
Often features shots of large explosions, crashes, gunshots, etc. in the background with people running away in the foreground. These shots were used heavily in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) and True Lies (1994) but also in other films.
[Dreams] Often works dreams or characters sleeping into the plot.
His films tend to have scenes with elevators with something dangerous happening near or in them. In Aliens (1986), Ripley goes up and down acargo elevator several times, exiting the complex and then going backwhile loading weapons to get Newt and then leaving with the Queen Alien following. The Queen Alien rides the elevator to follow Ripley. In Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), Sara sees the T-800 for the firsttime exiting an elevator. The T-1000 is shot from outside the elevatorand then attacks Sara, John and the T-800 above it. In another scene,Sara, John and the T-800 crash in an elevator after an explosion on ahigher floor. They are then gassed by the SWAT team at the bottom. In True Lies (1994), Harry enters an elevator on a horse in pursuit of aterrorist in the opposite elevator on a motorcycle. In Titanic (1997), Rose goes up an elevator with Jack to escape her fiancé. In another scene, Rose goes down an elevator to a flooded floor, filling it with water.
Utilizes slow motion in intense scenes or to intensify a scene
Often employs composers Brad Fiedel and James Horner to score his films.
His films frequently depict children in some kind of danger.
Many of his films have water or the ocean as a central theme
The use of machines as an important plot point or weapon: in both Avatar and Aliens the soldiers use a similar machine to fight in the final battle, the Terminators are machines and The Abyss also features a lot of machines important to the plot.
Blockbusters often have one-word titles, which are also the subjects of them: "(The) Terminator", "(The) Abyss", "Titanic" etc.
In all his films, at least one character yells "Go! Go! Go!"
Known on-set for being very tough and demanding, and having a temper... hence his nickname 'Iron Jim'. However, off-set he is known to be very kind.
TriviaDaughter, with Hamilton, Josephine Archer Cameron born. [15 February 1993]
Older brother of Mike Cameron.
According to Cameron, he got his big break while doing pick-up shots for Galaxy of Terror (1981) as 2nd 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.
His production company is 'Lightstorm Entertainment'.
One of the founders of visual effects company 'Digital Domain'.
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!".
Jokingly refers to Titanic (1997) as his 190 Million Dollar "Chick Flick".
First director to film both a $100 million (Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)) and a $200 million (Titanic (1997)) movie.
Cameron is in talks with RKK Energia and MirCorp to pay his way on board the Mir space station (or the ISS, should Mir be deorbited). He has been given the medical green light, and has already ridden aboard the Ilushin-76 jet used to train cosmonauts for space missions. [September 2000]
Twins, Claire and Quinn, with wife Suzy Amis, born. [4 April 2001]
Has a stepson named Jasper, from Suzy Amis' marriage to Sam Robards.
Member of the American Cinema Editors (ACE).
The October 1987 draft of the screenplay for Alien Nation (1988) credits a rewrite to James Cameron. He is not credited in the final film.
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.
Was interested in remaking Planet of the Apes (1968), but his script was turned down. Another script was then developed and eventually made by Tim Burton in 2001.
Had daughter, Elizabeth Rose, with Suzi Amis born on 29 December 2006.
Considered directing "Solaris" (2002) but opted to produce instead. Job went to Steven Soderbergh.
2007- Ranked #3 on EW's The 50 Smartest People in Hollywood.
After seeing Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977), Cameron quit his job as a truck driver to enter the film industry.
Received a star at Canada's Walk of Fame in Toronto. Says he's too cheap to pay for a star at the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Has a daughter with Linda Hamilton named Josephine Archer Cameron born 15 February 1993.
Ex-brother-in-law of Leslie Hamilton Gearren.
Apart from The Terminator (1984), all of his films have been nominated for or won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects.
First director to make 2 films which have grossed more than $1 billion in the worldwide box office (Titanic (1997) and Avatar (2009)). The other 3 films which have grossed $1 billion or more worldwide (The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003), Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006) and The Dark Knight (2008)) are directed by different people (Peter Jackson, Gore Verbinski and Chris Nolan respectively).
States that The Wizard of Oz (1939) is his favorite movie.
Four of his films have made it to the IMDb top 250 list: Terminator, Terminator 2, Aliens and Avatar.
In 2010, his movie Avatar (2009) became the highest grossing movie of all time, not adjusted for inflation. It is also the first movie to gross the 2 billion dollar mark at the box office. Until Avatar (2009), Cameron's previous movie Titanic (1997) was the highest grossing movie of all time for 12 years (also not adjusted for inflation).
In an interview with Tavis Smiley revealed that he was a truck driver before going into film directing.
Lives in Malibu and Calabasas, California.
Merited a place in Time magazine's - The 100 Most Influential People in the World ("Artists" category) - with an homage penned by Sigourney Weaver. [May 10, 2010]
Was an avid reader of Arthur Clark, A.E. Van Vogt, Harlan Ellison, and Larry Niven novels as a child.
Has directed 3 actresses in Oscar-nominated performances: Sigourney Weaver (Best Actress, Aliens (1986)), Kate Winslet (Best Actress, Titanic (1997)), and Gloria Stuart (Best Supporting Actress, Titanic (1997)).
Personal QuotesPeople 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.
...you can read all the books about film-making, all the articles in American Cinematographer and that sort of thing, but you have to really see how it works on a day-to-day basis, and how to pace your energy so that you can survive the film, which was a lesson that took me a long time to learn.
I was petrified at the start of Terminator. First of all, I was working with a star, at least I thought of him as a star at the time. Arnold came out of it even more a star.
I went from driving a truck to becoming a movie director, with a little time working with Roger Corman in between. When I wrote The Terminator, I sold the rights at that time - that was my shot to get the film made. So I've never owned the rights in the time that the franchise has been developed. I was fortunate enough to get a chance to direct the second film and do so on my own creative terms, which was good. But that was in 1991 and I've felt like it was time to move on. The primary reason for making a third one was financial, and that didn't strike me as organic enough a reason to be making a film.
[Talking about the appeal of the Terminator]: "It's fun to fantasize being a guy who can do whatever he wants. This Terminator guy is indestructible. He can be as rude as he wants. He can walk through a door, go through a plate-glass window and just get up, brush off impacts from bullets. It's like the dark side of Superman, in a sense. I think it has a great cathartic value to people who wish they could just splinter open the door to their boss's office, walk in, break his desk in half, grab him by the throat and throw him out the window and get away with it. Everybody has that little demon that wants to be able to do whatever it wants, the bad kid that never gets punished."
[About dropping several
sequences from the finished film of the Terminator]: "We had to cut scenes I was in love with in order to save money."
[About the budget for the original Terminator]: "They were extremely hesitant about going over $4 million. We convinced them this movie could not be made for less than $6 million, especially with Arnold Schwarzenegger starring, because he commanded a significant salary; the final shooting budget was actually $6.5 million."
"The only compelling reason for me to have done that film was a sense of pride of authorship. "Well, dammit, I did the first one and I did the second one and it's my creation and I should do the third one." But ultimately, that's a stupid reason to spend a year, year and a half of your life in hell to make a big movie. I'd rather spend a year of my life in hell to make something new, which is what I will be doing." - [about his reason to decline Terminator 3]
"So, what I said was, "If they come up with a decent script that you (Arnold Schwarzenegger) like and you think you can play, do something cool, and they pay you an awful lot of money, you should just go do it. Don't feel like you're betraying me or anything else."" - [about his view on Arnold Schwarzenegger for doing Terminator 3]
"I guess Titanic because it made the most money. No, I'm kidding. I don't really have a favorite. Maybe Terminator because that was the film that was the first one back when I was essentially a truck driver." - [about his favorite movie he directed]
"That was the purest experience, even though it was the cheapest one and the cheesiest looking one." - [about 'The Terminator' (1984)]
"I've always enjoyed it when it was John Woo in his Hong Kong days like Hard Boiled, but I think it's overused now." - [on Hong Kong film making styles]
I don't look at scripts. I just write them.
"Basically because I had told the story. To make Terminator 3 was to make a 3." - [about his reason to decline Terminator 3]
"It just never really gelled and then the September 11th attacks happened and the idea of a domestic comedy adventure film about an anti-terrorism unit just didn't seem all that funny to me anymore." - [about his reason to decline True Lies 2]
"So, Spider-Man was obviously good casting for him (Sam Raimi). I mean, he was good casting to do Spider-Man. Would I have done it differently? Yeah, absolutely. It would've been a very different film, but that's the film you've never seen. I've seen it." - [on Sam Raimi's Spiderman]
"Of the three that we're planning, it's a question of the order, one's historical and two are science fiction. None are ocean." - [about his future projects]
[When he was the new hot screenwriter in the mid-1980s] "I haven't paid for lunch in two weeks."
[When interviewer asks if he thought he had a hit on his hands] "We had been dragged across a cheese grater, face down, for two solid years, and we thought we had the biggest money-losing film in history. Then we had our first preview screening in Minneapolis, and there was a woman sitting behind me - I had no idea who she was: a Minneapolis housewife, maybe - who narrated the entire film. She was like a Pez dispenser: everything just popped out of her mouth. I just kind of leant my chair back so I could hear what she was saying. I remember distinctly the moment when Jack and Rose are shaking hands when they are about to part, and Rose is saying, 'You're very presumptuous,' and the woman sitting behind me is saying, 'Yes, but you're not letting go of his hand, are you?' That was the moment when I knew the movie was communicating exactly the way it was meant to."
[on how he came up with the idea of The Terminator (1984)] "I would see these images of a metallic death figure rising Phoenix-like out of fire, I woke up and grabbed a pencil and paper and started writing. When I originally got the idea for Terminator, I was sick, I was broke, I was in Rome, I had no way to get home and I could barely speak the language. I was surrounded by people I could not get help from. I felt very alienated and so it was very easy for me to imagine a machine with a gun. At the point of the greatest alienation in my life, it was easy to create the character."
[on Robert Patrick's casting as the T-1000 in 'Terminator 2: Judgement Day'] "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."
On Sigourney Weaver: I like her very much. She's just a natural. Not too exotic. Very hard-nosed, intelligent. And flawed too, in the sense she is flawed by emotion. People root for her in Alien (1979) because she's so often coming up with the logical solution to some problem and then it just won't work.
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.
(When asked how did he come up with the story for Avatar) Well, my inspiration is every single science fiction book I read as a kid. And a few that weren't science fiction. The Edgar Rice Burroughs books, H. Rider Haggard - the manly, jungle adventure writers. I wanted to do an old fashioned jungle adventure, just set it on another planet, and play by those rules.
I kind of turned my back on the Terminator world when there was early talk about a third film. I'd evolved beyond it. I don't regret that, but I have to live with the consequence, which is that I keep seeing it resurrected. I'm not involved in Terminator Salvation (2009). I've never read the script. I'm sure I'll be paying 10 bucks to see it like everybody else.
I don't think anything resembling The Terminator (1984) is really going to happen. There certainly aren't going to be genocidal wars waged by machines a few generations from now. The stories function more on a symbolic level, and that's why people key into them.
[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.
There is this long, wonderful history of the human race written in blood. We have this tendency to just take what we want. And that's how we treat the natural world as well. There's this sense of we're here, we're big, we've got the guns, we've got the technology, therefore we're entitled to every damn thing on this planet. That's not how it works and we're going to find out the hard way if we don't kind of wise up and start seeking a life that's in balance with the natural life on Earth.
On Avatar (2009): My approach to 3-D is in a way quite conservative. We're making a two-and-a-half-hour-plus film and I don't want to assault the eye every five seconds. I want it to be comfortable. I want you to forget after a few minutes that you are really watching 3-D and just have it operate at a subliminal, subconscious level. That's the key to great 3-D and it makes the audience feel like real participants in what's going on.
I came to filmmaking in the early '80s, and it was a time of deep economic recession. It was a time when VHS home video was taking money from the theaters. The film industry was depressed. That's what I knew - a state of upheaval and change. It all sorted itself out. These things always sort themselves out. The fundamental question is: is cinema staying or is it going away? I think it shows no signs of going away. I feel quite confident you (Peter Jackson) and I are going to make the kinds of films we love 10 and 20 years from now.
If I did Titanic (1997) today, I'd do it very differently. There wouldn't be a 750-foot-long set. There would be small set pieces integrated into a large CGI set. I wouldn't have to wait seven days to get the perfect sunset for the kiss scene. We'd shoot it in front of a green screen, and we'd choose our sunset.
I see a very similar pattern, in a sense, between Titanic (1997) and Avatar (2009). Not that they are similar films because they are not - totally different subjects - but in both cases, you have people coming back over and over to see the film.
The key to a sequel is to meet audience expectation and yet be surprising.
[on Marc Webb's Spiderman reboot] I'd like to see him reinvent it in the same way Batman got reinvented very successfully. The last two Batman pictures (Batman Begins (2005) and The Dark Knight (2008)) - actually, they're the only two I can watch. I couldn't stand the other ones.
[On Piranha (2010)] It is exactly an example of what we should not be doing in 3D. Because it just cheapens the medium and reminds you of the bad 3D horror films from the 70s and 80s, like Friday the 13th Part III (1982). When movies got to the bottom of the barrel of their creativity and at the last gasp of their financial lifespan, they did a 3D version to get the last few drops of blood out of the turnip. And that's not what's happening now with 3D.
(On his childhood) I spent all my free time in the town library and I read an awful lot of science fiction and the line between reality and fantasy blurred. I was as interested in the reality of biology as I was in reading science fiction stories about genetic mutations and post-nuclear war environments and inter-stellar traveling, meeting alien races, and all that sort of thing. I read so voraciously. It was tonnage. I rode a school bus for an hour each way in high school because they put me in an academic program that could only be serviced by this high school much further away. So I had two hours a day on the bus and I tried to read a book a day. I averaged a book every other day, but if I got really interested in something it was propped up behind my math book or my science book all during the day in class.
(On his Childhood) My mother was definitely an influence in giving me a respect for art and the arts and especially the visual arts. I used to go with her to museums, and when I was learning to draw I would sketch things in the museum, whether it was an Etruscan helmet, or a mummy, or whatever. I was fascinated by all that. I was always fascinated by engineering. Maybe it was an attempt maybe to get my father's respect or interest, or maybe it was just a genetic love of technology, but I was always trying to build things. And sometimes being a builder can put you in a leadership position when you're a kid. "Hey, let's build a go-kart. You go get the wheels and you get this," and pretty soon you're at the center of a project.
I was always fascinated by engineering. Maybe it was an attempt maybe to get my father's respect or interest, or maybe it was just a genetic love of technology, but I was always trying to build things.
|Titanic (1997)||$115,000,000 ($600k for screenplay + $8m salary + backend participation)|
|Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)||$6,000,000|