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James Cameron Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (5) | Trade Mark (23) | Trivia (58) | Personal Quotes (89) | Salary (3)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 16 August 1954Kapuskasing, Ontario, Canada
Birth NameJames Francis Cameron
Nicknames Iron Jim
Jim
Height 6' 2" (1.88 m)

Mini Bio (1)

James Francis Cameron was born on August 16, 1954 in Kapuskasing, Ontario, Canada. He moved to the United States in 1971. The son of an engineer, he majored in physics at California State University but, after graduating, drove a truck to support his screenwriting 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), The Abyss (1989) and Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991). In 1990, Cameron formed his own production company, Lightstorm Entertainment. In 1997, he wrote and directed Titanic (1997), a romance epic about two young lovers from social classes who meet on board the famous ship. The movie went on to break all box office records and earned eleven Academy Awards. It became the highest grossing movie of all time. The rest is history. James 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. In 2000, he married actress Suzy Amis, who appeared in Titanic, and they have three children.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: André Hansson <andreh@hawkan.pp.se>

Spouse (5)

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 Mark (23)

Strong female characters
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 a cargo 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 first time exiting an elevator. The T-1000 is shot from outside the elevator and 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 a higher 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 a terrorist 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 Aliens and Avatar, 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.
Directs blockbusters which often have one-word titles, which are also the subjects of them: "(The) Terminator", "(The) Abyss", "Titanic", "Aliens" and "Avatar".
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.
Has a tendency to cast well-known actors based on their performances in lesser-known films. For example, Michelle Rodriguez in "Girlfight" and Billy Zane in "The Phantom".
Often includes the theme of humanity's arrogance and over-reliance of technology

Trivia (58)

According to Cameron, he got his big break while doing pick-up shots for Galaxy of Terror (1981) as second unit director. He was shooting scenes of a dismembered arm teeming with maggots (actually mealworms). In order to make them move, he hooked up an AC power cord to the arm, and an unseen assistant would plug it in when the film was rolling. Two producers were strolling through, and when Cameron yelled "Action!" the worms began to writhe on cue. When he yelled "Cut!" the worms stopped. The producers were so amazed at his directing prowess that they began talking with him about bigger projects.
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. [April 2001]
Has a stepson named Jasper, from Suzy Amis' marriage to Sam Robards.
Lost a copyright lawsuit brought by Harlan Ellison involving the movie The Terminator (1984). Newer prints of the film acknowledge Ellison.
Went to elementary school in Chippawa, Ontario.
First wife Sharon Williams got just $1,200 from Cameron in their divorce settlement.
The eldest of five children.
Security is provided by Gavin de Becker, author of "The Gift of Fear."
He and Suzy Amis are owners of Childspot!, an early childhood center in Wichita, Kansas which is operated by Suzy's sister, Rebecca Amis.
Wrote a screenplay for Spider-Man (2002), but was turned down by the studios, due to the fact that his version of Spider-Man was "too violent". Sam Raimi's version got the green light instead.
Married one of his producers and two of his actresses.
His practice of testing his directors of photography by darkening the film originated on Aliens (1986). Cameron wanted to use a particular type of film stock, but cinematographer Dick Bush ignored him and used a different type. The end result being that the footage shot ended up being unusably dark. After Bush was fired due to an unrelated incident and Adrian Biddle took over, Cameron found some of the film in a storage cupboard and had the camera operators use it instead of the film Biddle had told them to use. Biddle noticed what was going on after the first take, and compensated with extra lighting, hoping to hide his "mistake" from Cameron, who owned up at the end of the day. Cameron later did the same to Mikael Salomon on The Abyss (1989) and to Russell Carpenter on True Lies (1994).
Is a huge Japanese anime fan, and the releasing studios often uses his opinion about the film on the DVD and VHS covers.
On the 14 March 2004 episode of Inside the Actors Studio (1994), Kate Winslet claimed her nude portrait for Leonardo DiCaprio in the film Titanic (1997) was drawn by Cameron. She also said the artist's hand shown in a close-up was Cameron's.
The mandibles of the Predator from Predator (1987) were his idea.
One of only two people to have both written and directed an Alien movie. The other is Paul W.S. Anderson.
Co-created the newly high-definition video system with cinematographer Vince Pace that was recently used to film Ghosts of the Abyss (2003).
A magazine article written about him in the 1980s described how he had three desks set up in his house. At one desk, he was writing the script to The Terminator (1984), on another, he was finishing the script to Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985) and on the third, he was writing Aliens (1986).
When he wrote an early script treatment for Spider-Man (2002), he had the idea of organic web-shooters. This was later included in Sam Raimi's film.
Has developed a new generation stereo imaging camera called "The Fusion Camera".
The titles of his two current theatrical documentaries contain the titles of two of his previous films; the title of his documentary Ghosts of the Abyss (2003) contains the title of his previous film The Abyss (1989), and the title of his other documentary Aliens of the Deep (2005) contains the title of another one of his previous films, Aliens (1986).
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 a daughter, Elizabeth Rose, with Suzy Amis (born 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 on Canada's Walk of Fame in 2008. Says he's too cheap to pay for a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Has a daughter, Josephine Archer Cameron, with Linda Hamilton (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)). Cameron is now tied for the billion-dollar film record with Christopher Nolan and Peter Jackson. Nolan's The Dark Knight (2008) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012) finished their runs with over $1 billion in overall grosses. Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey also finished their runs with over $1 billion in overall grosses.
Four of his films have made it to the IMDb top 250 list: The Terminator (1984), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), Aliens (1986) and Avatar (2009).
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.
(May 10, 2010) Merited a place in Time magazine's - The 100 Most Influential People in the World ("Artists" category) - with an homage penned by Sigourney Weaver.
Was an avid reader of Arthur C. Clarke, 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)).
Directed three of the American Film Institute's 100 Most Heart Pounding Movies: Titanic (1997) at #25, The Terminator (1984) at #42 and Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) at #77. Aliens (1986) was also nominated but didn't make the list.
Insists that any actor in his films must audition for him, even major stars.
Cameron reached the bottom of the Mariana Trench on 25 March 2012, becoming the first person to do so in a one-man craft. The Mariana Trench is the deepest known point on Earth, at 11 km (6.8 miles) below the ocean surface. The vehicle in which he achieved this feat is the Deepsea Challenger (DCV 1), designed built in Sydney, Australia by research and design company Acheron Project Pty Ltd. Cameron is the first person to spend significant time at that depth, having explored the area for three hours after arrival.
Is vegan.
Since 1984, all of his films' titles have begin with either the letters 'T' or 'A'. Or, in the case of 'The Abyss', both (depending on whether you want to classify the film as "The Abyss" or "Abyss, The").
Received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6712 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California on December 18, 2009.
Despite his reputation for working constantly and for very long hours, he stopped drinking caffeinated coffee after he made Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) and only drinks decaf now.
Is very close friends with Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Has frequently worked with the cast of the Star Trek films. Paul Winfield appeared in The Terminator (1984) and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982). Jenette Goldstein, who appeared in 'Aliens (1986)Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), and Titanic (1997), also appears briefly in Star Trek: Generations (1994). Goldstein's Aliens (1986) character was also the inspiration for Tasha Yar (Denise Crosby), and she was the original choice for the role. Edward Furlong appeared in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) and 'Star Trek: Renegade (2014)(TV)'. Zoe Saldana appeared in Star Trek (2009), Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) and Avatar (2009). David Warner appeared in Titanic (1997), Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989), and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991). In addition, Thomas Dekker appeared in Star Trek: Generations (1994) and 'The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2007)(TV)' as John Connor, while the character's father, Kyle Reese, was played in Terminator Salvation (2009) by Anton Yelchin. Bryce Dallas Howard, who also appeared in Terminator Salvation (2009), is the niece of Clint Howard, who appeared on an early episode of the original series. Bill Paxton's Aliens character, Hudson, inspired the Sam Rockwell character in the Star Trek spoof, Galaxy Quest (1999).

Personal Quotes (89)

People call me a perfectionist, but I'm not. I'm a rightist. I do something until it's right, and then I move on to the next thing.
...you can read all the books about filmmaking, 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.
Well, I see our potential destruction and the potential salvation as human beings coming from technology and how we use it, how we master it and how we prevent it from mastering us. Titanic was as much about that theme as the Terminator films, and in Aliens, it's the reliance on technology that defeats the marines, but it's technology being used properly that allows Sigourney's character to prevail at the end. And Titanic is all about technology, metaphorically as well as on a literal level, because the world was being transformed by the technology at that time. And people were rescued from the Titanic because of wireless technology, and because of the advances that had been made only in the year or so before the ship sank that allowed them to call for help when they were lost at sea in the middle of the North Atlantic. So I think it's an interesting theme, one that's always been fascinating for me...
A director's job is to make something happen and it doesn't happen by itself. So you wheedle, you cajole, you flatter people, you tell them what needs to be done. And if you don't bring a passion and an intensity to it, you shouldn't be doing it.
[on using newly developed 3D cameras, and traditional film] "If I never touch film again, I'd be happy. Filmmaking is not about film, not about sprockets. It's about ideas, it's about images, it's about imagination, it's about storytelling. If I had the cameras I'm using now when I was shooting Titanic (1997), I would have shot it using them."
As much as I love Star Wars (1977) and as much as it's really revolutionized the imaging business, it went off the rails in the sense that science fiction, historically, was a science fiction of ideas. It was thematic fiction. It stopped being that and became just pure eye candy and pure entertainment. And I miss that. With Battle Angel (2017) I'm going to flirt with that darker, dystopian message as much as I can, without making it an art film.
[on the future of 3D] "With digital 3D projection, we will be entering a new age of cinema. Audiences will be seeing something which was never technically possible before the age of digital cinema - a stunning visual experience which 'turbocharges' the viewing of the biggest, must-see movies. The biggest action, visual effects and fantasy movies will soon be shot in 3D. And all-CG animated films can easily be converted to 3D, without additional cost if it is done as they are made. Soon audiences will associate 3D with the highest level of visual content in the market, and seek out that premium experience."
[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: Judgment Day (1991)] "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 The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)] 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 making Aliens (1986) at Pinewood Studios in England] The Pinewood crew were lazy, insolent and arrogant. We despised them and they despised us. The one thing that kept me going was the certain knowledge that I would drive out of the gate of Pinewood and never come back.
I can't think of anything that I see on a screen these days without thinking how much better it'd look in 3-D! If I see a movie I really like...Like, I'm watching King Kong (2005) I think, "Man! That'd be great in 3-D!" Everything's better in 3-D! Everything! A scene in the snow with two people talking...in 3-D...It's amazing! You're in the snow! You feel the snow.
Guillermo del Toro is one of my best friends and we've never really worked together. I mean, we always feel like we're working together because he gets all involved in my stuff, I get all involved with his stuff, but not in an official capacity.
[on Planet of the Apes (2001)] They turned out, I think, possibly the most egregious film that they could have on that subject because they miscast the director. It's the only Tim Burton film that I don't like.
Ridley Scott and I talked about doing another Alien (1979) film and I said to 20th Century Fox that I would develop a fifth Alien (1979) film. I started working on a story, I was working with another writer and Fox came back to me and said, "We've got this really good script for AVP: Alien vs. Predator (2004) and I got pretty upset. I said, "You do that, you're going to kill the validity of the franchise in my mind. Because to me, that was Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943). It was Universal just taking their assets and starting to play them off against each other. Milking it. So, I stopped work. Then I saw AVP: Alien vs. Predator (2004) and it was actually pretty good. (laughs) I think of the five Alien films, I'd rate it third.
[on Piranha 3D (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.
We did The Terminator (1984) for the cost of Arnold's motor home on the second one.
[on CGI technology] How about another Dirty Harry movie where Clint Eastwood looks the way he looked in 1975? Or a James Bond movie where Sean Connery looks the way he did in Dr. No (1962)? How cool would that be? There's no way to scan what's underneath the surface to what the actor is feeling. If Tom Cruise left instructions for his estate that it was okay to use his likeness in Mission Impossible movies for the next 500 years, I would say that would be fine. You could put Marilyn Monroe and Humphrey Bogart in a movie together, but it wouldn't be them. You'd have to have somebody play them. And that's where I think you cross an ethical boundary.
[on his plan in 2012 to solo dive 6.8 miles (11 kilometers) into the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean, the deepest spot on the planet] When you're making a movie, everybody's read the script and they know what's going to happen next. When you're on an expedition, nature hasn't read the script, the ocean hasn't read the script, and no one knows what's going to happen next.
[his advice to young directors] The respect of your team is more important than all the laurels in the world. Don't put limitations on yourself, other people will do that for you. Don't do it to yourself, don't bet against yourself and take risks. NASA has this phrase that they like "failure is not an option," but failure HAS to be an option, in art and in exploration. Because it's a leap of faith. And no important endeavor that required innovation was done without risk. You have to be willing to take those risks. In whatever you're doing, failure is an option, but fear is not.
Curiosity - it's the most powerful thing you own. Imagination is a force that can actually manifest a reality.
[on where the creatures in Aliens (1986) came from] I have Ripley specifically telling a member of the inquiry board, "I already told you, it was not indigenous, it was a derelict spacecraft, an alien ship, it was not from there." That seems clear enough. Don't ask me where it was from... there are some things man was not meant to know. Presumably, the derelict pilot (space jockey, big dental patient, etc.) became infected en route to somewhere and set down on the barren planetoid to isolate the dangerous creatures, setting up the warning beacon as his last act. What happened to the creature that emerged from him? Ask Ridley Scott. As to the purpose of the Alien... I think that's clear. They're just trying to make a living, same as us. It's not their fault that they happen to be disgusting parasitical predators, any more than a black widow spider or a cobra can be blamed for its biological nature.
[on the possible origins of the Space Jockey (or the dental patient as he calls it) in Alien (1979) an idea explored in Prometheus (2012)] Clearly, the dental patient was a sole crew member on a one-man ship. Perhaps his homeworld did know of his demise, but felt it was pointless to rescue a doomed person. Perhaps he was a volunteer or a draftee on the hazardous mission of bio-isolating these organisms. Perhaps he was a military pilot, delivering the alien eggs as a bio-weapon in some ancient interstellar war humans know nothing of, and got infected inadvertently.
[on Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator: Genisys (2015)] I was talking to him back in fall about a new Terminator film and quietly advising on that. I was trying to be as encouraging as possible. Frankly, at that time, I thought it needed to be more about him. I told him he should not do it until it's focused on his character. I think there are some great stories that can be told about that character that haven't even been thought of yet.
I think from the standpoint of the Hollywood mainstream, they got up one morning and opened the trades and went, 'What the hell is this movie that's number one this weekend?' And, by the way, it was number one the next weekend and the weekend after that. It dominated the Thanksgiving weekend against a couple of big pictures, like Dune (1984), for example, and 2010 (1984), which were big studio pictures. Actually, 2010 was a big studio picture and Dune was a high-end independent film. But these were mega-buck movies and Terminator just steam rolled over them. And it had been done by these nonentities.
[what he thought of Terminator 3] In one word, great.
[why he will never return to the Terminator franchise] The series has kind of run its course, and frankly, the soup's already been pissed in by other filmmakers.
I'm still very committed about raising awareness about the dangers of climate change at a time when there is all the denial and disinformation machinery designed to confuse people and create doubt - on an issue about which there is no doubt in the scientific community. We are facing the biggest challenge the human species has ever faced. And we're all going to have to work together to solve it.
I do think Hollywood movies get it wrong when they show women in action roles - they basically make them men. Or else they make them into superheroes in shiny black suits, which is just not as interesting.
To me, [writing roles for strong women] is just another challenge. It doesn't matter to me if it's an engineering challenge, a scientific challenge, a writing challenge - for a man to write a woman and make her interesting to women as well as men, it's a challenge. Maybe it's just a quest to understand women who are sometimes inscrutable
I didn't want to raise [my children] in that poisonous atmosphere. There's a climate of materialism in Los Angeles. We're all vegan, we grow our own organic food at our ranch in California, and we'll continue to do that in New Zealand. You want your kids to grow up with a certain set of values.
I'm a huge movie fan. I love watching films. I love watching films with the family, with the kids; I love watching films myself. I was out there opening night [for] Prometheus (2012). I didn't go to the Thursday midnight screening, but I was there Friday. I like to still get excited about movies and whether they pay off or not, that's not the point.
I enjoyed Prometheus (2012); I thought it was great. I thought it was Ridley returning to science fiction with gusto, with great tactical performance, beautiful photography, great native 3D. There might have been a few things that I would have done differently, but that's not the point, you could say that about any movie.
I'd be hard-pressed to imagine creating a vehicle for an actor that I like. For me, the movie comes first and if the actor fits, they fit. And I'll think pretty far out of the box about what "fitting" means, even contemplate re-working a character to fit an actor I really admire. But, I can't imagine writing a vehicle for an actor. That's just not my process. There are a lot of young actors -- always new actors coming up who are good -- I'm not going to name any names, but I certainly keep my eye out.
Prometheus (2012) is a film I saw twice, and I thought about it ahead of time. The first time I would just enjoy it, go for the ride, not be too analytical and the second time I would allow myself to be a little more analytical about, you know, where the lights were and how they lit the shots with all the people in the helmets, how they probably had to do CG faceplates like we did on Avatar (2009), things like that.
I don't have a TV. I took it out of the house. I was watching too much TV, so I took it out.
(On Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park (1993)) I tried to buy the book rights and he beat me to it by a few hours. But when I saw the film, I realised that I was not the right person to make the film, he was. Because he made a dinosaur movie for kids, and mine would have been Aliens (1986) with dinosaurs, and that wouldn't have been fair. Dinosaurs are for 8-year-olds. We can all enjoy it, too, but kids get dinosaurs and they should not have been excluded for that. His sensibility was right for that film, I'd have gone further, nastier, much nastier.
[on veganism] It's not a requirement to eat animals, we just choose to do it. So it becomes a moral choice and one that is having a huge impact on the planet, using up resources and destroying the biosphere.
[on Avatar 2 (2016)] Sequels are always tricky: you have to be surprising and stay ahead of audience anticipation. At the same time, you have to massage their feet with things that they know and love about the first film. I've walked that line in the past.
There's an aspect of movie-making that rewards bad behavior. You're working with a team of people and you tell them what you want and a few weeks later they've forgotten everything. So you scream at them and somehow they remember. Not my actors, though - I've always been very circumspect with them.
[on being sued for plagiarism] It is a sad reality of our business that whenever there is a successful film, people come out of the woodwork claiming that their ideas were used. Avatar (2009) was my most personal film, drawing upon themes and concepts that I had been exploring for decades.
[to Arnold Schwarzenegger when they first met] You are the Terminator.
The Terminator is neither good nor evil.
Every time I start a film, I have a fantasy that it will be like a big family, and we'll have a good time, and we'll have all of these wonderful, creative moments together. But that's not what filmmaking is; it's a battle.
[on Gravity (2013)] I was stunned, absolutely floored. I think it's the best space photography ever done, I think it's the best space film ever done, and it's the movie I've been hungry to see for an awful long time... What is interesting is the human dimension. Alfonso [Alfonso Cuarón] and Sandra [Sandra Bullock] working together to create an absolutely seamless portrayal of a woman fighting for her life in zero gravity.
[on Prometheus (2012)] I thought it was thought-provoking and beautifully, visually-mounted, but at the end of the day it didn't add up logically. But I enjoyed it, and I'm glad it was made. I liked it better than the previous two Alien sequels. And it was done in native 3D and I'm a big fan of Native 3D done by directors who embrace it as an art form, like [Ridley Scott], [Martin Scorsese}, Ang Lee.
[on working with Arnold Schwarzenegger on True Lies 2] We abandoned True Lies 2 after 9/11, because we didn't think a comedy about fundamentalist terrorists was so funny anymore. And then we never picked it up again.
I've never had nightmares about Terminators after I made the film. I had nightmares that inspired the film. But I always feel that making the film is the catharsis that stops the nightmares, if you will. For example, I used to always have nightmares about giant waves, tsunamis essentially. And when I made The Abyss (1989), which had a giant wave scene in it, those stopped.
[on Aliens (1986)] I think I was following in the footsteps of the first film Alien (1979), which was the classic Agatha Christie's 'Ten Little Indians' (1965) model where you start out with X number of beloved characters, and have one that prevails. In Aliens (1986), three characters prevail at the end. So I would say Aliens (1986) is more about family bonds, even though it's a pseudo-family in the film, and cooperation against an enemy. So it doesn't exactly follow the slasher model.
I think that there was a moment of magic, pure magic, of coming together with the lens, when we shot the kiss at the bow of the ship during Titanic (1997). The way the sun set, we were all inspired to run to get the shot and we had seconds to do it. There was no rehearsal, we didn't have time, but the actors did beautifully. We did two takes, one that was out of focus and one that was half out of focus, and the one that was used was the one that was half out of focus. And it was beautiful.
[on Neil deGrasse Tyson pointing out that the sky in his movie Titanic (1997) was wrong] I wasn't particularly embarrassed because I think that's an unbelievably specific nitpick and if that caused him to not enjoy the film, he may need to re-evaluate his priorities. That said, because I'm such a perfectionist, I challenged him to provide me with the correct star fields and incorporated them into the future re-releases of the film. So, if you watch the film now, the stars are correct.
[on Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)] I did think that this new Captain America was an interesting film for its genre, in that it tackled this idea of digital surveillance and the kind of dark side of our hyper-connected society.
I can point directly to the film that had the biggest early influence on me, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Even though it's not necessarily my favorite film right now, it has a very special place for me developmentally, because when I saw it, I went from someone who enjoyed watching movies to wanting to make movies myself. So I started to experiment with creating that imagery.
48 fps to me is not a format, it's a tool, like music it's good to use sparingly and in the right spot. I believe all movies should be made in 3D, forever, but the projection needs to be better, and brighter. I want people to see in the movie theaters what I am seeing in my perfectly-calibrated screening room, and people aren't seeing that. Larger formats. I'd love to see screens get bigger. In terms of storytelling, I'd like to see Hollywood embrace the caliber of writing in feature films that we're currently seeing in the series on television - more emphasis on character, and less on explosions and pyrotechnics. And I'm talking the big tent-pole movies, I think they're obnoxiously loud and fast.
[on possible future contact with aliens] The history on our planet is whenever a superior technology society encounters a society with lesser technology, the superior technology supplants the lesser society. There has never been an exception. So if the aliens come to us, it probably won't go well for us. A thousand years from now, if we're the ones going to where the aliens are, like the story told in Avatar (2009), it won't go so well for the aliens.
[on Terminator: Genisys (2015)] I pay attention to it but I'm not terribly concerned about it one way or the other. I've had to let it go. There was a point in time where I debated going after the rights... I just felt as a filmmaker maybe I've gone beyond it. I really wasn't that interested. I felt like I'd told the story I wanted to tell. I suppose I could have pursued it more aggressively and gone to the mat for it but I felt like I was laboring in someone else's house in a sense because I had sold the rights very early on.
[When asked if there was a book that influenced or inspired him in some way] I remember it more by authors. Arthur Clark and A.E. Van Vogt, all of the mainstream old guard of science fiction at that time. In the latter years of high school I got into the newer guys of that time, Harlan Ellison, Larry Niven, people like that. It was a steady diet of science fiction.

Salary (3)

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) $6,000,000
Titanic (1997) $115,000,000 ($600k for screenplay + $8m salary + backend participation)
Avatar (2009) $350,000,000

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