His name is James, James Cameron, the bravest pioneer. No budget too steep, no sea too deep
Who’s that? It’s him, James Cameron, and he dropped by Reddit earlier today to support the nine-part documentary series he executive produced for Showtime, Years of Living Dangerously, and answer fan questions about Avatar, ANHULD, and Skynet.
And now that you’ve got the song from South Park stuck in your head, here are some highlights.
Favorite guilty pleasure movie to watch.
Oh, probably Resident Evil, the first one. I just like that film! You don’t have to defend a guilty pleasure.
What is your response when an actor like Sir Ian McKellen says, “this is not why I became an actor” in reaction to acting in front of a green screen without any other actors?
Well, different actors have a different tolerance for green screen work. usually theater trained actors have the confidence to work alone, or work in the absence of props and scenery and so on, because they are used to sort of black box theater and/or one person shows, and they know that part of an actor’s power and the magic is their ability to create when nothing’s there. Other actors simply just don’t like it. So it’s always good, if you’re making a green screen heavy film, to talk to the actors before you cast them about that issue. Because you don’t want to have to be buying someone’s talent, certainly actors are well-paid, but you also want them to want to be doing that.
From what I heard, George Lucas sent you this drawing when Titanic became the highest grossing film of all time. Do you still have it?
Yes– George took out a full page color ad in one of the trades, Variety or Hollywood Reporter, I can’t remember which, and it was an extremely gracious gesture. I sent him a thank you note after.
Did you enjoy your time on Entourage? Any thoughts of making an actual Aquaman movie?
Haha! Entourage, for me, consisted of half a day’s work, during which they filmed segments for five different episodes. So it looked like I was on that show a lot more than I was. It might have been a full day’s work, come to think of it.
Did you laugh at South Park‘s depiction of you?
It’s funny. It’s like they were actually on the expedition, except I didn’t actually make the crew sing a song about me.
How did it feel when Neil DeGrasse Tyson pointed out that your sky in Titanic 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 reevaluate 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 rereleases of the film. So, if you watch the film now, the stars are correct.
I’ve been wondering where the idea to ALWAYS have a character yell “Go, go go!” in your movies came from. Did it start as a conscious thing or did you notice it later and just continue on?
Oh, it must just be the way I talk! In fact i just wrote a scene yesterday where a character says “Go Go Go!” The page is open on my computer right now.
First of all, people do that in the military. The reason for it, especially over radio comm, is that people can inadvertently stop a transmission, so if something is really important, you say it three times. Which is why when I do my deep dives, I would always say “Release, release, release” so there was no doubt in case the communications got stepped on by another transmission or interference. I’m going to go change that scene now. Nobody wants to be predictable.
Are there any timelines where Skynet wins?
If yes. How is this achieved?
Well, if one believes in a multiverse of an infinite number of parallel universes, or even a large number of them, then there have to be a few where Skynet wins. But you know, I don’t know how it’s done exactly. And if I did I wouldn’t say.
How did you feel about what Prometheus contributes to the Alien story ark? And which is your favorite movie?
Interesting. I thought it was an interesting film. 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.
I just had a quick question for you- what do you feel is going to be the next innovation in film? Do you have any thoughts on the Oculus Rift and it’s use in film making? Thanks!
I personally would be very interested to find a way to incorporate VR and a narrative filmmaking experience. So a narrative directed experience that has individuated pathways where you have choices that you make in real-time, I think that would be a lot of fun. I think it would be very technically daunting and expensive, to do it as the same quality level as a typical feature, but it would be fun to experiment with. It sounds like a lot of fun. I don’t think it would take over the feature film market though. I’m very familiar with VR, but I haven’t seen the specific Oculus Rift device. I’m interested in it, I’m meant to see it sometime in the next month or so, but I’ve been familiar with VR since its inception. In fact, virtual reality is a way of describing the way we work on Avatar, we work in a virtual workspace all day long. We use a “virtual camera” which is how I create all the CG shots in the film, a window into a virtual reality that completely surrounds me.
Do you still have nightmares about terminators?
No, 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, which had a giant wave scene in it, those stopped. Filmmaking is therapy.
Do you still talk to dicaprio? It seems to me that you catapulted his career to where it is today
I think Leonardo, when I cast him in Titanic, he was well on his way. I think I helped him skip a rung or two on the ladder maybe, but he certainly would have gotten there on his own because he’s one of the most talented actors of his generation. Do I still talk to him? Yes, occasionally. We’re friendly but we’re not close friends.
When will you make a 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.
What is your favorite song to sing in the shower?
Depends on my mood. If I’m feeling aggressive, it’s Ride of the Valkyries, though it might just as easily be a Bruce Springsteen song.
Not ‘My Heart will go on’?
No, I can’t hit those high notes like Celine.
Mr. Cameron: A Na’vi, the Alien Queen and the T-800 Terminator get in a fight. Who wins?
Is the T-800 armed or not armed?
An Armed T-800 with a plasma rifle will clean house, all it has to do is shoot the Alien Queen, and have it bleed on the Na’vi. I would think that all three of them unarmed. Queen beats Na’vi. Queen beats T-800, because the T-800 would tear the arm off a queen, which would dissolve the mantel and shut down the cyborg.
Now a Na’vi riding a leonopteryx, or a Na’vi riding a thanataur, that would be a different story.
Most memorable moment on set, ever?
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. 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.
Mr. Cameron, would you like to collaborate with Arnold Schwarzenegger again?
I think he still gets to be called Governor? I think he’s still officially addressed as Governor? Well Arnold and I are good friends, and we look for opportunities to work together and to support each other’s causes, and I think that’s one of the reasons he got involved in Years of Living Dangerously. Because one, I asked him, and two, as a leader, he made huge strides in clean energy himself, so he’s a believer.
What did you honestly think of T3, T4, sarah connor chronicles, and all the other non Cameron terminator works? Thanks Also, does it scare you that Arnold has a tank now?
Well, I have to be objective, or as objective as possible about that. I’m not big fans of the films, I think that the big ideas of the first movies – I didn’t make the second film until I had an idea as big as the first film, and it had to do with the moral complexity of the story, and asking the audience by the end of the film to cry for a Terminator. I don’t think that the 3rd or 4th film lived up to that potential. Sarah Connor Chronicles I never really watched much of it, so I never gave it a chance I get to get hooked, like you have to with a TV series. I’m hopeful that the new films, which are being made right now as a reboot, but still involving Arnold, will be good. From what I’ve seen from afar, it looks like they will be quite good.
You gotta remember, for Arnold, a tank is a recreational vehicle, I wouldn’t read too much into it. He just wants the biggest thing he can get to drive. He was the first boy on his block to have a Humvee.
When his War of the Worlds came out, Steven Spielberg stated that his own personal view was still that aliens would more likely resemble the benevolent ones of Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. Do you think humanity’s first contact with aliens would be closer to Aliens or The Abyss?
I believe that human history and the history of evolution on this planet indicates that our first contact with alien species might not be as benign as Steven thinks. 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) it won’t go so well for the aliens.
how do you explain this?
Mythbusters did an episode about this and proved that two people could have floated on the door in such a way that both could have survived, but it involved using both of their floatation vests rigged under the door in such a way that they wouldn’t detach. What they neglected to incorporate was the amount of time that they would have had to spend submerged in 28 degree water to attach them that way. Also, Jack is a 19 year old guy processing a problem in real time, in water, at night, and already hypothermic, so that’s a lot to ask of him.