Avatar, directed by James Cameron, starring Sam Worthington and Sigourney Weaver. Avatar Movie, 2009

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James Cameron

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James Cameron - Avatar - The New James Cameron Film Starring Sam Worthington and Sigourney Weaver

James Francis Cameron (born August 16, 1954) is a hugely successful three-time Academy Award winning director noted for his action/science fiction films, which are often extremely successful financially. Thematically, James Cameron's films generally explore the relationship between man and technology. Cameron directed the film Titanic, which went on to become the top-grossing film of all time, with a worldwide gross of over US$1.8 billion, as well as creator of The Terminator franchise.

In The News:

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James Cameron was born in Kapuskasing, Ontario, Canada, to Phillip, an electrical engineer, and Shirley Cameron, an artist. He grew up in Chippawa, Ontario, and in 1971 his family moved to Brea, California. There he studied physics at Cal State-Fullerton, but his passion for filmmaking would draw him to the film archive of UCLA at every opportunity.

Early Career
He started in the film industry as a screenwriter, then moved into art direction and effects for films such as Battle Beyond the Stars and Escape from New York. Working with producer Roger Corman, Cameron landed his first directorial job in 1981 for the film Piranha II: The Spawning, shot at Grand Cayman Island for the underwater diving sequences, and in Rome, Italy for most of the interior scenes. He was originally hired as the special effects director (and his hand in story-writing can be suspected under the H. A. Milton pseudonym on the original script), and took over the direction when the original director left.

Major Films

The Terminator

During his stay in Rome, he had a nightmare about a machine emerging from the fire, which had been sent from the future to kill him. While recovering, Cameron conceived the idea for The Terminator. He finally completed a screenplay, and 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 first-time director make the movie. Finally, Cameron found a company called Hemdale Pictures, which was willing to let him direct. His soon-to-be-then-wife, 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 producer, and Cameron finally got his first break as director. Orion Pictures would distribute the film.

Initially, for the role of the Terminator, Cameron wanted someone who wasn't exceptionally muscular, and who could fit into a normal crowd. Lance Henriksen, who had starred in Piranha II: The Spawning, was considered for the titular role, but when Arnold Schwarzenegger auditioned for the role, Cameron decided that he should play the cyborg villain; Henriksen got the smaller part of LAPD detective Hal Vukovich. 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 only last a week in theaters. The film was low-budget ($6.5 million), but it earned over $38 million domestically.

Rambo: First Blood Part II
During the early 1980s, Cameron wrote three screenplays simultaneously: The Terminator, Aliens, and the first draft of Rambo: First Blood Part II. While Cameron would continue with The Terminator and with 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 version.

Cameron next began the sequel to Alien, the 1979 film by Ridley Scott. Cameron would name the sequel, Aliens, and would again cast Sigourney Weaver, in the iconic role of Ellen Ripley (the sole survivor from the first film). Aliens became a box office success, and Sigourney Weaver received a nomination for Best Actress during the 1986 Academy Awards. Following the phenomenal hit of the film, Cameron now had more freedom to make whatever project he wanted.

The Abyss
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 and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. Made on a budget of about $41 million U.S., it was considered to be one of the most expensive films of its time, and required cutting-edge effects technology. Because much of the film takes 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. For creation of the sets, an unfinished nuclear power plant was converted, and two huge tanks were utilized. The main tank was filled with 7.5 million gallons of water, and the second 2.5 million gallons. There, the cast and crew would reside for much of the shooting.

The Abyss opened on August 9, 1989 and held the number-one slot at the box office for two weeks. It ultimately earned $85.2 million domestically, $46 million in foreign markets and a mostly lukewarm response from critics. Cameron would later release a special edition version of the film in spring of 1993, restoring deleted scenes, including the film's climax as it had been originally conceived. The film was nominated for four Academy Awards; Best Visual Effects, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, and Best Sound. It won for Best Visual Effects. After the release of The Abyss, Cameron founded his own production company called Lightstorm Entertainment, which produced all of his subsequent films.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day
After the success of The Terminator, there had always been talks 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 mid-1990, 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, Arnold Schwarzenegger also returned in his role as The Terminator, called the Cyberdyne Systems Model 101, but this time as a protector. Unlike the Model 101, who is made of a metal endoskeleton, the new villain of the sequel, called the T-1000, was a more advanced Terminator made of liquid metal, and with polymorphic abilities. The T-1000 would also be much less bulky than the Model 101. For the role, Cameron cast Robert Patrick, who was 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 unfortunately the special effects at the time were not advanced enough. The ground-breaking effects used in The Abyss to digitally realize the water tentacle convinced Cameron that his liquid metal villain was now possible.

TriStar Pictures would distribute the film under a locked release date that was only about half a year away from when shooting would begin. The movie, which was 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 domestically, and over $300 million overseas, and became the highest-grossing film of that year. It won four Academy Awards: Best Makeup, Best Sound, Best Sound Effects, and Best Visual Effects.

True Lies
Before the release of T2, Schwarzenegger came to Cameron with the idea of making a remake of the French comedy titled La Totale. Titled True Lies, with filming begun 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 would be cast as the secret spy, named Harry Tasker, whose mission in the movie is to investigate and stop a plan by Arab terrorists to use nuclear weapons against the United States. Jamie Lee Curtis would play Schwarzenegger's onscreen wife, with Tom Arnold cast as the secret agent's sidekick.

Cameron's Lightstorm Entertainment signed on with Twentieth Century Fox for 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.

Cameron expressed interest in the famous sinking of the ship Titanic. He 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 onboard the ship's maiden, and final, voyage. Before production began, he took dives to the bottom of the Atlantic and shot actual footage of the ship underwater, which he would insert into the final film.

For the film Titanic, Cameron cast Leonardo di Caprio, Kate Winslet, and Billy Zane. Cameron's budget for the film reached about $200 million, becoming the most expensive movie ever made. Before its release, the film was widely ridiculed for its expense and protracted production schedule.

Released to theaters on December 19, 1997, Titanic opened with $28 million on its first weekend. The film's grosses escalated in the next several weeks. Titanic was one of very few modern movies to gross more in its second weekend than its first. Its gross increased from $28.6 million to $35.4 million from week 1 to week 2, an increase of 23.8%, unheard-of for a wide release, and a testament to the appeal of the movie. 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 #1 spot on the box-office charts for months, eventually grossing a total of over $600 million domestically and more than $1.2 billion outside North America. Titanic became the highest grossing film of all time. (Adjusting for inflation, the film brought in the fifth-highest domestic (U.S. only) gross of all time.) The CG visuals surrounding the sinking and destruction of the ship were considered spectacular. During the 1998 Academy Awards, the film won a record-tying 11 Oscars. Among them were Best Picture and Best Director.

Dark Angel
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. Disputes arose focusing on Golan's role in the Carolco project. A screenplay dating back to 1989 exists with Cameron's name appended to it, indicating he worked with a series of writers on the project (John Brancato, Barry [sic: Barney] Cohen, Joseph Goldmari [sic: "Joseph Goldman" is Menahem Golan's pen name) and Ted Newsom), but the script was identical to one presented to Columbia Pictures by Golan in 1988, where the project had been in development. Subsequently, Cameron presented a 45-page Spider-Man screen story to Carolco, which bore substantive similarities to a number of earlier screenplay drafts, particularly one written by Ethan Wiley (writer of the film House and writer/director of House 2). When Carolco went into bankruptcy, the "Cameron material" (i.e., both the multi-author screenplay and the later treatment credited solely to Cameron) was acquired by MGM. MGM in turn sold them to Columbia Pictures in exchange for Columbia dropping their plans to do an alternative James Bond series based on the Kevin McClory Bond material. 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 it was heavily rewritten by Koepp himself, Scott Rosenberg, Alvin Sargent (husband of producer Laura Ziskin), and (allegedly) Ivan Raimi, brother of director Sam Raimi. Columbia preferred to credit David Koepp solely, and none of the various scripts were ever examined by the Writers Guild of America to determine proper credits. Cameron objected, as did a number of the other writers, but Columbia and the WGA prevailed. The Columbia screenplay was credited solely to Koepp.

Cameron instead moved on to television, and created the story of a new superheroine, which was influenced by cyberpunk, current superhero genres, and third-wave feminism:

After the Sarah Connors and Ellen Ripleys of the eighties, the nineties weren't so kind to the superwoman format — Xena Warrior Princess excepted. But it's a new millennium now, and while Charlie's Angels and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon are kicking up a storm on movie screens, it's been down to James Cameron to bring empowered female warriors back to television screens. And tellingly, Cameron has done it by mixing the sober feminism of his Terminator and Aliens characters with the sexed-up Girl Power of a Britney Spears concert. The result is Dark Angel.
Co-produced with Charles H. Eglee, Dark Angel starred Jessica Alba as Max Guevera/X5-452, a genetically enhanced transgenic super-soldier created by the super-secretive MANTICORE organization. It also starred Michael Weatherly as Logan Cale, and noted actor John Savage (of The Deer Hunter) as Colonel Donald Michael Lydecker. 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.

Cameron received the Bradbury Award from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America in 1991 — but, being primarily thought of as a genre filmmaker, he did not receive any major mainstream filmmaking awards prior to Titanic. With Titanic, Cameron received the Academy Awards for Best Editing (shared with Conrad Buff IV and Richard A. Harris), Best Picture (shared with John Landau), and Best Director.

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 received his degree in person at the graduation ceremony in July, 2004.

Recurring cast members
Cameron often casts certain actors more than once in his films. Cameron has mostly worked with Bill Paxton in The Terminator, Aliens, True Lies, Titanic as Brock Lovett and as himself in Ghosts of the Abyss. Michael Biehn was also in The Terminator, Aliens, The Abyss and a deleted scene from Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Lance Henriksen appeared in Piranha II: The Spawning, The Terminator, Aliens as Bishop and recently narrated Expedition: Bismarck.

Also, Jenette Goldstein appeared in Aliens, Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Titanic. In addition to starring in the Terminator films, Arnold Schwarzenegger also starred in True Lies. In February 2007 Sigourney Weaver was cast for Cameron's upcoming film Avatar after having worked with him on Aliens as lead actor.


TBA The Dive
TBA Battle Angel - Sci-Fi / 3-D
2009 (tentative) Avatar - Sci-Fi / 3-D
2005 Aliens of the Deep - Documentary / 3-D
2003 Ghosts of the Abyss - Documentary / 3-D
2002 Expedition: Bismarck - Documentary
2000–2002 Dark Angel - Television drama
1997 Titanic - Disaster / Drama / Romance
1994 True Lies - Action
1991 Terminator 2: Judgment Day - Sci-Fi / Action
1989 The Abyss - Sci-Fi
1986 Aliens - Sci-Fi / Action
1984 The Terminator - Sci-Fi / Action
1981 Piranha II: The Spawning - Horror
1978 Xenogenesis - Sci-Fi with Randall Frakes (co-director)


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