Canadian film director, film producer, deep-sea explorer, screenwriter, and editor James Cameron was born August 16, 1954. He first found success with the science-fiction hit The Terminator (1984). He then became a popular Hollywood director and was hired to write & direct Aliens (1986) and three years later followed up withThe Abyss (1989). He found further critical acclaim for his use of special effects in the action packed blockbuster Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991). After his film True Lies(1994) Cameron took on his biggest film at the time Titanic (1997) which won the Academy Award for Best Picture and him the Academy Award for Best Director and Film Editing. After Titanic Cameron began a project that took almost 10 years to make: his science-fiction epic Avatar (2009), for which he was nominated for Best Director and Film Editing again. In the time between making Titanic and Avatar, Cameron spent several years creating many documentary films (specifically underwater documentaries) and co-developed the digital 3D Fusion Camera System. Described by a biographer as part-scientist and part-artist, Cameron has also contributed to underwater filming and remote vehicle technologies. On March 26, 2012, Cameron reached the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the ocean, in the Deep sea Challenger submersible. He is the first person to do this in a solo descent, and is only the third person to do so ever.He has been nominated for six Academy Awards overall and won three for Titanic. In total, Cameron’s directorial efforts have grossed approximately US$2 billion in North America and US$6 billion worldwide. Not adjusted for inflation, Cameron’s Titanic and Avatar are the two highest-grossing films of all time at $2.19 billion and $2.78 billion respectively.]In March 2011 he was named Hollywood’s top earner by Vanity Fair, with estimated 2010 earnings of $257 million
His first film was called Xenogenesis (1978). . He then became a production assistant on a film called Rock and Roll High School, though uncredited in 1979. While continuing to educate himself in film-making techniques, Cameron started working as a miniature-model maker at Roger Corman Studios.Making rapidly-produced, low-budget productions taught Cameron to work efficiently and effectively. He soon found employment as an art director in the sci-fi movie Battle Beyond the Stars (1980). He did special effects work design and direction on John Carpenter’s Escape from New York (1981), acted as production designer on Galaxy of Terror (1981), and consulted on the design of Android (1982). Cameron was hired as the special effects director for the sequel to Piranha, entitled Piranha II: The Spawning in 1981. The original director, Miller Drake, left the project due to creative differences with producer Ovidio Assonitis, who then gave Cameron his first job as overall director. The interior scenes were filmed in Italy while the underwater sequences were shot at Grand Cayman Island. The movie was to be produced in Jamaica. On location, production slowed due to numerous problems and adverse weather. James Cameron was fired after failing to get a close up of Carole Davis in her opening scene. Ovidio ordered Cameron to do the close-up the next day before he started on that day’s shooting. Cameron spent the entire day sailing around the resort to reproduce the lighting but still failed to get the close-up. After he was fired, Ovidio invited Cameron to stay on location and assist in the shooting. Once in Rome, Ovidio took over the editing when Cameron was stricken with food poisoning. During his illness, he had a nightmare about an invincible robot hitman sent from the future to kill him, giving him the idea for The Terminator, which later catapulted his film career.
After completing a screenplay for The Terminator, Cameron 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 largely inexperienced feature film director make the movie. Finally, Cameron found a company called Hemdale Pictures, which was willing to let him direct. 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 distributed the film. For the role of the Terminator, Cameron envisioned a man who was not exceptionally muscular, who could “blend into” a crowd. Lance Henriksen, who had starred in Piranha II: The Spawning, was considered for the title role, but when Arnold Schwarzenegger and Cameron first met over lunch to discuss Schwarzenegger playing the role of Kyle Reese, both came to the conclusion that the cyborgvillain would be the more compelling role for the Austrian bodybuilder; Henriksen got the smaller part of LAPD detective Hal Vukovich and the role of Kyle Reese went to Michael Biehn. 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. It was a low-budget film which cost $6.5 million to make, cutting expenses in such ways as recording the audio track in mono. However, The Terminator eventually earned over $78 million worldwide.
During the early 1980s, Cameron wrote three screenplays simultaneously: The Terminator, Aliens, and the first draft of Rambo: First Blood Part II. While Cameron continued with The Terminator and 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 vision. He next began the sequel to Alien, the 1979 film by Ridley Scott. Cameron named the sequelAliens, and again cast Sigourney Weaver in the iconic role of Ellen Ripley. According to Cameron, the crew on Aliens was hostile to him, regarding him as a poor substitute for Ridley Scott. Cameron sought to show them The Terminator but the majority of the crew refused to watch it and remained skeptical of his direction throughout production. Despite this and other off-screen problems (such as clashing with an uncooperative camera man and having to replace one of the lead actors – Michael Biehn of Terminator took James Remar’s place as Corporal Hicks), Aliens became a box office success. It received Academy Award nominations for Best Actress in a Leading Role for Weaver, Best Art Direction, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, Best Sound, and won awards for Best Sound Effects Editing and Best Visual Effects. In addition, the film and its lead actress made the cover ofTIME magazine as a result of its numerous and extensive scenes of women in combat – these were almost without precedent and expressed the feminist theme of the film very strongly.
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, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Michael Biehn. Initially budgeted at $41 million U.S. (though the production ran considerably over budget), 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 (12 m). For creation of the sets, the containment building of an unfinished nuclear power plant was converted, and two huge tanks were used The main tank was filled with 7,500,000 US gallons (28,000,000 L) of water, and the second with 2,500,000 US gallons (9,500,000 L). The cast and crew resided there for much of the shooting. 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 late-1980s, 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, Schwarzenegger also returned in his role as The Terminator, but this time as a protector. Unlike Schwarzenegger’s character—the T-800 Terminator which is made of a metal endoskeleton—the new villain of the sequel, called the T-1000, is a more-advanced Terminator made of liquid metal, and with polymorphic abilities. The T-1000 would also be much less bulky than the T-800. For the role, Cameron cast Robert Patrick, 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 the special effects at the time were not advanced enough. The ground-breaking effects used in The Abyss to digitally depict the water tentacle convinced Cameron that his liquid metal villain was now possible.
TriStar Pictures agreed to distribute the film, but under a locked release date only about one year after the start of shooting. The movie, 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 in the United States and Canada, and over $300 million in other territories, and became the highest-grossing film of that year. It won four Academy Awards: Best Makeup, Best Sound, Best Sound Effects Editing, and Best Visual Effects. It was also nominated for Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing, but lost both Awards to JFK.James Cameron announced a third Terminator film many times during the 1990s, but without coming out with any finished scripts. Kassar and Vajna purchased the rights to the Terminator franchise from a bankruptcy sale of Carolco’s assets. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was eventually made and released in July 2003 without Cameron’s involvement. Jonathan Mostow directed the film and Schwarzenegger returned as the Terminator.Cameron reunited with the main cast of Terminator 2 to film T2 3-D: Battle Across Time, an attraction at Universal Studios Florida, Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal Studios Japan. It was released in 1996 and was a mini-sequel to Terminator 2: Judgment Day. The show is in two parts: a prequel segment in which a spokesperson talks about Cyberdyne, and a main feature, in which the performers interact with a 3-D movie.
Before the release of T2, Schwarzenegger came to Cameron with the idea of remaking the French comedy La Totale! Titled True Lies, with filming beginning 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 was cast as Harry Tasker, a spy charged with stopping a plan by a terroristto use nuclear weapons against the United States. Jamie Lee Curtis and Eliza Dushku played the character’s family, and Tom Arnold the 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. The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Visual Effects.
Cameron expressed interest in the famous sinking of the ship RMS 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 on board. Before production began, he took dives to the bottom of the Atlantic and shot actual footage of the ship underwater, which he inserted into the final film. Much of the film’s dialogue was also written during these dives.Subsequently, Cameron cast Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane, Kathy Bates, Frances Fisher, Gloria Stuart, Bernard Hill,Jonathan Hyde, Victor Garber, Danny Nucci, David Warner, Suzy Amis, and Bill Paxton as the film’s principal cast. Cameron’s budget for the film reached about $200 million, making it the most expensive movie ever made at the time. Before its release, the film was widely ridiculed for its expense and protracted production schedule. But went on to gross more than $1 billion worldwide. It remained the highest-grossing film since 1998, until Cameron’s 2009 film Avatar surpassed its gross in 2010. The CG visuals surrounding the sinking and destruction of the ship were considered spectacular. Despite criticism during production of the film, it received a record-tying 14 Oscar nominations (tied with All About Eve) at the 1998 Academy Awards. It won 11 Oscars (also tying the record for most Oscar wins with Ben-Hur and later The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King), including: Best Picture,Best Director, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Visual Effects, Best Film Editing, Best Costume Design, Best Sound, Best Sound Effects Editing, Best Original Dramatic Score, Best Original Song. Upon receiving the Best Director Oscar, Cameron exclaimed, “I’m king of the world!”, in reference to one of the main characters’ lines from the film. After receiving the Best Picture Oscar along withJon Landau, Cameron asked for a moment of silence for the 1500 men, women and children, who died when the ship sank.In March 2010, Cameron revealed that Titanic was re-released in 3D in April 2012, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the real ship.
Cameron also planned to do a film of the comic book character Spider-Man,however he was Unable to make Spider-Man, so he moved to television and created Dark Angel, a superheroine-centered series influenced bycyberpunk, biopunk, contemporary superhero franchises, and third-wave feminism. Co-produced with Charles H. Eglee, Dark Angel starred Jessica Alba as Max Guevara, a genetically enhanced super-soldier created by a secretive organization. Cameron’s work was said to “bring empowered female warriors back to television screens by mixing the sober feminism of his The Terminator and Aliens characters with the sexed-up Girl Power of a Britney Spears concert.” sadly 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.