Director James Cameron, he of AVATAR, TITANIC, and THE ABYSS, took part in one of Reddit’s “Ask Me Anything” sessions yesterday and the results were …not nearly as pompous as I was expecting. Dude was actually funny, likable, and very fanboy friendly. Impressive. Almost every interview I’ve read or seen with the guy prior to this has made me think he was an egomaniac who unapologetically borrowed elements from other works for his own without giving credit and actually thought he really was the “King Of The World”. After this, I might have to re-evaluate that opinion a bit. The plaigarism stuff surrounding THE TERMINATOR and AVATAR still bugs me though.
I’ve included some the more interesting questions and answers below. Click HERE to check out the full session.
Which film has been the hardest for you to direct?
Well, that’s an interesting question. The physically hardest was the Abyss, because there was a period of 10 weeks where I was literally underwater 10 hours a day, for 6 days a week. And anybody that’s a scuba diver knows that that’s the experience of 7 or 8 dives a day, and nobody does that. So that was the most physically taxing. I think the most emotionally difficult was Titanic, because the entire film industry was scorning us for our abject stupidity while we were in post-production on that film. Eventually, we prevailed, but it was a difficult time. In terms of craft, Avatar was the most challenging, because of the editorial process on the film.
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.
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.
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.
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 … One could argue that the machines have already won. All you have to do is look around at how many people are face-down texting 100% of the time, everywhere they are, and it’s hard to imagine the machines haven’t won.
When will you make 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.
Mr. Cameron, I want to say that I admire you and all you have done for film. I also think the things you do outside of film to raise the bar for what can be achieved are amazing and inspirational.
I have many questions, but one that stands out the most is: Why the shift from Battle Angel to producing more Avatar films? Is it the overwhelming success Avatar generated or the drive to develop the world Avatar exists in more? How much more do we not know about their world/universe?
My intention when I made Avatar was to do Battle Angel next. However, the positive feedback for Avatar and the support of the message of Avatar, encouraged me to do more of those films.
For me, the success was a factor because I was encouraged by the fact that an environmental film, or a film about nature, could be successful. It's certainly not just about money. I'm considering success to mean the measure of the ability of the film to communicate. Every director wants their film to communicate. The biggest factor, however, is the drive to continue developing the world-- more characters, more creatures with unfettered creativity.
No budget too steep, no sea too deep. Who’s that?! It’s him, JAMES CAMERON!
I think that’s from South Park! It literally is, it’s the song from the South Park episode where they parodied my dive to the Mariana Trench.
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.
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.
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.
How did you feel about what “Prometheus” contributes to the “Alien” story ark?
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.
We never talked about Alien 3. I don’t remember the timing exactly, but I might have been making the Abyss at that time, also for Fox. What came up was the idea of doing Alien 5, and at one point I pitched that I would write it and produce it, and Ridley would direct it, and we had lunch talking about this, and we were in violent agreement, then nothing happened. What happened was Fox went ahead with Aliens Vs Predator, and I said “I really don’t recommend that, you’ll ruin the franchise, it’s like Universal doing Dracula versus the Werewolf,” and then I lost interest in doing an Alien film. But Prometheus is seen as the A-level alien, as opposed to rather, the derivative. I don’t think I have anything to offer on the Prometheus sequels, that’s Ridley’s, I think I’ll stick to the Avatar universe.
I was just wondering. What did you honestly think of T3, T4, sarah connor chronicles and all the other non Cameron terminator works? Thanks.
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.
Would you rather fight one horse-sized duck or one hundred duck-sized horses?
Wow, I think that’s pretty easy, I think you’d rather go with the little duck sized horses. Ducks can be aggressive, geese are worse, but ducks can fuck you up. I have a hard time imagining duck-sized horses fucking me up, what are they going to do, rear up and kick me in the ankle? Then you could just kick them! … There have been the equivalent of horse-sized ducks in the past, and they were called horrible predators. Deinonychus.
Hi Mr. Cameron I love your work you’re an inspiration. can I ask: what has been your favorite film this year?
This year, 2014, I haven’t seen that much that inspired me yet. My favorite film of last year, hands down, was Gravity, and I was hoping it would win best picture, but certainly happy that my friend Alfonso Cuaron won best director. 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 hyperconnected society.
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.
USELESS KNOWLEDGE: The October 1987 draft of the screenplay for ALIEN NATION credits a rewrite to James Cameron. He is not credited in the final film.