James Cameron was born in Kapuskasing, Ontario in Canada August 14 (16) 1954. His family later moved to Chippewa Falls near Niagra Falls. James Cameron was during his youth years always very fascinated with movies. He was mezmerized when he saw Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, and he drew himself crazy trying to figure out how they had shot that film. Cameron also wrote sci-fi stories and fantasized a lot instead of doing his school work. It was actually during one boring biology class that Cameron wrote a short story which would later become the movie The Abyss.
When Cameron was 17, his family moved to Orange County, California because of his fathers job. When Cameron moved to Orange County he learned that getting a career in movies might not be the easiest job to obtain. He let the hope of becomming someone in the movie business fade and he started studying physics and english at a local university. He later dropped out of both studies because the math in the physics course had been to hard for Cameron to deal with. James Cameron got a job as a miniature model maker at the Roger Corman Studios. The Roger Corman Studios were studios that made B-movies.
They were fast and cheap productions, and none of the people working there were professionals so Cameron fit right in. He quickly moved up the ranks in the studio, jumping from one movie to another. Cameron worked as art director on the sci-fi movie Battle Beyond the Stars, he did special effects work and direction on John Carpenter’s Escape from New York. It wasn’t until 1981 when Cameron got his first shot at directing. It was an Italian producer named Assonitis who was to make a sequel to the movie Pirahna. It was going to be called Piranha 2: The Spawning.
Assonitis wanted a debut director because it would be the cheapest, and the director would not question Assonitis cutting in the film. The movie was terrible of course, it had a bad cast, lousy effects and Assonitis was always on Cameron’s back. Assonitis kept telling Cameron that the shots looked like shit (crap), and when the main shooting ended he would not allow Cameron to edit the movie. This made Cameron mad, he knew that the movie was bad, but it was his movie, and he wanted to edit it himself. So Cameron broke into the editing room with a plastic card.
The movie was shot in Italy and Cameron could not speak Italian, so he did not know what role of films to look at, but he finally found the right ones and pieced the film together the way he wanted. Cameron was under tremendous pressure during the production, he was also sick and one night he had a dream of a machine coming from future which attempted to kill him. When Cameron woke up, he scribbled down some nasty ideas, and the ideas would later become the Terminator. After the shooting of Pirahna 2: The Spawning, Cameron accepted two writing jobs, Rambo: First Blood part 2 and Alien 2 (which would later become Aliens).
Cameron later contacted action producer Gale Anne Hurd, and showed her the screenplay The Terminator which he had written. Hurd liked it and Cameron sold it to her for one dollar. Cameron got Arnold Schwarzenegger as the role of the Terminator and Michael Biehn as the role of Kyle Reese. Actually Arnold Schwarzenegger was first cast as Kyle Reese, but then decided to play the Terminator instead. The Terminator became Cameron’s breakthrough film. It features stunning effects, even though it has $6. 5 million budget. The Terminator became a great succes, both critically and comercially.
David Giler and Walter Hill, the would-be producers of Aliens, were very impressed with Cameron’s work, and they suggested that he should direct the second alien movie himself. Cameron did it on one condition, namely that Gale Anne Hurd would be brought on board as a producer. Cameron got Sigourney Weaver, Bill Paxton and Michael Biehn to star in the movie. Aliens was a great movie, it has great effects, a well written script and fine acting because Sigourney Weaver got an Academy Award nomination for her performance. Alien was nominated for 7 Oscars and won 4.
This movie really made Hollywood open their eyes for James Cameron, everybody wanted to work with him. He got million dollar deals offered where ever he went, but Cameron decided to do something of his own. It would be the toughest movie shot in history. Cameron’s adventure movie The Abyss. As we mentioned before The Abyss was based on a short story that Cameron wrote during a boring biology class. It features a great story, very difficult shots, and it had effects written that were almost impossible to accomplish. But Cameron did not get afraid, he insisted on the fact that he was able to do it.
The movie was finally started, and it would be on this movie that Cameron would get a reputation as a dictator on set. He pushed his crew to the extreme. So much that one day Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (the actress who played the lead female character) ran off the set screaming. Mastrantonio has also said that she was very impressed with Cameron when she first met him, becuase of his vision of what this film would look like, but during the production she had wanted to kill him at least a dozen times. The movie also set new standards for underwater shooting. The crew and Cameron had to design a lot of new gear.
Cameron then went on to producing and ghost-writing the very successful surfer movie Point Break. It was directed by Kathryn Bigelow, whom Cameron married in 1991, the same year the movie came out. In 1990 Cameron contacted his old friend the screenwriter Wiliam Wisher. He would like Wisher to help him write a sequel to the first Terminator movie. There had been talk for many years that The Terminator definitely needed a sequel, and Cameron was finally about to make it happen. The two friends sat down and wrote. Initially they came up with a huge script from which they cut about half the stuff, and then revised it several times.
James Cameron contacted Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger and they both agreed to be in the sequel without having read the script. Terminator 2: Judgment Day, became the first movie to go past the $100 milion budget. It also became very successful both domestically and overseas. The movie features some of the most stunning effects ever made for the big screen which include the “morphing” of the T-1000 and much more. The movie won four Oscars for sound and visual effects, and also brought in several MTV Movie Awards for best action picture and sequence.
Cameron did not know what to do next, he was now one of the most important movie makers in Hollywood, and he could pretty much do whatever he wanted to. He thought about making a Spiderman movie, but it was deemed too costly at the time. He also had some ideas concerning the doomed ocean liner Titanic, but nothing specific at the time. Arnold Schwarzenegger finally made him aware of a small french movie called La Totale! , which could easily be turned into an overbudget American blockbuster, and Schwarzenegger couldn’t think of anyone better than Cameron to do it.
Cameron signed on and wrote a screenplay based upon the french movie. It was the movie True Lies. The movie was actually an action comedy, but it also featured some of the most stunning and expensive effects at that time. The movie went way over budget, but it was definitely worth it. True Lies was received with different opinions in 1994. Some people called it funny, great or terific. But many also thought it was too long and too ridicioulous. True Lies made $25. 5 million the first week, but box office dropped steadily as the weeks went by.
It settled with a total domestic gross of $150 million which was not that impressive when the budget was as high as $125 million. The total world gross went up to $350 million. Cameron had, since the middle of the eighties, thought about during a kind of sci-fi movie taking place a couple of days before the beginning of the new millenium, but he was having trouble finding the time to direct it himself. He then let his former wife Kathryn Bigelow direct it. The movie was called Strange Days, it is actually a film noir, which ranks in the same line as movies like Blade Runner.
Cameron wrote the screenplay and produced the movie, but did not have time for anything else, because in the beginning of 1995 Cameron was busy doing something much more exciting. Cameron had been green lit on his Titanic movie. He had written a script which features many actual events, and he had included a love story of two young people taking place just days before the sinking. Cameron took an expedition down into the abyss to discover the wreck for himself. They shot 12 minutes of film, and Cameron was positive that he was able to base a movie upon that.
The movie was greenlit by Fox and Paramount up to $125 million and the production of the movie Titanic began. Production was not easy, Titanic went over the budget. That made Cameron sacrifice his fee as a director, producer and editor on the film, but he did keep the $1. 5 millon he had received for the screenplay. Production was delayed and rumours began again about Cameron pushing his crew to the limit of inhuman. But it was all worth it afterwards, at least that is the opinion of Kate Winslet, who played the lead role who has been quoted saying “Cameron was a tough nut to crack.
There were times when I was genueinly frightened of him” and “Sometimes during production I would just wake up in the middle of the night, and wish I were dead”. Titanic opened in the US December 19 1997, and took in $25. 5 million the first weekend. It kept itself steady on that number for months to come and did just as well overseas. This resulted in Titanic being the first movie to pass the one billion dollar mark, and it is the most profitable movie ever. Cameron restored his fee and got a paycheck of $75 million placed in his lap.
On March 23, 1998 Titanic received 11 Oscars, including best picture and best director, it also earned many other prizes such as the golden globes. The movie is probably the highlight of James Cameron’s career, and he was quoted saying when he received his Oscar for best director, “I’m the kind of the world”, and he will probably be for now! In the future James Cameron will be producing and perhaps writing the remake of “The Planet of The Apes” and after that James Cameron will probably look into doing a movie on his childhood hero Spiderman, which might start Leonardo Dicaprio and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
There are a lot of things which make James Cameron one of the greatest directors. One of the most important parts is that James Cameron uses incredible effects so you are always excited. Cameron was one of the first to use morphing effects. Cameron experimented with these effects on The Abyss, but it was not until the production of Terminator 2: Judgment Day that the effects were shown in their true colours. Another great thing is that James Cameron writes very entertaining stories that are particuarly good for movies.
With great action and great characters that are unique. Cameron’s movies are action movies, but they have other qualities too. For example Cameron uses a lot of messages in his movies. In the Abyss there is a message from an alien saying that all people should live in harmony, and in Terminator 2 – Judgment Day Linda Hamilton is ending the movie with this clever sentence, “If a machine can learn to respect a human life maybe we can too”.
These are the kind of messages which make Cameron’s movies just a little bit better. James Cameron is not afraid to reject his feminin side. In the movies there are always strong, independent women who guide the male hero (if there is one) through the movie. In Cameron’s movies the women are essential, and they always steal part of the picture, if not all of it. Examples are, Linda Hamiton in Terminator 2 – Judgment Day, Sigourney Weaver in Aliens, Jamie Lee Curtis in True Lies and of course Kate Winslet in Titanic.