Oscar Directors: Cameron, James–Background, Career, Awards

James Cameron Career Summation

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Social Class: middle class; father engineer; mother nurse

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James Francis Cameron (born August 16, 1954) is a Canadian filmmaker, engineer and environmentalist. He is best known for making science fiction and epic films for the Hollywood mainstream. Cameron first gained recognition for directing The Terminator (1984).

He found further critical and commercial success with Aliens (1986), The Abyss (1989), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), and the comedy thriller True Lies (1994). His other big-budget productions include Titanic (1997) and Avatar (2009), with the former earning him Academy Awards in Best Picture, Best Director and Best Film Editing. Avatar, filmed in 3D technology, also garnered him nominations in the same categories.

He co-founded production companies Lightstorm Entertainment, Digital Domain and Earthship Productions. In addition to filmmaking, he is a National Geographic sea explorer and has produced a number of documentaries on the subject, including Ghosts of the Abyss (2003) and Aliens of the Deep (2005). Cameron has also contributed to underwater filming and remote vehicle technologies and helped create the digital 3D Fusion Camera System. In 2012, Cameron became the first person to perform a solo descent to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the Earth’s ocean, in the Deepsea Challenger submersible.

In total, Cameron’s films have grossed approximately $2 billion in North America and $6 billion worldwide. Avatar and Titanic are the second and third highest-grossing films of all time, earning $2.78 billion and $2.19 billion, respectively. As of 2020, Cameron has directed the first two of the five films in history to gross over $2 billion worldwide. In 2010, Time magazine named Cameron as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. Cameron is also an environmentalist and runs several sustainable businesses.

James Cameron was born on August 16, 1954 in Kapuskasing, Ontario. He was born to Philip Cameron, an electrical engineer, and Shirley (née Lowe), an artist and nurse.[2] His paternal great-great-great-grandfather emigrated from Balquhidder, Scotland, in 1825.[2] Cameron is the eldest of five siblings. As a child he described the Lord’s Prayer as a “tribal chant”.[3][4] He attended Stamford Collegiate in Niagara Falls. At age 17, Cameron and his family moved from Chippawa to Brea, California.[5] He attended Sonora High School and then moved to Brea Olinda High School. Classmates recalled that he was not a sportsman but instead enjoyed building things that “either went up into the air or into the deep”.[3]

After high school, Cameron enrolled at Fullerton College, a community college in 1973 to study physics. He switched subjects to English, but left the college at the end of 1974.[6] He worked odd jobs, including as a truck driver and a janitor, but wrote in his free time.[7] During this period, he learnt about special effects by reading other students’ work on “optical printing, or front screen projection, or dye transfers, anything that related to film technology” at the library. After the excitement of seeing Star Wars in 1977, Cameron quit his job as a truck driver to enter the film industry.

Cameron’s directing career began in 1978. After borrowing money from a consortium of dentists, he learnt to direct, write and produce his first short film, Xenogenesis (1978) with a friend.[10] Learning as they went, Cameron said he felt like a doctor doing his first surgical procedure.[8] He then served as a production assistant for Rock and Roll High School (1979). While educating himself about filmmaking techniques, Cameron started a job as a miniature model maker at Roger Corman Studios.[7][11] He was soon employed as an art director for the science-fiction film Battle Beyond the Stars (1980). He carried out the special effects for John Carpenter’s Escape from New York (1981), served as production designer for Galaxy of Terror (1981), and consulted on the design for Android (1982).

Cameron was hired as the special effects director for the sequel to Piranha (1978), titled Piranha II: The Spawning in 1982. The original director, Miller Drake, left the project due to creative differences with producer Ovidio Assonitis. Shot in Rome, Italy and on Grand Cayman Island, the film gave Cameron the opportunity to become director for a major film for the first time. However, Cameron later said that it did not feel like his first movie due to power-struggles with Assonitis.[12] Disillusioned from being in Rome and suffering from a fever, Cameron had a nightmare about an invincible robot hit-man sent from the future to assassinate him, which later led to the inspiration of The Terminator (1984).[13] Upon release of Piranha II: The Spawning, critics were not impressed. Author Tim Healey, called it “a marvellously bad movie which splices cliches from every conceivable source”.[14]

Inspired by John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978), Cameron in 1982 wrote the script for The Terminator (1984), which is a thriller about a cyborg sent from the future to carry out a lethal mission. Cameron wanted to sell the script so that he could direct the movie. Whilst some film studios expressed interest in the project, many executives were unwilling to let a new and unfamiliar director make the movie. Gale Anne Hurd, a colleague and founder of Pacific Western Productions, to whom Cameron was married from 1984 to 1989, agreed to buy Cameron’s script for one dollar, on the condition that Cameron direct the film. Eventually, he convinced the president of Hemdale Pictures to make the film, with Cameron as director and Hurd as a producer. Lance Henriksen, who had starred in Piranha II: The Spawning, was considered for the lead role, but Cameron decided that Arnold Schwarzenegger was more suitable as the cyborg villain due to his bodybuilder appearance.[4] Henriksen was given a smaller role instead. Michael Biehn and Cameron’s future wife, Linda Hamilton, also joined the cast. The Terminator was a box office success, exceeding expectations set by Orion Pictures.[4] The film proved popular with audiences and earned over $78 million worldwide.[15] George Perry of the BBC praised Cameron’s direction, writing “Cameron laces the action with ironic jokes, but never lets up on hinting that the terror may strike at any moment”.[16] In 2008, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry, being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.[17]

In 1984, Cameron co-wrote the screenplay to Rambo: First Blood Part II with Sylvester Stallone. Cameron moved onto his next directorial feature, which was the sequel to Alien (1979), a science fiction horror by Ridley Scott. After titling the sequel Aliens (1986), Cameron recast Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley, who first appeared in Alien. Aliens follows the protagonist, Ripley, as she helps a group of marines fight off extraterrestrials. Despite conflicts with cast and crew during production, and having to replace one of the lead actors—James Remar with Michael Biehn—Aliens was a box office success, generating over $130 million worldwide. The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards in 1987; Best Actress, Best Art Direction, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score and Best Sound. It won awards for Best Sound Editing and Best Visual Effects.[20] In addition, the film including Weaver made the cover of Time magazine in July 1986.[21]

After Aliens, Cameron and Gale Anne Hurd decided to make The Abyss, a story of oil-rig workers who discover strange intelligent life in the ocean. Based on an idea which Cameron had conceived of during high school, the film was initially budgeted at $41 million, although it ran considerably over this amount. It starred Ed Harris, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Michael Biehn. The production process began in the Cayman Islands and then in South Carolina, inside the building of an unfinished nuclear power plant with two huge tanks.[22] The cast and crew recall Cameron’s tough stance and the filming of underwater scenes which were mentally and physically exhausting. The Abyss was praised for its special effects, and earned $90 million at the worldwide box office.[24] The Abyss received 4 Oscar nominations and won Best Visual Effects.

In 1990, Cameron co-founded the firm Lightstorm Entertainment with partner Lawrence Kasanoff. In 1991, Cameron served as executive producer for Point Break (1991), directed by Kathryn Bigelow, to whom he was married to between 1989 and 1991. After the success of The Terminator, there were discussions for a sequel. In the late 1980s, Mario Kassar of Carolco Pictures secured the rights to the sequel, allowing Cameron to begin production of the film, Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991). Written by William Wisher Jr. and himself, Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton reprise their roles. The story follows on from Terminator, depicting a new villain (T-1000), possessing shape-shifting ability and hunting for Sarah Connor’s son, John (Edward Furlong). Cameron cast Robert Patrick as T-1000 because of his lean and thin appearance—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”.[26] Terminator 2 was one of the most expensive films to be produced, costing at least $94 million.[27] Despite the challenging use of computer-generated imagery, the film was completed on time and released on July 3, 1991. Terminator 2 broke box office records (including the opening weekend record for an R-rated film), earning over $200 million in the North America and being the first to earn over $300 million worldwide.[28] It won four Academy Awards: Best Makeup, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, and Best Visual Effects. It also received nominations for Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing, but lost both to political thriller JFK.

Cameron planned to do a third Terminator film but plans never materialized. The rights to the Terminator franchise were eventually purchased by Kassar from a bankruptcy sale of Carolco’s assets.[30] He moved onto other projects and in 1993, Cameron co-founded Digital Domain, a visual effects production company. In 1994, Cameron and Schwarzenegger reunited for their third collaboration, True Lies (1994), a remake of the 1991 French comedy La Totale! The story depicts an American secret agent who leads a double life as a married man, whose wife believes he is a computer salesman. The film co-stars Jamie Lee Curtis, Eliza Dushku and Tom Arnold. Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment signed a deal with 20th Century Fox for the production of True Lies. Budgeted at a minimum of $100 million, the film earned $146 million in North America, and $232 million worldwide.[31][32] The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects and Curtis won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress.[33][34] In 1995, Cameron co-produced Strange Days (1995), a science fiction thriller. The film was directed by Kathryn Bigelow and co-written by Jay Cocks.[35] Strange Days was critically and financially unsuccessful. In 1996, Cameron reunited with the cast of Terminator 2 to film T2 3-D: Battle Across Time, an attraction at Universal Studios Florida and in other parks around the world.[36]

His next major project was Titanic (1997), an epic film about RMS Titanic which sank in 1912 after striking an iceberg. With a production budget of $200 million, Titanic is one of the most expensive films ever made. The production was troubled for being over-budget and exceeding its filming schedule, which made headlines before the film’s release.[37][38] Starting in 1995, Cameron took several dives to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean to capture footage of the wreck, which would later be used in the film.[39] A replica of the ship was built in Rosarito Beach and principal photography began in September 1996. His completed screenplay depicts two star-crossed lovers, portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, from different social classes who fall in love amid the backdrop of the tragedy—a radical departure from his previous science fiction work. The supporting cast includes Billy Zane, Kathy Bates, Frances Fisher, Gloria Stuart, Bernard Hill, Jonathan Hyde, Victor Garber, Danny Nucci, David Warner and Bill Paxton.

Titanic premiered on December 19, 1997. The film received strong critical acclaim and became the highest-grossing film of all time worldwide in 1998, and held this position for 12 years until Cameron’s Avatar (2009) beat the record in 2010.[40] The costumes and sets were very realistic, and The Washington Post considered the CGI graphics to be spectacular.[41][42] Titanic received a record-tie of fourteen nominations (tied with All About Eve (1950)) at the 1998 Academy Awards. It won 11 of the awards (tying the record for most wins with Ben-Hur (1959) and later, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003), including: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Visual Effects, Best Film Editing, Best Costume Design, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, Best Original Score, and Best Original Song.

Upon receiving Best Picture, Cameron and producer Jon Landau, asked for a moment of silence to remember the 1,500 people who died when the ship sank.[44] Film critic Roger Ebert praised Cameron’s storytelling, writing “It is flawlessly crafted, intelligently constructed, strongly acted, and spellbinding”.[45] The mix of romance, historical nostalgia and James Horner’s music, contributed to the film’s cultural phenomenon. In 2017, Titanic became Cameron’s second film to be selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.[47]

After the huge success of Titanic, Cameron kept a low profile. In 1998, he and his brother, John, formed Earthship Productions, a company to allow streaming of documentaries on the deep sea, one of Cameron’s interests.[48][49] He had planned to make a film about Spider-Man, a project developed by Menahem Golan of Cannon Films. Columbia hired David Koepp to adapt Cameron’s ideas into a screenplay, but due to various disagreements, Cameron abandoned the project.[50] In 2002, Spider-Man was released with the screenplay credited solely to Koepp.[51] In 2000, Cameron ventured into television and co-created Dark Angel with Charles H. Eglee, a television series influenced by cyberpunk, biopunk, contemporary superheroes and third-wave feminism. Dark Angel starred Jessica Alba as Max Guevara, a genetically enhanced super-soldier created by a secretive organization. While the first season was moderately successful, the second season did less well, which led to its cancellation.

In 2002, Cameron served as producer on the 2002 film Solaris, a science fiction drama directed by Steven Soderbergh. The film received mixed reviews and did poorly at the box office. Keen to make documentaries, Cameron directed Expedition: Bismarck, a documentary about the German Battleship Bismarck. In 2003, he directed Ghosts of the Abyss, a documentary about RMS Titanic which was released by Walt Disney Pictures and Walden Media and designed for 3D theaters. Cameron also told The Guardian his intention for filming everything in 3D.

In 2005, Cameron co-directed Aliens of the Deep, a documentary about the various forms of life in the ocean. He also starred in Titanic Adventure with Tony Robinson, another documentary about the Titanic shipwreck. Then in 2006, Cameron co-created and narrated The Exodus Decoded, a documentary exploring the Biblical account of the Exodus. In 2007, Cameron and fellow director Simcha Jacobovici, produced The Lost Tomb of Jesus. Broadcast on Discovery Channel on March 4, 2007, the documentary was controversial for arguing that the Talpiot Tomb was the burial place of Jesus of Nazareth.[53][54]

By the mid-2000s, Cameron returned to directing and producing another mainstream film since 1997’s Titanic. Cameron had mentioned two projects as early as June 2005.[55] Titled Avatar (2009) and Alita: Battle Angel (2019) (the latter which he produced), both films were to be shot in 3D technology. He also wanted to make Alita: Battle Angel first, followed by Avatar but switched the order in February 2006. Although Cameron had written an 80-page treatment for Avatar in 1995, Cameron stated that he wanted the necessary technology to improve before starting production.[56][57] Avatar, with the story line set in the mid-22nd century, had an estimated budget in excess of $300 million. The cast includes Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Lang, Michelle Rodriguez and Sigourney Weaver. It was composed entirely with computer-generated animation, using an advanced version of the performance capture technique, previously used by director Robert Zemeckis in The Polar Express.[58] Cameron intended Avatar to be 3D-only but decided to adapt it for conventional viewing as well.[59]

Avatar eventually premiered on December 18, 2009. This delay allowed more time for post-production and the opportunity for theaters to install 3D projectors. Avatar broke several box office records during its initial theatrical run. It grossed $749.7 million in the United States and Canada and more than $2.74 billion worldwide, becoming the highest-grossing film of all time in the US and Canada, surpassing Titanic. It was the first film to ever earn more than $2 billion worldwide. Avatar was nominated for nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, and won three for Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography and Best Visual Effects.[62] In July 2010, an extended theatrical re-release generated a worldwide total of $33.2 million at the box office. In his mixed review, Sukhdev Sandhu of The Telegraph complimented the 3D, but opined Cameron “should have been more brutal in his editing”.[63] That year, Vanity Fair reported that Cameron earned $257 million, making him the highest earner in Hollywood.[64] As of 2020, Avatar and Titanic hold the achievement for being the first two of the five films in history to gross over $2 billion worldwide.[65]

In 2011, Cameron served as an executive producer for Sanctum, a disaster-survival film about a cave diving expedition which turns deadly. Although receiving mixed reviews, the film earned a fair $108 million at the worldwide box office.[66] Cameron re-investigated the sinking of RMS Titanic with eight experts in a 2012 TV documentary special, Titanic: The Final Word with James Cameron, which premiered on April 8 on the National Geographic Channel.[67] In the documentary, the experts revised the CGI animation of the sinking conceived in 1995.[68][69] In March 2010, Cameron announced that Titanic will be converted and re-released in 3D to commemorate the centennial anniversary of the tragedy.[70] On March 27, 2012, Titanic 3D premiered at Royal Albert Hall, London.[71] He also served as executive producer of Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away and Deepsea Challenge 3D in 2012 and 2014, respectively.

Cameron starred in the 2017 documentary Atlantis Rising, with collaborator Simcha Jacobovci. The pair go on an adventure to explore the existence of the city of Atlantis. The programme aired on January 29 on the National Geographic channel.[72] Next, Cameron produced and appeared in a documentary about the history of science fiction. James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction, the six-episodic series was broadcast on AMC in 2018.[73] The series featured interviews with guests including Ridley Scott, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Christopher Nolan.[74] He stated “Without Jules Verne and H. G. Wells, there wouldn’t have been Ray Bradbury or Robert A. Heinlein, and without them, there wouldn’t be [George] Lucas, [Steven] Spielberg, Ridley Scott or me”.[75]

Alita: Battle Angel was finally released in 2019 after being in parallel development with Avatar. Written by Cameron and his friend, Jon Landau, the film was directed by Robert Rodriguez.[76] The film is based on a 1990s Japanese manga series Battle Angel Alita, depicting a cyborg who cannot remember anything of her past life and tries to uncover the truth. Produced with similar techniques and technology as used in Avatar, the film starred Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali, Ed Skrein, Jackie Earle Haley and Keean Johnson. The film premiered on January 31, 2019 in London and received generally positive reviews from critics, and was financially successful, earning $404 million worldwide.[77] In her review, Monica Castillo of RogerEbert.com called it, “an awe-inspiring jump for [Rodriguez]” and “a visual bonanza” despite the bulky script.[78] Cameron returned to the Terminator franchise as producer and writer for Terminator: Dark Fate (2019), directed by Tim Miller.[79]

In 2013, Cameron announced plans to direct three sequels to Avatar simultaneously, for release in December 2016, 2017, and 2018. However, the release dates have been postponed to December 17, 2021, with the following three sequels to be released, respectively, on December 22, 2023, December 19, 2025 and December 17, 2027.[81][82] Deadline Hollywood estimated that the budget for these would be over $1 billion in total.[83] Avatar 2 and Avatar 3 began simultaneous production in Manhattan Beach, California on August 15, 2017. Principal photography began in New Zealand on September 25, 2017. The other sequels are expected to begin production as soon as Avatar 2 and 3 have finished.[90][91][92] Although the sequels 4 and 5 have been given the green-light, Cameron stated in 2017: “Let’s face it, if Avatar 2 and 3 don’t make enough money, there’s not going to be a 4 and 5”.[93]

Lightstorm Entertainment bought the film rights to the Taylor Stevens novel, The Informationist, a thriller set in Africa. Cameron plans to direct it.[94] He is also working on a film adaptation of the Charles R. Pellegrino book The Last Train from Hiroshima, which is about the survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Cameron met with survivor, Tsutomu Yamaguchi, before his death in 2010.[95]

Activism and social causes
As of 2012, Cameron and his family have adopted a vegan diet. Cameron states that “by changing what you eat, you will change the entire contract between the human species and the natural world”.[98] He and his wife are advocates of plant-based food and have called for constructive actions to produce more plant-based food and less meat to mitigate the impact of climate change.

In 2006, Cameron’s wife co-founded MUSE School, which became the first K-12 vegan school in the United States.[100] In early 2014, Cameron purchased the Beaufort Vineyard and Estate Winery in Courtenay, British Columbia for $2.7 million, to pursue his passion for sustainable agribusiness.[101] In 2018, Cameron served as executive producer of The Game Changers, a documentary showcasing vegan athletes and other celebrities. In June 2019, Cameron announced a business venture with film director Peter Jackson, to produce plant-based meat, cheese, and dairy products in New Zealand. He suggested that we need “a nice transition to a meatless or relatively meatless world in 20 or 30 years.”[102]

In June 2010, Cameron met with officials of the Environmental Protection Agency to discuss possible solutions to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. It was reported that he offered his assistance to help stop the oil well from leaking.[103][104][105] Cameron is a member of the NASA Advisory Council and he worked with the space agency to build cameras for the Curiosity rover sent for Mars.[106] However, NASA launched the rover without Cameron’s technology due to a lack of time during testing.[107] He has expressed interest in a project about Mars, stating “I’ve been very interested in the Humans to Mars movement […] and I’ve done a tremendous amount of personal research for a novel, a miniseries, and a 3D film”.[108] Cameron is a member of the Mars Society, a non-profit organization lobbying for the colonization of Mars.[109][110] In 2016, Cameron endorsed Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton for the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Cameron has been married five times. He was married to Sharon Williams from 1978 to 1984. A year after he and Sharon divorced, Cameron married film producer Gale Anne Hurd, collaborator for his 1980s films. They divorced in 1989. Soon after separating from Hurd, Cameron met the director Kathryn Bigelow whom he wed in 1989, but they divorced in 1991. Cameron then began a relationship with Linda Hamilton, actress in The Terminator series. Their daughter was born in 1993. Cameron married Hamilton in 1997. Amid speculation of an affair between Cameron and actress Suzy Amis, Cameron and Hamilton separated after 2 years of marriage, with Hamilton receiving a settlement of $50 million. He married Amis, his fifth wife, in 2000. They have one son and two daughters together.

Cameron has resided in the United States since 1971, but he remains a Canadian citizen. Cameron applied for American citizenship in 2004, but withdrew his application after George W. Bush won the presidential election.[116] Captivated by New Zealand while filming Avatar, Cameron bought a home there.[117][118][119] He divides his time between California and New Zealand.[120] Cameron has said he is a “Converted Agnostic”, adding “I’ve sworn off agnosticism, which I now call cowardly atheism”.[48] Cameron met close friend Guillermo del Toro on the production of his 1993 film, Cronos.[121] In 1998, del Toro’s father was kidnapped in Guadalajara and Cameron gave del Toro more than $1 million in cash to pay a ransom and have his father released.[121][122][123]

In 2012, Cameron purchased more than 1,000 hectares of land in remote South Wairarapa, New Zealand, subsequent purchases has seen that grow to approximately 5,000 hectares. The Cameron’s grow a range of organic fruit, nuts and vegetables on the land. Nearby in Greytown, they run a café and grocery store, Forest Food Organics, selling produce from their land.[124][125][126]

Cameron is an expert on deep-sea exploration, in part because of his work on The Abyss and Titanic,[103] and his childhood fascination with shipwrecks. He has contributed to advancements in underwater filming and remotely operated vehicles, and helped develop the 3D Fusion Camera System.[127][128][129] In 2011, Cameron became a National Geographic explorer-in-residence.[130] In his role on March 7, 2012, he dived five-mile deep to the bottom of the New Britain Trench with the Deepsea Challenger.[131] 19 days later, Cameron reached the Challenger Deep, the deepest part of the Mariana Trench.[132][133][134] He spent more than three hours exploring the ocean floor, becoming the first to accomplish the trip alone.[132][135] During his dive to the Challenger Deep, he discovered new species of sea cucumber, squid worm and a giant single-celled amoeba.[136] He was preceded by unmanned dives in 1995 and 2009, as well as by Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh, the first men to reach the bottom of the Mariana Trench aboard the Bathyscaphe Trieste in 1960.[137]

In June 2013, British artist Roger Dean filed a copyright complaint against Cameron, seeking damages of $50 million.[138] Accused of “wilful and deliberate copying, dissemination and exploitation” of his original images (relating to Avatar), the case was dismissed by U.S district judge Jesse Ferman in 2014.[139] In 2016, Premier Exhibitions, owner of many RMS Titanic artifacts, filed for bankruptcy. Cameron supported the U.K.’s National Maritime Museum and National Museums Northern Ireland decision to bid for the artifacts, but they were acquired by an investment group before a formal bid took place.[140][141]

Directorial style and reception
He was very nice to me, because I could afford to walk away. But he made everyone around him miserable, and his unkindness did nothing to improve the film in any way. Nor did it motivate people to work faster or better. And unless he changes his way of working with people, I hope he never directs anything of mine. In fact, now that this is in print, I can fairly guarantee that he will never direct anything of mine. Life is too short to collaborate with selfish, cruel people.
– Orson Scott Card, author of The Abyss on Cameron[142]
Cameron has been regarded as an innovative filmmaker in the industry, as well as not easy to work for.[143][144][145] According to Ed Harris, who worked with Cameron on The Abyss, Cameron behaved in an autocratic manner.[23] Keegan, author of The Futurist: The Life and Films of James Cameron, describes Cameron as “comically hands-on” and would try to do every job on the set.[143] Andrew Gumbel, of The Independent says Cameron “is a nightmare to work with. Studios […] fear his habit of straying way over schedule and over budget. He is notorious on set for his uncompromising and dictatorial manner, as well as his flaming temper”.[146] Keller writes that Cameron is an egomaniac, obsessed with vision but praises his “technological ingenuity” at creating a “visceral viewing experience”.[41]

Speaking of her experience of filming Titanic, Kate Winslet said that she admired Cameron but “there were times I was genuinely frightened of him”.[147] Describing him as having “a temper like you wouldn’t believe”, she had said she wouldn’t work with him again unless it was “for a lot of money”.[148] Winslet, however, has since joined the cast for Avatar 2. Her co-star, Leonardo DiCaprio, told Esquire magazine, “when somebody felt a different way on the set, there was a confrontation. He lets you know exactly how he feels”, but complimented Cameron, “he’s of the lineage of John Ford. He knows what he wants his film to be.”[149] Sam Worthington, who starred in Avatar, said that if a mobile phone rang during filming, Cameron would “nail it to the wall with a nail gun”.[150] Film score composer James Horner was also not immune to Cameron’s demands; he recalls having to write music in a short time frame for Cameron’s 1986 Aliens.[151] After the strained experience, Horner did not work with Cameron for a decade.[152] In 1996, they reconciled their friendship and Horner produced the soundtracks for Titanic and Avatar.[153]

Despite this reputation, Bill Paxton and Sigourney Weaver have praised Cameron’s perfectionism and attention to detail. Weaver said, “He really does want us to risk our lives and limbs for the shot, but he doesn’t mind risking his own”.[148] In 2015, Weaver, along with Jamie Lee Curtis, applauded Cameron again. Curtis remarked, “he can do every other job [than acting]. I’m talking about every single department, from art direction to props to wardrobe to cameras, he knows more than everyone doing the job [..] He is so generous to actors”. Weaver referred to Cameron as a “genius”.[154] Michael Biehn, a frequent collaborator, also praised Cameron, saying “Jim is a really passionate person. He cares more about his movies than other directors care about their movies”, adding, “I’ve never seen him yell at anybody”. Biehn, however, acknowledged that Cameron is “not real [sic] sensitive when it comes to actors and their trailers, and waiting for actors to come to the set”.[155] Worthington commented, “He demands excellence. If you don’t give it to him, you’re going to get chewed out. And that’s a good thing”.[148] When asked in 2012 about his reputation, Cameron drily responded, “I don’t have to shout any more, because the word is out there already”.[156]

Cameron’s work has had an influence in the Hollywood film industry. The Avengers (2012), a film directed by Joss Whedon, was inspired by Cameron’s approach to action sequences.[157] Whedon also admires Cameron’s ability for writing heroic female characters such as Ellen Ripley (of Aliens),[158] adding that he is “the leader and the teacher and the Yoda”.[157] Director Michael Bay idolizes Cameron and was convinced by him to use 3D cameras for filming Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011).[159] Cameron’s approach to 3D also inspired Baz Luhrmann during the production of The Great Gatsby (2013).[160] Other directors that have been inspired by Cameron include Peter Jackson, Neill Blomkamp, and Xavier Dolan.[161][162][163]

Themes
Cameron’s films are often based on themes which explore the conflicts between intelligent machines and humanity or nature,[164][165] dangers of corporate greed,[166] strong female characters, and a romance subplot.[167] Characters suffering from emotionally intense and dramatic environments in the sea wilderness are explored in The Abyss and Titanic. The Terminator series amplifies technology as an enemy which could lead to devastation of mankind. Similarly, Avatar views tribal people as an honest group, whereas a “technologically advanced imperial culture is fundamentally evil”.[168]

Awards and recognition
Cameron receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in December 2009
Cameron receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, December 2009
Main article: List of awards and nominations received by James Cameron
Cameron received the inaugural Ray Bradbury Award from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America in 1992 for Terminator 2: Judgment Day.[169] In recognition of “a distinguished career as a Canadian filmmaker”, Carleton University, Ottawa, awarded Cameron the honorary degree of Doctor of Fine Arts on June 13, 1998.[170] He also received an honorary doctorate in 1998 from Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, for his accomplishments in the international film industry.[171]

That year, Cameron attended a convocation to receive an honorary degree from Ryerson University, Toronto.[170] The university awards its highest honor to those who have made extraordinary contributions in Canada or internationally. A year later, Cameron received the honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from California State University, Fullerton.[172] He accepted the degree at the university’s summer annual commencement exercise.[173]

For his work in film, Cameron’s has been recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Cameron is one of the few directors to have won three Academy Awards in a single year. For Titanic, he won Best Director, Best Picture (shared with Jon Landau) and Best Film Editing (shared with Conrad Buff and Richard A. Harris). In 2009, he was nominated for awards in Best Film Editing (shared with John Refoua and Stephen E. Rivkin,[174] Best Director and Best Picture for Avatar. Cameron has won two Golden Globes: Best Director for Titanic and Avatar. He has been nominated for a number of BAFTA Awards, such as in Best Film for the same titles.

In recognition of his contributions to underwater filming and remote vehicle technology, University of Southampton awarded Cameron the honorary degree of Doctor of the University in July 2004. Cameron accepted the award at the National Oceanography Centre.[175] In 2008, Cameron received a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame[176] and a year later, received the 2,396th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.[177] On February 28, 2010, Cameron was honored with a Visual Effects Society (VES) Lifetime Achievement Award.[178] In June 2012, Cameron was inducted to The Science Fiction Hall of Fame at the Museum of Pop Culture for his contribution to the science fiction and fantasy field.[179] Inspired by Avatar, Disney constructed Pandora – The World of Avatar, at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida which opened to the public on May 27, 2017.[180][181] A species of frog, Pristimantis jamescameroni, was named after Cameron for his work in promoting environmental awareness and advocacy of veganism.[182][183][184]

In 2010, Time magazine named Cameron one of the 100 most influential people in the world.[185] That same year year, Cameron was ranked at the top of the list in The Guardian Film Power 100[186] and in 30th place in New Statesman’s list of “The World’s 50 Most Influential Figures 2010”.[187] In 2013, Cameron received the Nierenberg Prize for Science in the Public, which is annually awarded by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.[188] In 2019 Cameron was appointed as a Companion of the Order of Canada by Governor General Julie Payette, giving him the Post Nominal Letters “CC” for life.[189]

In 2020, Cameron was the subject of the second season of the Epicleff Media dramatic podcast Blockbuster. The audio drama, created and narrated by Emmy Award-winning journalist and filmmaker Matt Schrader, chronicles Cameron’s life and career (leading up to the creation and release of Titanic), and stars actor Ross Marquand in the lead voice role as Cameron.[190]

Awards received by Cameron films
Year Film Academy Awards BAFTA Awards Golden Globe Awards
Nominations Wins Nominations Wins Nominations Wins
1986 Aliens 7 2 4 1 4
1989 The Abyss 4 1
1991 Terminator 2: Judgment Day 6 4 3 2
1994 True Lies 1 1 1 1
1997 Titanic 14 11 10 8 4
2009 Avatar 9 3 8 2 4 2
Total 41 21 26 5 17 7
Filmography