Personal Info - Awards - Film Credits - Biography
Born: 16 August 1954, Kapuskasing, Ontario, Canada
Birth Name: James Francis Cameron
• Titanic (1997): $115,000,000 ($600k for screenplay + $8m salary + backend participation)
• Lightstorm Entertainment
• Greenberg Glusker (legal)
Academy Awards, USA
• Won, Oscar
Best Film Editing for Titanic (1997)
Shared With: Conrad Buff IV, Richard A. Harris
• Won, Oscar
Best Director for Titanic (1997)
• Won, Oscar
Best Picture for Titanic (1997)
Shared With: Jon Landau
Another 35 wins & 16 nominations
Volcanoes of the Deep Sea (documentary short) - Executive Producer 2003
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines - Writer (characters) 2003
Solaris - Producer 2002
Titanic - Producer, Writer, Director, Director Of Photography (Titanic deep dive), Special Camera Equipment Designer, Editor, Steerage Dancer (uncredited), Artist (Jack's sketches) (uncredited) 1997
T2 3-D: Battle Across Time (short) - Writer, Director 1996
Strange Days - Producer, Writer (screenplay) (story), Editor (uncredited) 1995
Apollo 13 - Visual Effects Consultant (uncredited) 1995
True Lies - Producer, Writer (screenplay), Director, Editor (uncredited) 1994
Point Break - Executive Producer 1991
Terminator 2: Judgment Day - Producer, Writer (written by), Director 1991
The Abyss - Writer (written by), Director 1989
Aliens - Writer (screenplay) (story), Director, Queen Alien Designer (uncredited) 1986
Rambo: First Blood Part II - Writer (screenplay) 1985
The Terminator - Writer (written by), Director 1984
Android - Design Consultant 1982
Galaxy of Terror - Unit Director 1981
Escape from New York - Matte Artist (as Jim Cameron), Special Effects Director Of Photography (as Jim Cameron) 1981
Piranha Part Two: The Spawning - Director 1981
Battle Beyond the Stars - Additional Photographer (as Jim Cameron), Miniature Constructor, Miniature Designer, Art Director 1980
Rock 'n' Roll High School - Production Assistant (uncredited) 1979
Xenogenesis (short) - Producer, Writer, Director, Production Designer 1978
Since the mid-1980s, Canadian-born James Cameron became established as a leading sci-fi auteur and a visionary of cinematic special effects. He shrewdly mixes and matches genre conventions, potent cultural signifiers and top-notch FX to comment on both big issues (i.e., fears of nuclear holocaust) and interpersonal relationships, transforming spectacles into personal films. Each film, however, ups the ante, pushing the limits of what is affordable and what is cutting-edge. A key theme of a Cameron film is the loss of humanity because of modern technology. There is a sense of the inevitable that emerges in his work that reached its apotheosis in the blockbuster "Titanic" (1997), which was both an FX-laded spectacle as well as an old-fashioned romance.
Born in Kapuskasing, Ontario, Canada to an electrical engineer father and an artist mother, Cameron crossed the border with his family to live first in Niagara Falls, NY, and later Brea, CA. As a youngster, he was interested in astronomy and science fiction, even penning his own short stories. Cameron was so astounded by a screening of Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" (1968) that he reportedly viewed the film ten times and became inspired to experiment with 16mm filmmaking and model building. He enrolled in a local college to study physics but instead dropped out, married a waitress, and got work as a truck driver. After viewing George Lucas' "Star Wars" (1977) he decided he should be making his own epics. Cameron raised private financing and directed, shot, edited and built miniatures for his first short film. The talent evident in this effort landed him an interview with Roger Corman's New World Pictures, where he began as a special effects technician and soon evolved into an art director and production designer.
Cameron received his first directing credit on the better-off-forgotten "Piranha II: The Spawning" (1981), an ill-conceived "sequel" to an amusing "Jaws" knockoff. The experience was memorably unpleasant for the neophyte director who arrived on the Jamaican set to find a crew that spoke only Italian and a shockingly underfinanced production. Cameron had no control over the film, a situation he would successfully avoid during his subsequent career. Late in the production, he had a vivid nightmare about a robot assassin from the future, which served as the basis for a screenplay that would evolve into "The Terminator" (1986).
Cameron approached producer Gale Anne Hurd, former head of marketing at New World, and sold her the rights to his screenplay for one dollar, on the condition that he would be allowed to direct the film, The result was a the classic thriller crafted on a modest budget of about $6.5 million. Boasting sleek compositions, expertly edited action sequences, and a career-transforming performance by Arnold Schwarzenegger, "The Terminator" was a critical and commercial triumph. Many Cameron hallmarks were already present, including intelligent scripting, strong characters, particularly the female lead, and a seriousness of purpose. The imagery and situations were resonant without resorting to trumpeting their allusions; Cameron's approach to the mythic material was often witty without descending into camp.
Hardly the standard Hollywood liberal, Cameron worked as a screenwriter (sharing credit with star Sylvester Stallone) on the landmark revisionist war fantasy "Rambo: First Blood II" (1985). His follow-up as a writer-director was "Aliens" (1989), a galvanizing sequel to Ridley Scott's memorably horrific 1979 outing, which many found superior to the original. Cameron reimagined the scary material as an action flick that begins as a "can-do" WWII-style story but quickly descends into a Vietnam-inflected vision of chaos. He also turned the already formidable Sigourney Weaver into a no-nonsense warrior for this box-office smash. "Aliens" snared seven Oscar nominations, including a Best Actress nod for Weaver, and won two statues for Best Sound Effects Editing and Best Visual Effects.
Cameron's victorious march faltered a bit with the ambitious, but underperforming, underwater epic "The Abyss" (1991). This waterlogged tale of first contact with alien life was a special effects landmark that also depicted the demise of a marriage (paralleled in real-life as Cameron's marriage to producer Gale Ann Hurd was ending). Cameron had already developed a reputation for the extreme demands he makes on both cast and crew and "The Abyss" proved to be a notoriously difficult shoot as much of the story is set underwater. In order to achieve the director's vision, Cameron and crew had to invent much of the equipment used to shoot the film. Nominated for four technical Oscars, "The Abyss" swallowed one up for Best Visual Effects.
Cameron went on to establish his own production company, Lightstorm Entertainment, in partnership with former Vestron production executive Larry Kasanoff as executive vice president. Initially based in northern Burbank, CA, Lightstorm was conceived by Cameron as "a place for passionate filmmaking" by the writer-director and others. The first expression of this passion was the eagerly awaited 1991 blockbuster sequel "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" which recast Schwarzenegger's mechanical hitman as a hero and showcased a newly-buffed Linda Hamilton as the guerrilla heroine dead set on saving the world. The computer-generated "morphing" effects first seen briefly in "The Abyss" were perfected here for the many transformations of Robert Patrick's sinister T-1000. Described by Cameron as a "violent movie about world peace", the film contains a nightmare-inducing sequence of nuclear destruction. Rumored to be one of Hollywood's most expensive films up to that time ($88-95 million), "T2" gave the world its money's worth and earned over $200 million domestically. The film won four of its six Oscar nominations (Best Visual Effects, Best Sound, Best Makeup and Best Sound Effects Editing). The success of "T2" led to Lightstorm signing an exclusive five-year, twelve-picture financing distribution deal with 20th-Century Fox worth over $500 million. Under this deal, Fox would advance a percentage of the negative costs of films produced, directed or written by Cameron and would also handle North American distribution of all Lightstorm productions.
In April 1993, Cameron founded the special effects company Digital Domain with former Industrial Light and Magic staffer Scott Ross and creature-maker/special makeup FX artist Stan Winston. This firm would handle the full FX spectrum with an emphasis on the computer-generated digital variety. Their first feature assignment was 1994's "True Lies", which marked an elaborate change-of-pace for the modern master of sci-fi action films. Described by Cameron as a "domestic epic", the film is loosely based on "La Totale!", a 1991 French comedy about a bored librarian who learns that her apparently ho-hum hubby is actually a secret agent. Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis starred in this mega-budget (reportedly $120 million) mock Bond film that also told the comic story of a marriage in crisis. Curtis shone as a demure housewife who evolves into a sexy and crafty heroine. Reviewers and audiences were divided over the merits of the extensive comedy sequences but everyone was bowled over by the over-the-top stunts and FX. Cameron had helmed another solid hit that managed to turn a healthy profit despite its Olympian budget.
Production costs on "True Lies" had exceeded Fox's mandated limit of $60 million, so Cameron and Company had to scramble to obtain completion financing. Lightstorm restructured its deal with Fox thereby necessitating Cameron to rein in the scope of his business aspirations. Fox became the sole financier of Lightstorm's productions in return for ownership to their worldwide rights. Cameron would henceforth focus on filmmaking rather than being an international film financier.
Cameron co-produced and co-wrote the futuristic "Strange Days" (1995), which was directed by his third wife Kathryn Bigelow. Instead, he turned his attention to the project which would consume him for nearly two years, "Titanic". Given Cameron's interest in technology as a theme in his work, it seemed only natural he would turn his attentions to one of the first symbols of engineering failures of the Twentieth Century. In 1995, the director participated in a series of underwater dives at the wreckage of the ocean liner. Using special cameras encased in titanium, he shot footage of the wreckage at the bottom of the sea, (Some of these shots ended up in the finished film.) While "Titanic" ran over schedule (by 22 days), the major challenges for Cameron were to build both a model of the grand liner (which was created at 90 percent of scale) and the tank in which to sink it (accomplished in Rosarita, Mexico); these were built simultaneously and under a tight construction schedule. He also had to fashion a workable romantic story at the film's heart (achieved through the performances of Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet). During the laborious shoot, Cameron often clashed with representatives of the two studios (Fox and Paramount) who were sharing costs. Originally intended for release in July 1997, the film was delayed because of the painstaking state-of-the-art FX technology, which employed the most FX shots ever, including all scenes of the ship at sea and most spectacularly, its sinking.
Almost from the outset of filming, the press speculated on the movie's commercial appeal and each rumor was duly reported, every little difficulty noted and occasionally exaggerated. (Admittedly, there were some problems: someone spiked the on-set food with PCP early in the shoot; the Screen Actors Guild investigated to ensure the safety of the cast, etc.) Cameron faced innumerable odds in completing "Titanic" and by his own accounts, it was not easy or pleasurable. But it proved to be a labor of passion for him and to guarantee his vision, he relinquished all fees except a salary as screenwriter. When "Titanic" was released in December 1997 at a running time of over three hours, it received generally favorable critical notices. (Those who did pan the film carped at its somewhat cliched romance between a socialite expected to marry for money and a poor artist.) But audiences responded to Cameron's ideal and "Titanic" proved to be a surprising blockbuster, eventually becoming the top grossing film in history earning over $470 million within three months of its release. It received 14 Academy Award nominations, matching the record held by 1950's "All About Eve", and went on to win 11 Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director, tying the record set by the 1959 remake of "Ben-Hur."
In the wake of "Titanic's" unparalleled success, Cameron was slow to select a follow-up directorial effort, flirting with various feature film properties--including a possible "True Lies" sequel--but never moving forward on any new project for several years. Instead, Cameron was a prolific producer: he co-created, executive produced and helmed the first episode of the Fox sci-fi series "Dark Angel" (2000-2002), which focused on a genetically engineered young woman (Jessica Alba) in the post-apocalyptic Pacific Northwest--despite a devoted cult audience, terrific production values and solid critical reviews, the series never caught fire with a wide audience. He also served as executive producer for the chilly Steven Soderbergh-directed remake of the sci-fi classic feature "Solaris" (2002), but his most extensive credits were in the arena of non-fiction film: with his personal experience researching the undersea world for his film projects, Cameron became a devoted explorer of some of the world's most remote and inhospitable environments. As both producer and helmer, he mounted several fascinating expeditions, chronicling his journeys for a series of visually stunning documentaries, including "Expedition: Bismarck" (2002), a search for the legendary sunken vessel; "Ghosts of the Abyss" (2003), a trip to the final resting place of the Titanic, filmed in 3-D IMAX format; "Volcanoes of the Deep Sea" (2003), another IMAX venture exploring a constantly-erupting volcanic rift between Europe and North America 12,000 feet undersea; "Aliens of the Deep" (2005), in which Cameron joined a team of NASA scientists exploring the Mid-Ocean Ridge, a submerged chain of mountains that band the Earth and are home to some of the planet's most unique life forms to help imagine how otherworldly life might develop, also shot in IMAX 3-D.
Given his larger-than-life persona and reputation, Cameron also frequently appeared as himself in a handful of film and television projects, including the Albert Brooks/Sharon Stone comedy "The Muse" (1999), the final episode of the long-running sitcom "Mad About You" in 1998, and most amusingly on the hit HBO comedy "Entourage" in 2005 as the director of a big screen version of the comic book hero Aquaman starring Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) and Mandy Moore.