James Cameron: cue the iceberg
by Dominic Wells
It seemed like the ultimate folie de grandeur. James Cameron, a successful science fiction writer-cum-director, had decided to make an “intimate love story”. The only thing was, he wanted to make it aboard the Titanic. Multimillion-dollar dives were made to the wreck. Much of the boat was recreated at life-size. Kate Winslet chipped an elbow and nearly drowned. Budgets spiralled out of control. Cameron gave up his US$10 million fee. Fox Studios executives, certain of bankruptcy, cleared their desks. But you underestimate Cameron at your peril. Titanic took $1.8 billion to become the most successful movie of all time. “I’m king of the world!” Cameron crowed from the Academy Awards stage.
It was payback time for this Hollywood outsider, a bullied Canadian high school nerd who jumped grades until he was two years younger than his peers. “If you ever go to a high school reunion,” says Cameron, now 55 and 6ft 2in tall, “make sure that in the previous two months you’ve made the world’s highest-grossing movie, won 11 Academy Awards and become physically bigger than most of the guys who beat you up”.
All that was 11 years ago: one year for every Oscar that Titanic won. Since then, Cameron has made some documentaries and created Dark Angel for TV, but no feature film. Partly he wanted to spend time with Suzy Amis, his fifth wife, an actress on Titanic with whom he would have three children. But partly he just didn’t want to make another film until he could go one better than Titanic. So it is no exaggeration to say that his new sci-fi epic, Avatar, which screens at the Dubai International Film Festival on December 15, is the most eagerly anticipated film of the year.
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