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Who Is James Cameron?
James Cameron is a critically acclaimed film director known for some of the biggest box-office hits of all time. A science-fiction fan as a child, he went on to produce and direct films including The Terminator, Aliens and Avatar. He has received numerous Academy Awards and nominations for his often large-scale, expensive productions. His most noted work, 1997’s Titanic, became the first film to earn more than $1 billion and landed 14 Academy Award nominations. Cameron took home three Oscars himself for the project: Best Director, Best Film Editing and Best Picture.
James Cameron was born on August 16, 1954, in Kapuskasing, Ontario, Canada. A science-fiction fan as a child, he grew up to become one of the most visionary filmmakers in Hollywood. He initially pursued physics as a student at California State University, Fullerton, but he left to follow his cinematic dreams. Working as a truck driver, Cameron would pull off the road to work on screenplays.
In 1978, Cameron made his first film, a science-fiction short called Xenogenesis. The film helped him get a job with New World Pictures, a company run by famed B-movie director Roger Corman. At New World, Cameron worked in number of different roles, from art director on Battle Beyond the Stars (1980) to director on Piranha II: The Spawning (1981).
Cameron’s fortunes took a major upturn in 1984, when he wrote and directed The Terminator (1984). The movie told the gripping science-fiction tale of a robot from the future (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger) who travels to the present day to hunt down the leader of the resistance in a yet-to-occur battle between humans and machines. The film became a critical and commercial hit and helped Cameron land his next project, the sequel to Ridley Scott‘s Alien (1979), which featured Sigourney Weaver as a female action hero in space. Aliens (1986) received several Academy Award nominations, including one for Weaver for Best Actress.
With The Abyss (1989), however, Cameron experienced a number of disappointments. The shoot for the film was grueling. Much of it was filmed in a huge underwater set, which took its toll on the cast and crew. After its release, critics and moviegoers were not impressed with the story of scuba divers who encounter aliens while recovering a U.S. Navy submarine. However, the film’s visual effects were stunning and earned an Academy Award.
Working with his third wife, Kathryn Bigelow, Cameron helped produce her 1991 action flick, Point Break (1991). The couple’s two-year relationship ended around the same time. But Cameron returned to form that year with another box-office hit, Terminator 2: Judgment Day. The film earned more than $200 million and broke new ground with its impressive visual effects. Several years later he later he would marry one of the film’s stars, Linda Hamilton.
Mixing marital issues and espionage, Cameron wrote and directed True Lies (1994), starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Arnold Schwarzenegger. The film made it to No. 1 at the box office, grossed more than $378 million worldwide and received an Oscar nod for its visual effects. Cameron then began a massive undertaking with his story Titanic, a movie about star-crossed lovers (played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet) trapped aboard the doomed Titanic ocean liner. To re-create one of the greatest disasters at sea in history, Cameron had a special studio built in Mexico, which featured a 17-million-gallon water tank and 775-foot replica of the Titanic.
The film cost nearly $200 million to make and was plagued with problems and delays, and many in the industry expected the film to tank just like its namesake. But Cameron proved the skeptics wrong. Opening in December 1997, the film received critical raves and strong ticket sales. Titanic eventually became the first film to earn more than $1 billion and landed 14 Academy Award nominations. For his work on the film, Cameron took home three Oscars—for Best Director, Best Film Editing and Best Picture. In 1999, he divorced Linda Hamilton, and in 2000 he married actress Suzy Amis, who appeared in Titanic.
Continuing to be fascinated by the Titanic story, Cameron worked with his brother, Mike, to create new technology to film the undersea wreck of the infamous vessel. The result was the 3-D IMAX documentary Ghosts of the Abyss (2003). Two more documentaries followed in 2005: Volcanoes of the Deep and Aliens of the Deep.
In late 2017, Cameron revisited his famed project in the National Geographic special Titanic: 20 Years Later with James Cameron. The director revealed that he had made 33 dives to the wreckage site since the film was released, and said he was proud of how he was able to portray events in the film accurately, based on the knowledge he had at the time. He also admitted he got a few details wrong, like his depiction of the Marconi Wireless Room, where the captain instructed a wireless operator to make the distress call, and his interpretation of how the massive vessel sank.
Again revolutionizing the world of special effects, Cameron returned to making feature films with 2009’s Avatar. The film explores the conflict between American forces and the native population on another planet. In the film, Sam Worthington plays an American soldier who switches sides to help the Na’vi people, and falls in love with one of them (played by Zoe Saldana).
Avatar quickly surpassed Titanic at the box office. It also earned Cameron a number of accolades, including Golden Globe wins for Best Director and Best Motion Picture – Drama. For the Academy Awards, Avatar was nominated in nine categories, including Best Picture and Best Director. However, Cameron lost out on some of the night’s biggest prizes to his ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow, who won Best Director and Best Picture for The Hurt Locker.
The success of Avatar has led Cameron to develop multiple sequels to the box-office hit, with Avatar 2 slated for a 2020 release.
In 2013, Cameron traveled across the country with his Deepsea Challenger submarine. He had developed the vessel to travel to the deepest spot on the planet, the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench. Cameron made several stops on this journey to talk with young people about his amazing voyage into the Challenger Deep. “By telling the story to school kids in a hands-on way, we can inspire the next generation of engineers, scientists and explorers,” he told the Cape Cod Today website.
At the end of his historic trip, Cameron donated the Deepsea Challenger to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, in Massachusetts. His journey was the subject of the 2014 documentary Deepsea Challenge 3D.
Mixing his love of science and technology with environmental consciousness, since the early 2010s Cameron has been working to make his production company green, installing a massive array of solar panels at his studios in Manhattan Beach, California. He hopes to make the Avatar sequels the first completely solar-powered films in history.
In 2015 Cameron revealed his further explorations in solar power, unveiling the prototypes for his Solar Sun Flowers. With a cluster of panels that sit atop a 30-foot “stem,” surrounded by a ring of individual panels, the giant structures resemble their namesake and also mimic their behavior, turning to face the sun as it makes its daily arc, making it much more efficient than traditional, stationary panels. His first installation, next to a school in Malibu, California, fills the majority of the school’s energy needs.
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