James Francis Cameron is one of the rare directors who comes up with very few films over the years, but they’re always worth the wait. Born on August 16, the Canadian filmmaker, director, producer, screenwriter, inventor, engineer, philanthropist, and deep-sea explorer turns 62 today! As a child, he was a science fiction fan and wanted to become one of the most prolific filmmakers in Hollywood.
Before becoming a filmmaker, he worked as a truck driver, writer, etc. When he finally got his ‘break’ as an art director, he was fired twice by Roger Corman, who also hired him back both times. He has almost as many wives as blockbusters – he currently lives with his fifth wife Suzy Amis in New Zealand, a place he really liked while filming Avatar.
It was in 1984 when the game changed for him. The idea for the blockbuster film, Terminator, came to him during a fever dream, where he saw a chrome torso emerging from an explosion, dragging itself across the floor with kitchen knives. Always follow your dreams! He agreed to sell the rights to the film to producer Gale Ann Hurd for just $1, under the condition that it won’t be directed by anyone but himself. A man of real confidence.
It was in 1997 when he made history. Titanic, with a budget of $200 million, ended up making $2.2 billion! Everybody, especially the pundits, thought that a film as expensive as this one would never be able to recover its costs. But Cameron believed so much in the project that he gave up the director’s fee ($8 million) and a certain percentage of the gross profits to convince the studio to produce it. Now that is some dedication and determination. Eventually, Paramount had to send out replacement reels because theaters literally wore out their copies. Cameron also admitted on MythBusters that there was enough room for Jack and Rose to both float safely. But, he said, "If Jack lives, the movie makes a tenth as much".
Those who thought it couldn’t get any bigger after Titanic, were mistaken, with Avatar in 2009. This movie was nominated for nine Academy Awards, and Cameron won three, for Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography and Best Visual Effects. Cameron actually tried to make Avatar in 1999, right after Titanic. Due to its budget of close to $250 million, he wasn’t sure of studios funding the film. It eventually surpassed Titanic at the box office with a collection of $2.7 billion worldwide.
That’s not all, he has also made films like Alien, True Lies and The Abyss. He almost drowned while making The Abyss – while filming an underwater scene he ran out of air and had to punch the diver to free himself and make it to the surface. Even one of the stunt rats stopped breathing while shooting underwater, but James saved its life by giving it mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. The rat became his pet since.
While writing Terminator, Cameron lived in his car as he hardly had enough money to get by. At one point, he also stole bread, living off leftover food from room service trays at the place he was staying at. Could you imagine that the man who created the two highest-grossing films in history was this poor once? We congratulate you on your success, Mr. Cameron and wish you a very happy birthday.