Thursday, September 2, 2010

New James Cameron Interview, Talks 'Avatar'

James Cameron doesn’t do small. Both Terminator 2 and Titanic broke the record for the most expensive film ever made, while Titanic comfortably held the title of the highest-grossing movie ever for more than a decade. When it was surpassed, it was by his film Avatar, which took in a breathtaking $2.7bn (£1.7bn). But apparently that’s still not enough money, because it’s just been re-released with nine minutes of extra footage. ShortList spent 20 minutes trying not to provoke the famously fiery director. At least not to begin with...

Avatar’s just been re- released, but you also have a sequel planned where we’ll see the oceans and other moons. What’s the latest on that?

We’re exploring both of those and more besides. Avatar was all about surprising people with new and wondrous things, so we’re going to expand the landscape, create new creatures and go places you don’t expect. If we’re still tromping around the forest it’s going to get thin. It’s not a TV series.

Where does that leave you with your other projects, such as manga comic-book adaptation Battle Angel?

It’s up in the air. Right now I’m working on the companion novel to Avatar. It’s something I don’t want to leave to another writer who’ll drop in like a Special Forces team with no idea about the larger universe. There’s so much detail that was created for this world that didn’t make it into the film that I want to get it all written down before I forget it. And that will lay the foundations for the scripts to the sequels.

Avatar’s leading man Sam Worthington has had a lot of stick from critics for being bland and wooden. How do you respond to that?

They’re idiots. If you think about actors who can do the tough-guy thing, whether it’s Russell Crowe or Hugh Jackman, he’s certainly in that league, and I think he’s got a capacity to evoke emotion that some of the lesser tough-guy actors couldn’t even think about getting close to. Sam’s amazing. He’s got great range and vulnerability. Wooden is absurd. Just an absurd characterisation.

What about another of your leading men, Arnold Schwarzenegger — do you guys still hang out?

He’s busy running the fifth-largest economy in the world. California’s not just another state, it’s a like a country. We still get together and ride bikes every few weeks. We’ve stayed pretty close friends over the years. [If he asked me to direct a campaign commercial] I’d be there in a heartbeat.

Do you feel satisfied with the negative response to the Terminator and Alien films after you stopped working on the franchises?

You definitely want to see them not do as well. That’s critical. I’m kidding. With Terminator 3 and 4, because Arnold and then Sam were in them, I wanted them to do well, but just not that well. With Alien 3, I love [director] David Fincher, but I thought killing off the characters that people had rooted for in the second wasn’t a wise decision. But I don’t harbour any lingering grudges.

You’ve obviously been a major pioneer of 3D filmmaking, but there seems to be a backlash developing against films, such as Clash Of The Titans, being converted to 3D in post-production...

People at the studios have to stop doing stupid stuff like making those bad 3D conversions to just capitalise on the craze. If you’re not assuring a premium experience, you can’t charge a premium ticket price. There is a legitimate danger of p*ssing in the soup and souring the market. I’m not against the conversion of classics, in fact we’re doing Titanic ourselves, but you’ve got to take the time, spend the money and assure the quality. People complain about the increased ticket price, but I still think that movies are a great bargain. Movies are the only place where you can spend $1m or $300m and charge the same amount. That’s insane, there’s no other product in the world that operates that way.

You’ve got a reputation for being a hard taskmaster — is that fair?

Look, I never single people out, but I can’t say that I worked on a movie for four-and-a-half years and never lost my temper. I demand excellence of myself, and I work really hard, and I expect everybody to keep up. When I put the team together to do the additional nine minutes for the Avatar re-release, everybody had big smiles on their faces.

You’re now 56 — how do you keep going as you get older? Your films are always huge physical and technical challenges — why not try something on a small scale?

I’d fall asleep at the monitor. It’s got to be challenging. If the movie can’t be challenging, I’ll go find something else that’s challenging. As long as I want to build something and see it work, or try to do something that hasn’t been done before, then I’m happy. I can imagine doing that for another 30 years, but I don’t think I can hold out that long.

You never know, I’m sure after Avatar you can afford some pretty decent medical care...

Yeah, I can slowly turn myself into a cyborg and become a character in one of my
own movies.

Avatar: Special Edition is at cinemas now