Back from reaching the deepest point on the planet in late March, James Cameron made a stop at the Apple Store in Manhattan’s SoHo district for a lively discussion moderated by the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Scott Foundas. Cameron, out to promote the theatrical rerelease of his biggest hit pre-“Avatar,” “Titanic” (now in 3D), dished out filmmaking advice to the packed-to-capacity crowd, and offered up some juicy quips, all of which you’ll find below in our list of the four best things said during the talk.
#1. Cameron Isn’t Such a Control Freak (Or So He Says)
“You still have to be responsible to the people who are writing the check for the film, so it’s still a collaboration. But the real collaboration is with the actors and with the others artists that feed into the creative process. Every day when I go to the set, I leave the door open for lightning to strike. I think the real art of making a film is recognizing that. That’s why I don’t overly storyboard scenes in advance. I like scenes to have life, I like for them to breathe. I think it’s about letting the magic happen, recognizing it when it happens, and not feeling like you do have control over it. Because a movie doesn’t spring fully formed. The real art of filmmaking is letting it flow, letting it have a natural life, and not being threatened enough to be able to run with other people bring to it. That’s the key to it. You’re really just conducting the orchestra. The soloists still have to play. That’s what filmmaking is all about.”
#2. Cameron Didn’t Only Rerelease “Titanic” to Make More Money
“I’m not thinking about the money, but I have to think about the money for the studio. When I go to them and say, “Guys, this is going to cost you $18 million and maybe $40 to $50 million to promote, I have to make a business case that this is a good idea. I mean they like me at Fox and Paramount. I’ve made a lot of money for those guys. They’d probably go along with it if I broke even. At the time that I made the business case, there wasn’t “Lion King” and there wasn’t “Star Wars” ahead of it demonstrating that it was going be commercially viable. In fact I started talking about this in 2004 where there not many 3D theaters, so it was a long process of having to build that case.
“As of right now, I still don’t know if we’re going to make money. It’s really not the point. The point for me, as a filmmaker, is to see it back on the big screen where it belongs. To me it’s like, when a movie dies it goes to hell and hell is video.”
#3. There’s a little bit of Cameron and writer/activist Jack London in “Titanic” heartthrob Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio)
“Jack was actually kind of inspired by Jack London, who was actually of that time. He was a West Coast guy. Jack London was obviously a very creative guy. His creativity, of course, was writing.
“I put a little bit of myself into it, because I was an artist. I used to sketch and draw. I actually used to support myself in college and when I was writing screenplays trying to get stuff sold, by painting, by being an artist. So I put a little bit of my blue-collar self into Jack as well. You have to write a little bit from your own perspective, your own worldview. I think that’s important.”
#4. Cameron Thinks Hollywood is Doing a Disservice to Women
“I just like women and I like female characters. As a man, you spend your whole life trying to figure out how women work and how they think. So writing it and trying to project myself into their worldview, is a challenge (I like challenges), and I think it’s very revelatory. It helps me understand what women are struggling against in the world.
“Yeah, Linda Hamilton picks up a shotgun and blows away the occasional T-1000, but that’s not why she’s strong. She’s strong because she’s internally strong.
“It’s funny watching Hollywood mess this up over and over, ’cause the women are either secondary to the hero (girlfriend, wife, sexy chick), or they make them central, but they make them these comic book amazon characters that don’t have the vulnerability. There’s no sense of reality to that. Women can’t get behind that, because they’re not real enough.”