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James Cameron on Reddit: Three 'Avatar' Sequels Almost Written, 'Years of Living Dangerously,' Guilty Pleasures, Oculus Rift

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood April 12, 2014 at 5:35PM

James Cameron has been a vegetarian for two years and explains exactly how the search teams in the Indian Ocean will find the submerged crash site for MH370 --if the pings they've located are in fact from the crashed jet's black box. And yes, we now know that the 59-year-old filmmaker/explorer is writing and prepping all three "Avatar" sequels at once before he starts shooting--they should be finished in the next six weeks, he writes.
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No budget too steep, no sea too deep. Who's that?! It's him, JAMES CAMERON!

I think that's from South Park! It literally is, it's the song from the South Park episode where they parodied my dive to the Mariana Trench.

His name is James, James Cameron

The bravest pioneer

No budget too steep, no sea too deep

Who's that?

It's him, James Cameron

James, James Cameron explorer of the sea

With a dying thirst to be the first

Could it be? Yeah that's him!

James Cameron

Source: Season 16 Episode 9: Raising the Bar

How did you feel about what "Prometheus" contributes to the "Alien" story ark? And which is your favorite movie?

Interesting. I thought it was an interesting film. I thought it was thought provoking and beautifully, visually mounted, but at the end of the day it didn't add up logically. But I enjoyed it, and I'm glad it was made. I liked it better than the previous two Alien sequels. And it was done in native 3D and I'm a big fan of Native 3D done by directors who embrace it as an art form, like Ridley, Scorsese, Ang Lee.

A few years ago, I directed a Nintendo DS game based heavily off your ALIENS film, and one of the features that we focused on (which really resonated with fans) was letting you play as 20 different marines, carefully building up each of their personalities (rewriting the full game script for each), then permanently killing them if you ran out of health. I felt that at its heart, your 1986 film was essentially more of a 'slasher film' than a sci-fi or action one: you spent the first half creating characters we the audience love, then the second half killing them off one-by-one. My question is: Did you consciously have this sort of 'slasher film' mindset as you made the film?

I think I was following in the footsteps of the first film ALIEN, which was the classic "10 little indians" model where you start out with X number of beloved characters, and have one that prevails. In ALIENS, three characters prevail at the end. So I would say ALIENS is more about family bonds, even though it's a pseudo-family in the film, and cooperation against an enemy. So it doesn't exactly follow the slasher model.

Why the shift from Battle Angel to producing more Avatar films? Is it the overwhelming success Avatar generated or the drive to develop the world Avatar exists in more? How much more do we not know about their world/universe?

My intention when I made Avatar was to do Battle Angel next. However, the positive feedback for Avatar and the support of the message of Avatar, encouraged me to do more of those films. For me, the success was a factor because I was encouraged by the fact that an environmental film, or a film about nature, could be successful. It's certainly not just about money. I'm considering success to mean the measure of the ability of the film to communicate. Every director wants their film to communicate. The biggest factor, however, is the drive to continue developing the world-- more characters, more creatures with unfettered creativity.

Any news regarding the Battle Angel adaptation? You tweeted before about casting Jessica Alba for a role.

I never tweeted casting Jessica Alba for Battle Angel. She was our star of Dark Angel, so there might be some confusion there since we've never gotten to the casting stage for Battle Angel. Currently the project is on hold until I finish the currently planned Avatar sequels, which will be a number of years.

When will you make a True Lies 2??

We abandoned True Lies 2 after 9/11, because we didn't think a comedy about fundamentalist terrorists was so funny anymore. And then we never picked it up again.

Arnold Schwarzenegger as The Terminator
Arnold Schwarzenegger as The Terminator

Hello James. Are there any timelines where Skynet wins? If yes. How is this achieved?

Well, if one believes in a multiverse of an infinite number of parallel universes, or even a large number of them, then there have to be a few where Skynet wins. But you know, I don't know how it's done exactly. And if I did I wouldn't say.

Good Guy James Cameron: doesn't tell Skynet how to obliterate our species.

One could argue that the machines have already won. All you have to do is look around at how many people are face-down texting 100% of the time, everywhere they are, and it's hard to imagine the machines haven't won.

Do you still have nightmares about terminators?

No, I've never had nightmares about Terminators after I made the film. I had nightmares that inspired the film. But I always feel that making the film is the catharsis that stops the nightmares, if you will. For example, I used to always have nightmares about giant waves, tsunamis essentially. And when I made the Abyss, which had a giant wave scene in it, those stopped.

Mr. Cameron, would you like to collaborate with Arnold Schwarzenegger again?

I think he still gets to be called Governor? I think he's still officially addressed as Governor? Well Arnold and I are good friends, and we look for opportunities to work together and to support each other's causes, and I think that's one of the reasons he got involved in "Years of Living Dangerously." Because one, I asked him, and two, as a leader, he made huge strides in clean energy himself, so he's a believer. The title was a riff based off of a 1980's movie starring Sigourney Weaver, called "The Year of Living Dangerously," which I believe was based on a novel.

What did you honestly think of "T3," "T4," Sarah Connor chronicles and all the other non Cameron "Terminator" works? Also, does it scare you that Arnold has a tank now? 

Well, I have to be objective, or as objective as possible about that. I'm not big fans of the films, I think that the big ideas of the first movies - I didn't make the second film until I had an idea as big as the first film, and it had to do with the moral complexity of the story, and asking the audience by the end of the film to cry for a Terminator. I don't think that the 3rd or 4th film lived up to that potential. Sarah Connor Chronicles I never really watched much of it, so I never gave it a chance I get to get hooked, like you have to with a TV series. I'm hopeful that the new films, which are being made right now as a reboot, but still involving Arnold, will be good. From what I've seen from afar, it looks like they will be quite good.

You gotta remember, for Arnold, a tank is a recreational vehicle, I wouldn't read too much into it. He just wants the biggest thing he can get to drive. He was the first boy on his block to have a Humvee.

Will /u/GovSchwarzenegger be appearing in any of the Avatar sequels? When does it go into production? After the massive success of Avatar do you feel a lot of pressure to make the sequel even better?

As of right now, he and I have not discussed it, and I don't see a role as the scripts are coming together that would be appropriate for him, so I would say probably not. The second, third and fourth films all go into production simultaneously. They're essentially all in preproduction now, because we are designing creatures, settings, and characters that span all three films. And we should be finished with all three scripts within the next, I would say, six weeks. There's always pressure, whether it's a new film or whether it's a sequel, to entertain and amaze an audience. I've felt that pressure my entire career, so there's nothing new there. The biggest pressure I feel right now is cutting out things I love to get the film down to a length that is affordable. There hasn't been a problem finding new and wonderful things to include in the movie.

I am beyond excited to be able to step foot into Pandora. Any details you could share with us about the park expansion at Animal Kingdom in Walt Disney World? Even the tiniest detail would be awesome! 

Well, Disney are doing a first-rate job designing it. It's going to be completely spectacular. It will be like being on Pandora. You will see real floating mountains. It's going to be a very magical experience just to be there and walk around. And the two rides will be absolute state of the art. But I don't how much they want to say about what those rides specifically will be, so I probably shouldn't say anymore than that. But from what I've seen so far, it will be amazing. I will be sad it's in Florida, because I won't be able to go a lot to it.

James Cameron on set

What do you like to do to help get your creative juices flowing?

Well, I'll work out or do yoga. Sometimes I'll read or watch something that is in the same area code to the project I'm working on. If I'm in the midst of a project, I'll go back and read what I wrote the day before. I also have an extensive file of images- photographs and art- that I like to consult.

I've been wondering where the idea to ALWAYS have a character yell "Go, go go!" in your movies came from. Did it start as a conscious thing or did you notice it later and just continue on?

Oh, it must just be the way I talk! In fact i just wrote a scene yesterday where a character says "Go Go Go!" The page is open on my computer right now. First of all, people do that in the military. The reason for it, especially over radio comm, is that people can inadvertently stop a transmission, so if something is really important, you say it three times. Which is why when I do my deep dives, I would always say "Release, release, release" so there was no doubt in case the communications got stepped on by another transmission or interference. I'm going to go change that scene now. Nobody wants to be predictable.

1. Have you ever had a moment on a film when you've just sat back and gone "This cannot be done, it is too much for me I might have to quit on this project" 2. In concerns to climate change I am one of those people who as soon as you mention it I turn off and tend not to listen, what facts can you give me to change my attitude. (I'm only 16 years old so you could say I'm not mature enough)

James Cameron and Alfonso Cuaron at the DGA
James Cameron and Alfonso Cuaron at the DGA

I would say yes, that moment exists on every one of my films. I don't think about quitting, but I always think there might be a high probability that I will die trying. So far we've always figured it out, but Avatar felt the most hopeless. We were 3 years into a 4 year project before we saw the first usable shot.

In terms of the turn off factor of climate change, I understand it. So what's going to change a 16 year old's mind about climate change? The purpose of our show was to change people's minds about climate change as something that's happening right now and hurting people right now. Not in some foreign country, but right here, right now. When I was 16, people were protesting the Vietnam war because people were dying. If you think of it that way you're going to become engaged, because it's something that's happening right now and to people like you.

What is the best advice ever given to you?

As a film director, the best advice I ever got was from Roger Corman. He said "film directing is hard work, sit down as much as possible." The funny thing is, I never followed it! I always come in on first day of production, and there's a producer chair with my name on it, and I say "take it away! It won't be used." And then about 3/4 of the way through a long shoot, I relent, I start following Roger's advice towards the end of a production.

What has been your favorite film this year?

This year, 2014, I haven't seen that much that inspired me yet. My favorite film of last year, hands down, was Gravity, and I was hoping it would win best picture, but certainly happy that my friend Alfonso Cuaron won best director. I did think that this new Captain America was an interesting film for its genre, in that it tackled this idea of digital surveillance and the kind of dark side of our hyperconnected society.

Which of your movies is your own personal favorite?

Well, I have 5 kids and I would never answer the question if someone asked me which one was my favorite. The same with my movies. Each film is a journey, you learn so much from it, and it's a reflection of a different period in your life, a different snapshot of who you were at this time. The one I'm working on is always my favorite. Right now it's Avatar 2, Avatar 3, and Avatar 4.

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This article is related to: James Cameron, James Cameron, James Cameron, Avatar, Avatar, Terminator, Terminator 2: Judgement Day


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