The New Yorker had the wonderful opportunity to follow James Cameron throughout the process of the making of his new highly anticipated film, Avatar. The result of this journey ended up being a fantastically fascinating detailed article about who James Cameron is, where he came from, and the tyrannical behavior he displayed while on set.
The new issue of The New Yorker profiles Cameron and talks about his stormy marriages to his obsession with scuba diving, and an in depth behind-the-scenes look at the making of Avatar. There is a great deal of information reveled about Cameron that you didn't even know existed. The article goes into his tempestuous and controlling personality. Like when he's gone over to the emotional dark side, the crew refer to him as "Mij" which is "Jim" spelled backwards. He also has no problem throwing out insults to his crew like what he said about the lighting guy, "Watching him light is like watching two monkeys fuck a football."So what does he do? He does the lighting himself.
You've got to read this article! It is one of the best profiles I have read on a filmmaker in a very long time. It's 12 pages long but if the filmmaking process is something you're interested in then this is a must read article. Below are a couple little sections from the article that may spark your interest in taking the time to read the article.
Cameron behaves as if he were the embattled protagonist of one of his own films—an ordinary Joe beaten on the anvil of extraordinary trials. "The words 'No' and 'That’s impossible' and phrases like 'That can’t be done'—that's the stuff that gives him an erection," the actor Bill Paxton, who has worked with Cameron since the early eighties, says. Cameron reserves a special quotient of his anger for suits who get in his way. 'Tell your friend he's getting fucked in the ass, and if he would stop squirming it wouldn't hurt so much" was the message he once told a Fox producer to deliver to an executive at the studio. He sees himself as essentially outside and other and alone; he bites the hand that feeds.
All directors have a God complex; Cameron takes his unusually seriously. For "Avatar," he worked with a linguist to develop the Na'vi language, inspired by fragments of Maori he picked up in New Zealand years ago. He based Pandora, and its myriad flora (spike tears, cliff slouchers, stinger ivy) and fauna (direhorses, banshees, slinths), partly on the creatures of the coral reefs and kelp forests he has seen at the abyssal depths. He hired a team of artists to execute his ideas, but reserved one creature for himself: the thanator, a six-legged black pantherlike beast, twenty-four feet long, covered in plate scales, with a reptilian double set of jaws and a threat display resembling that of a fan lizard.
To show you how nitpicky Cameron can be here is an example of bringing his vision of Pandora to life.
Any disagreement is resolved with the indisputable logic of an older sibling who has invented a game and deigned to let his kid brother play: his universe, he wins. "I hate this fucking thing, but I can be very specific about it," he said, when an image of a rock arch sacred to the Na'vi came up on the screen. "This looks like petrified wood," he said, circling the offending part with a red laser pointer. "It has a longitudinal grain structure. It looks very fragile to me. This hard, crystally structure looks like barn wood. We want to say that this arch formed as igneous rock, that it's a lava formation that got eroded, but it's fracturing out along the crystal planes of minerals."
George Lucas even chimes in on the work that Cameron has done for Avatar.
“Creating a universe is daunting,” George Lucas said. “I’m glad Jim is doing it—there are only a few people in the world who are nuts enough to. I did it with ‘Star Wars,’ and now he’s trying to challenge that. It’s a lot of work. I do believe Jim will take this further out than anyone’s ever conceived of.”
Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson even come in to share there thoughts on James Cameron and what he is doing for the film industry. The article also goes into an awesome amount of detail on the production of Avatar, and how much of a control freak Cameron is. He also goes into a intresting discussion about how Avatar as a film about women and how men relate to their mothers or lovers, which is also how he largely views his Terminator and Aliens movie. He also sees the film as his answer to science fiction adventure stories like John Carter of Mars. They're also a few more details offered on the film we haven't heard before, For example, the Na'vi arrows seal off wounds, which help the movie's PG-13 rating, and the marines have to employ modern ballistic weapons instead of futuristic energy weapons because of the humidity on Pandora.
Look, the article is full of great and fascinating stuff so read it already!