James Cameron loves digital effects and special effects and is a legend who has revolutionized the cinema several times with Terminator, Titanic or Avatar. Technology is at the heart of his work, but not everything, he says.
In an age where special effects engines are available for every production and hundreds of millions of dollars can be invested in a blockbuster, it is the “artistic talent” that makes the difference, believes this king of the ticket.
“Everyone can buy a brush. But not everyone can paint a work”, illustrates the director during an interview in Paris before the December 14 release of Avatar 2: The Way of Water (Avatar 2: the way of water). The production of this film, released thirteen years after the first part, required colossal technical means, including a lot of filming underwater, in apnea. “I’m kind of a central filter for everything, but I have a lot of artists working for me, who draw the characters, the architecture, the world, the plants, the costumes…” he sums up.
“I like to think of (the production of the film) as being like a big hippie community with a bunch of great artists,” he continues. Technology does not create art. It is the artists who create the art. »
A film like Avatar, where the actors are filmed on a blue screen before all the sets, textures and props are added by the computer, owes everything to the actors’ performances, he points out, even if they are often unrecognizable on screen after digital processing. . “The heart, the emotions, the creativity… All this happens first”, during the shooting of the “live” scenes, the first step in the construction of the film, even before the camera angles and shots are not defined. “It is only then that the technical work begins”, he elaborates.
As for the artificial intelligence that was used to process the images, it is not there to “take the place of the actors, but to be even more faithful to their performances”, he assures.
Man of all records, with the most expensive but also the most profitable films in the world, from Titanic to the first Avatar, the filmmaker recognizes “carrying a heavy responsibility”.
“I can’t be capricious, whimsical or impulsive. I have to be very focused to create something that both appeals to me, appeals to the audience and is commercial enough to make money.”
“I can’t be too intellectual, but I can do it satisfactorily by adding a second or third level of understanding that people may or may not understand,” he continues.
“Angry” at nature
As a modern Commander Cousteau, fascinated by the sea and its depths, to the point of being one of the only people to have dived in a submarine in the Mariana Trench, the deepest on the planet, Cameron hammers new in Avatar: the way of water the ecological message which had contributed to the success of the first part.
“I don’t think the purpose of an Avatar movie is to tell you what to do,” says the director.
I think anyone who has studied environmental issues can tell what to do. You know you need to reduce your carbon footprint in every possible way, stop voting for assholes, buy an electric car, eat less meat and dairy…”
“But you can influence people’s feelings,” he continues. “The film asks you to feel something for nature, not just to cry at the end or to feel emotion towards the characters. It’s about feeling indignation, (…) that people are angry” at nature.
“It awakens this connection with nature in us. About ten minutes after the end of a film, you see the world a little differently. »
The filmmaker of all records
Everything he films turns into gold: 68-year-old Canadian James Cameron, the creator of Avatar, is both the ruler of the global box office and a director who is able to work for a decade on one project.
He is the author of the longest, most expensive and highest grossing films in the world.
If the two Terminators or Aliens, the return has largely returned to their account, it was with Titanic, in 1997, that Cameron definitively crushed the competition.
The 3 hour and 14 minute film about the tragic romance of Jack and Rose (Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet) broke millions of hearts and cost $200 million with reconstructions almost the size of the ship, huge pool on hydraulic jacks. But it grossed over $2.2 billion, a record at the time.
In 2009-2010, Titanic and its hit My Heart Will Go On interpreted by Céline Dion was dethroned… by another opus signed Cameron, the first avatar, which to this day is the most profitable film in the world, bordering on on 2. $0.9 billion in revenue. With these two films combined, the filmmaker held the top of the world box office for more than 20 years.
At 68, it doesn’t look like Cameron is hanging up any time soon. A rather rare director, with only nine films since his Piranha 2: the flying killers, released in 1981, he has already planned five Avatars, a saga to which he has devoted himself exclusively for fifteen years.
Each part will be an independent film from the others and they will not be part of a “narrative arc”. But together they will represent “an even bigger epic saga”, promised producer Jon Landau. However, Cameron admitted that he might not necessarily be able to direct all of these films himself, and that he was preparing to pass the torch.
As for Terminator, Dark Fate, released in 2019 (sixth film in the series), Cameron was content to only be a producer.
James Cameron loves digital effects and special effects and is a legend who has revolutionized the cinema several times with Terminator, Titanic or Avatar. Technology is at the heart of his work, but not everything, he says. At a time when special effects engines are available for all productions and where hundreds of millions of dollars can be invested…