James Francis Cameron (born August 16, 1954) is a Canadian film director, producer and screenwriter. He has written and directed films as disparate as Aliens and Titanic. In total, Cameron's directorial efforts have grossed approximately US$2 billion in North America and US$6 billion worldwide. After a string of landmark feature films, Cameron turned his focus to documentary filmmaking and the co-development of the digital 3-D Fusion Camera System. He returned to feature filmmaking with the science fiction film Avatar, which makes use of the Fusion Camera System technology. Avatar was released on December 18, 2009. Cameron has also contributed to underwater filming and remote vehicle technologies. On March 26, 2012, Cameron reached the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the ocean, in the Deepsea Challenger submersible as the third person in history.
Cameron was born in Kapuskasing, Ontario, Canada, the son of Shirley, an artist and nurse, and Phillip Cameron, an electrical engineer. He grew up in Chippawa, Ontario (now part of the city of Niagara Falls) and attended Stamford Collegiate in Niagara Falls, Ontario. His family moved to Brea, California in 1971. Cameron enrolled at Fullerton College, a 2-year community college, in 1973 to study physics. He switched to English, then dropped out before the start of the fall 1974 semester.
After dropping out of Sonora High School, he went to further his secondary education at Brea Olinda High School. After graduating, he worked several jobs such as truck driving and wrote when he had time. During this period he taught himself about special effects: "I'd go down to the USC library and pull any thesis that graduate students had written about optical printing, or front screen projection, or dye transfers, anything that related to film technology. That way I could sit down and read it, and if they'd let me photocopy it, I would. If not, I'd make notes."
After seeing the film Star Wars in 1977, Cameron quit his job as a truck driver to enter the film industry. When Cameron read Syd Field's book Screenplay, it occurred to him that integrating science and art was possible and he wrote a ten minute science fiction script with two friends, entitled Xenogenesis. They raised money and rented a camera, lenses, the film stocks, studio and shot it in 35 mm. To understand how to operate the camera, they dismantled it and spent the first half-day of the shoot trying to figure out how to get it running.
As Cameron continued educating himself in techniques, he started as a miniature model maker at Roger Corman Studios. Making fast, low-budget productions enabled Cameron to pick up the pace efficiently and effectively, soon becoming an art director in the sci-fi movie Battle Beyond the Stars (1980), and he did special effects work design and direction on John Carpenter's Escape from New York (1981). He consulted on the design of Android (1981), and acted as production designer on Galaxy of Terror (1981).
Cameron was hired as the special effects director for the sequel of Piranha, entitled Piranha II: The Spawning in 1981. However, the director left the project and Cameron was hired by Italian producer Assonitis to take over, giving him his first directorial job. He worked with producer Roger Corman. The interior scenes were filmed in Rome, Italy while the underwater diving sequences were shot at Grand Cayman Island.
The movie was to be produced on Jamaica, but when Cameron arrived at the studio, he discovered his crew was comprised primarily of Italians who spoke no English and the project was under financed. Under duress, Cameron says he had a nightmare about an invincible robot hit man sent from the future to kill him, giving him the idea for The Terminator, which would later catapult his filming career.
- Xenogenesis (1978)
- Piranha II (1981)
- The Terminator (1984)
- Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)
- Aliens (1986)
- The Abyss (1989)
- Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
- True Lies (1994)
- Titanic (1997)
- Dark Angel (2000–2002)
- Avatar (2009)
- Sanctum (2011)
- Alita: Battle Angel (2019)
- Terminator 6 (2019)
- Avatar 2 (2020)
- Avatar 3 (2021)
- Avatar 4 (2024)
- Avatar 5 (2025)
Cameron received the Bradbury Award from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America in 1991 for Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
But, being primarily thought of as a genre filmmaker, he did not receive any major mainstream filmmaking awards prior to Titanic. With Titanic, Cameron received the Academy Awards for Best Editing (shared with Conrad Buff and Richard A. Harris), Best Picture (shared with Jon Landau), and Best Director. He also won a Golden Globe for best director for the film.
In recognition of his contributions to underwater filming and remote vehicle technology, the University of Southampton awarded Cameron the honorary degree of Doctor of the University. Cameron received his degree in person at the graduation ceremony in July, 2004.
He also received an honorary doctorate in October 1998 from Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, for his accomplishments in the international film industry.
In 1998, Cameron attended convocation to receive an honorary doctorate of Laws from Ryerson University, Toronto. The university awards its highest honor to those who have made extraordinary contributions in Canada, or internationally.
In 1999, Cameron received the honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from California State University, Fullerton, where he had been a student in the 1970s. He received the degree at the university's annual Commencement exercises that year, where he gave the keynote speech.
In recognition of his contributions to underwater filming and remote vehicle technology, the University of Southampton awarded Cameron the honorary degree of Doctor of the University. Cameron did not attend the Engineering Sciences graduation ceremony in July 2004 where the degree was awarded but instead received it in person at the National Oceanography Centre.
On June 3, 2008, it was announced that he would be inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame. On December 18, 2009, the same day Avatar was released worldwide, Cameron received the 2,396th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. After the release of Avatar, on February 28, 2010, Cameron was also honored with a Visual Effects Society (VES) Lifetime Achievement Award.
For Avatar, Cameron won numerous awards as well, including: Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture - Drama (shared with Jon Landau) and Best Director. He was nominated for three Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director and Best Film Editing (shared with John Refoua and Stephen E. Rivkin). However, Cameron and Avatar lost to his former wife Kathryn Bigelow and her film, The Hurt Locker.
On September 24, 2010 James Cameron was named Number 1 in The 2010 Guardian Film Power 100 list. In a list compiled by the British magazine New Statesman in September 2010, he was listed 30th in the list of "The World's 50 Most Influential Figures 2010".
The Futurist: The Life and Films of James Cameron is a biographical novel written by Rebecca Keegan that covers his filmmaking career up to and including Avatar.
Cameron has been married five times: Sharon Williams (1978–1984), Gale Anne Hurd (1985–1989), Kathryn Bigelow (1989–1991), Linda Hamilton (1997–1999, one daughter), Suzy Amis (2000-, one son, two daughters). Cameron is very distantly related to actress Joanna Cameron who starred as Isis on television in the 1970s.
He has been described by one collaborator, author Orson Scott Card, as selfish and cruel. When asked about working with Cameron on the novelization of The Abyss, Card said the experience was
"...Hell on wheels. He was very nice to me, because I could afford to walk away. But he made everyone around him miserable, and his unkindness did nothing to improve the film in any way. Nor did it motivate people to work faster or better. And unless he changes his way of working with people, I hope he never directs anything of mine."
After working with Cameron on the set of Titanic, Kate Winslet decided that she would not work with Cameron again unless she earned "a lot of money." She admitted that Cameron was a nice man, but had too much of a temper.
Cameron has a famously explosive temper. In an editorial, the British newspaper The Independent described his directing as tyrannical:
"[James Cameron]...is a nightmare to work with. Studios have come to fear his habit of straying way over schedule and over budget. He is notorious on set for his uncompromising and dictatorial manner, as well as his flaming temper. "
Cameron is a member of the NASA Advisory Council and is working on the project to get cameras on the pending manned Mars mission.
Although Cameron has lived his entire adult life in the United States, he remains a Canadian citizen. Cameron applied for American citizenship but withdrew his application after George W. Bush won the presidential election in 2004.
In late October 2007, Cameron, along with singers Olivia Newton-John and Tanya Tucker, were ordered out of their Malibu homes due to the pending threat of the Witch Fire in Southern California.
In 2009, Cameron produced A Message from Pandora, a documentary feature about the Belo Monte Dam in Brazil.
In June 2010, Cameron met in Washington with the EPA to discuss possible solutions to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon (BP) oil spill. Later that week at the All Things Digital Conference, he attracted some notoriety when he stated, "Over the last few weeks I've watched...and been thinking, 'Those morons don't know what they're doing'." Reportedly, Cameron had offered BP help to plug the oil well, but they declined. The oil spill was eventually stopped using techniques similar to those Cameron recommended.
Cameron is a member of the NASA Advisory Council and is working on the project to put cameras on an upcoming manned Mars mission. Cameron has also given speeches and raised money for the Mars Society, a non-profit organization lobbying for the colonization of Mars.
On February 2, 2012, the Associated Press said Cameron would be moving to New Zealand to film Avatar.
Cameron calls himself "Converted Agnostic", and says "I've sworn off agnosticism, which I now call cowardly atheism". As a child he described the Lord's Prayer as being a 'tribal chant'.
In 2012, Cameron and his children converted to veganism.
- James Cameron at the Internet Movie Database