Director, producer, and writer. Born on August 16, 1954, in Kapuskasing, Ontario, Canada. A science fiction fan as a child, James Cameron grew up to become one of the most visionary filmmakers in Hollywood. He initially pursued physics as a student at California State University at Fullerton, but he left to follow his cinematic dreams. Working as a truck driver, Cameron would pull off the road to work on screenplays.
In 1978, Cameron made his first film, a science fiction short called Xenogenesis. The film helped him get a job with New World Pictures, a company run by famed B-movie director Roger Corman. At New World, Cameron worked in number of different roles, from art director on Battle Beyond the Stars (1980) to director on Piranha II: The Spawning (1981).
Cameron’s fortunes changed in 1984, when he wrote and directed the film The Terminator (1984). The movie told the gripping science fiction tale of a robot from the future (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger) who travels to the present day to hunt down the leader of the resistance in a yet-to-occur battle between humans and machines. The film became a critical and commercial hit, and helped Cameron land his next project, the sequel to Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979), which featured Sigourney Weaver as a female action hero in space. Aliens (1986) received several Academy Award nominations, including one for Weaver as Best Actress.
With The Abyss (1989), however, Cameron experienced a number of disappointments. The shoot for the film was grueling. Much of it was filmed in a huge underwater set, which took its toll on the cast and crew. After its release, critics and move-goers were not impressed with the story of scuba divers who encounter aliens while recovering a U.S. Navy submarine. The film’s visual effects, however, were stunning and earned an Academy Award.
Working with his third wife, Kathryn Bigelow, Cameron helped produce her 1991 action flick, Point Break (1991). The couple’s two-year relationship ended around this same time. Cameron returned to form that same year with another box-office hit, Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991). The film earned more than $200 million, and broke new ground with its impressive visual effects. He later married one of the film’s stars, Linda Hamilton.
Mixing martial issues with undercover spies, Cameron wrote and directed True Lies (1994), starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Arnold Schwarzenegger. The film made it to No. 1 at the box office, grossed more than $378 million worldwide, and received an Oscar nod for its visual effects. Cameron then began a massive undertaking with his story Titanic, a movie about star-crossed lovers (played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet) trapped aboard the doomed Titanic ocean liner. To recreate one of the greatest disasters at sea, Cameron had a special studio built in Mexico, which featured a 17-million-gallon water tank and 775-foot replica of the Titanic.
The film cost nearly $200 million to make, and was plagued with problems and delays. Many in the industry expected the film to tank just like its namesake, but Cameron proved the skeptics wrong. Opening in December 1997, the film received critical raves and strong ticket sales. Titanic became the first film to earn more than $1 billion and landed 14 Academy Award nominations. For his work on the film, Cameron took home three Oscars—for Best Director, Best Best Film Editing, and Best Picture. In 1999, he divorced Linda Hamilton and married actress Suzy Amis, who appeared in Titanic, in 2000.
Continuing to be fascinated by the Titanic story, Cameron worked with his brother, Mike, to create new technology to film the undersea wreck of the infamous vessel. The result was the 3-D IMAX documentary Ghosts of the Abyss (2003). Two more documentaries followed in 2005: Volcanoes of the Deep and Aliens of the Deep.
Again revolutionizing the world of special effects, Cameron returned to making feature films with Avatar (2009). The film explores the conflict between American forces and the native population on another planet. Sam Worthington played an American soldier who switches sides to help the Na’vi people, and falls in love with one of them (played by Zoe Saldana).
Avatar quickly surpassed Titanic at the box office. It has also earned Cameron a number of accolades, including Golden Globe wins for Best Director and Best Motion Picture – Drama. For the Academy Awards, Avatar has been nominated in nine categories, including Best Picture and Best Director. Cameron is facing some stiff competition from his ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow who has been nominated for her work on The Hurt Locker.