James Cameron popped by Reddit on Saturday to participate in an AMA session. While the director was mainly there to promote his Showtime climate change documentary series "Years of Living Dangerously," Cameron also answered a bunch of questions about other projects including those in the past ("Titanic," "Alien," "The Abyss") as well as those in the present and future (the currently in pre-production "Avatar" sequels, the long-gestating "Battle Angel" adaptation).
Here, we've combed through Cameron's numerous replies to highlight some of his best responses. Check them out below, and be sure to check out the entire exchange -- including Cameron's detailed outline of the search plan for missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370 -- for even more in-depth answers.
On who would win in a fight: A Na'vi, the Alien Queen, or the T-800 Terminator?
Is the T-800 armed or not armed? An Armed T-800 with a plasma rifle will clean house, all it has to do is shoot the Alien Queen, and have it bleed on the Na'vi. I would think that all three of them unarmed. Queen beats Na'vi. Queen beats T-800, because the T-800 would tear the arm off a queen, which would dissolve the mantel and shut down the cyborg. Now a Na'vi riding a leonopteryx, or a Na'vi riding a thanataur, that would be a different story.
On whether his films scare him, and using fear as fuel
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. Filmmaking is therapy.
On (ignoring) some good advice
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.
On Neil deGrasse Tyson's infamous complaint about the incorrect star patterns in "Titanic"...
I wasn't particularly embarrassed because I think that's an unbelievably specific nitpick and if that caused him to not enjoy the film, he may need to reevaluate his priorities. That said, because I'm such a perfectionist, I challenged him to provide me with the correct star fields and incorporated them into the future rereleases of the film. So, if you watch the film now, the stars are correct.
...and that other gripe that Jack could totally have fit on that plank with Rose
Mythbusters did an episode about this and proved that two people could have floated on the door in such a way that both could have survived, but it involved using both of their floatation vests rigged under the door in such a way that they wouldn't detach. What they neglected to incorporate was the amount of time that they would have had to spend submerged in 28 degree water to attach them that way. Also, Jack is a 19 year old guy processing a problem in real time, in water, at night, and already hypothermic, so that's a lot to ask of him.
On why he put off other projects in favor of three "Avatar" sequels
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.
On the top-secret upcoming Disney World "Avatar" attraction
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.
On the potential of surviving an alien invasion
The history on our planet is whenever a superior technology society encounters a society with lesser technology, the superior technology supplants the lesser society. There has never been an exception. So if the aliens come to us, it probably won't go well for us. A thousand years from now, if we're the ones going to where the aliens are (like the story told in Avatar) it won't go so well for the aliens.
On difficult film shoots and wanting to give up
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.
On whether he sings "My Heart Will Go On" in the shower
No, I can't hit those high notes like Celine.
Photo by YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images
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