04/12/2022

‘Avatar’ director James Cameron on making big-budget movies: ‘Difficult is a magnet for me’

When it comes to blockbuster directors few are bigger than James Cameron, whose films have grossed more than $6 billion at the worldwide box office.

On top of hits like “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” and “Aliens”, Cameron’s filmography also includes “Titanic”, which for years was the highest-grossing film of all time until he broke his own record with 2009’s “Avatar”, which has grossed $2.91 billion to date.

His biggest films were both massive undertakings, drawing moviegoers in droves because of the size and spectacle of what was on display. But his next film, “Avatar: The Way of Water”, required him to move his entire life to New Zealand for the painstaking process of crafting his sequel.

While the past few years have been filled with hard work, that’s part of the reason Cameron wanted to do it.

“I’m attracted by difficult. Difficult is a f—ing magnet for me,” the director said in a recent GQ cover story while promoting the next “Avatar” installment.

There are lots of smart, really gifted, really talented filmmakers out there that just can’t do the difficult stuff. So that gives me a tactical edge to do something nobody else has ever seen, because the really gifted people don’t f—ing want to do it.

From diving to the bottom of the ocean to film the wreckage of the Titanic to developing new technologies so that he could bring Pandora to life for “Avatar”, Cameron has a reputation for pushing boundaries with his filmmaking. 

“I think it probably goes back to this idea that there are lots of smart, really gifted, really talented filmmakers out there that just can’t do the difficult stuff,” Cameron said. “So that gives me a tactical edge to do something nobody else has ever seen, because the really gifted people don’t f—ing want to do it.”

With the difficulties that come along with creating his films come massive budgets. The first “Avatar” cost nearly $250 million to produce, and Cameron says that in order for the second film to turn a profit it would “have to be the third or fourth highest grossing film in history. That’s your threshold. That’s your break even.” 

While Cameron says he “used to be really defensive” about the cost of his films and being known as a big budget director, the 68-year-old has come to embrace high production prices as worthwhile investments. 

“If I can make a business case to spend a billion dollars on a movie, I will f—ing do it. Do you want to know why? Because we don’t put it all on a pile and light it on fire. We give it to people,” he said. “If the studio agrees and thinks it’s a good investment, as opposed to buying an oil lease off of the north of Scotland, which somebody would think was a good investment, why not do it?”

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