Are you ready to go back to Titanic? The answer, at least for James Cameron, is… not any more.
The director, who successfully managed to put his personal passion for deep-sea diving on the screen to the tune of a $2 billion profit, has decided to call it a day, both in the studio and the water.
Having produced a 3D version of the film, which apparently realises “the potential of the negative” in a way the original did not – this sounds technical – he pronounces, “It’s as much out of my system as it’s going to get.”
Jack and Rose have a sweet but doomed romance in Cameron's epic record-breakerTitanic
Meanwhile, in the water himself, he’s also decided that 33 dives to the wreck of the Titanic are sufficient. A few people would have made this call a bit earlier but, anyway, it’s done.
“I’ve been enough. There’s so little known about this vast frontier. Why waste time going to the same place over and over again? That story’s been told and, while there’s so much out there never been seen, it seems out of proportion.”
This is the perfect answer from a man able to accommodate a deeply impractical sentiment, nay abiding obsession, with a canny, very practical sense of when it’s time to unleash a new, completely different idea, all the while using his personal set of weights and balances to decant his visions into lucrative pop corn art that seems incredibly obvious once it’s out there, but has broken the mould each time on arrival.
In his films, particularly Terminator, Titanic and Avatar, he proved an unsual, Steve Jobs-esque ability to support his grand vision with a preparedness to delve deep into a trough of details. This is demonstrated when he’s asked to come up with his favourite scene from Titanic…
Cameron's favourite scene, and it's not even in focus
“I have many, but the one I like the best is the iconic scene at the bow where they kiss.”
Ahh… because it was so romantic? Err no, it seems it was because it represented a triumph of a million tiny aspects of film-making coming together under his stewardship…
“That moment was a real sunset. No one was ready, so when we saw it starting to happen, everyone was tripping over, Kate (Winslet) was running, with someone behind her, trying to get her dress fastened, and we had one shot that was out of focus, and one partially out of focus, and that’s the one we used.
“The energy of the crew, energy of nature, came together in one serendipitous moment. Fortunately, we’d rehearsed the hell out of it, so they knew how to kiss.” You can almost hear the ghost of Sam Goldwyn whispering “And that’s show business, folks… (with advanced technology)”
Which kind of begs the question… is Cameron an unashamed romantic who needs his big toys in order to tell big stories, or is he a triumphant geek who has to come up with these visionary narratives to justify getting his mitts all over a Robot Wars props cupboard of kit?
It's James Cameron's attention to detail that sets his films apart - here in the water with the cast of Titanic
He gratifyingly has a good, hard think before answering…
“There are aspects of that [latter one],” he acknowledges, “But really I want to put on a great show, which starts with a great story, and then it’s about execution.
“There’s this sense that it’s a zero sum game. In the background area of your question is the idea that ‘are you a humanistic filmmaker or a technical filmmaker?’ and there’s a sense that you can’t be great at both… bulls**t! I think you can be good at both, and one reinforces the other.
“Titanic was an incredibly technical film, but I don’t think people think of it technically when they watch it, they think of it emotionally, and I was hoping for that also with Avatar.
“But Avatar got just a little too creative with reality for it to be seen as an emotional movie first, but that’s ok, it doesn’t matter if one outshines the other, as long as equal weight is being placed in both areas.
And, after immersing himself so completely in the detail of these films and others, can James Cameron still enjoy a film like any other member of the audience?
“It’s not as though you sit there thinking, ‘Oh isn’t that great?’ but you have to be able to think of it as an audience member. I think if you can’t, as a director, put your mind in that place, you can’t really do the job, because you don’t know what they’re thinking.
“There’s nothing more terrifying when you’re about to sit down with 400 people and they’re going to watch your film, and you can’t anticipate with a high degree of accuracy how they’re going to feel… anything can happen at that point. Fortunately, one of the aspects of being a director is that you know how to do that.”
Not every director, I don’t think, but anyway…
“For me, it’s being a big film fan from 5 years old. That doesn’t change. I still like to go out and see films. I just hate premieres.”
Titanic is now available on Blu-Ray and Blu-Ray 3D, including two extra documentaries exploring the history of Titanic and the making of the film. Some pictures below, plus the director's trip to the Belfast Titanic Museum, where he recently donated items from the film, including the ship's wheel...