Cast & Crew talk about James Cameron
Date: March 7, 1995
Arnold Schwarzenegger (Actor, "The Terminator", "True Lies")
Each time we do a scene he pushes and pushes and pushes until you have made it totally believable. That's really the key thing: Get that in every scene. One of the things in "Terminator," for instance, was to be directed in such a way that you end up really acting machinelike. Someone wouldn't even notice that as the main thing, but that takes a lot. He had a very clear vision of what the moves should be like and what the speech pattern should be like to sell the idea completely - right away, after the first scene - that this is a machine, not a human being.
Jamie Lee Curtis (Actress, "True Lies")
In your life as an actor, you usually get one or two parts that are your defining roles, that really cement and use your capabilities to their best. This part certainly will be that for me. I will be very surprised if anything else in my life will compare as strongly as that part in that movie at that time. After the Golden Globes, I got home and thought, All right, this may be the best that I feel from my work and the success of my work, so just enjoy it and understand that it doesn't happen very often to people. It certainly doesn't happen very often to me, and for something like 99.99% of the acting profession, this doesn't happen.
Peter Lamont (Production Designer, "Aliens", "True Lies")
If he kind of wrinkles his nose and there's a little sparkle in his eye, and he says, "I can shoot this," then I know everything's all right. And the thing is, whatever I do, he can make it look even better. Some of the shots he did on "True Lies," some of the moves are very complicated. But he always makes the set look great.
Robert Patrick (Actor, "Terminator 2")
My instructions were: Create this intense presence. I had sort of patterned what I did after what I had seen Arnold (Schwarzenegger) do in the original. Then Cameron encouraged me to think about predators in general. He said to let your mind be a sponge, and try to take cues from aspects of nature, especially bugs. He was very interested in me thinking with an instinct - this very calm, non-emotional patience. So I checked out some documentaries. He had me training with a physical trainer, working out three or four times a day.
He's very demanding of himself and of others, and I looked at Jim as my general and I was the FNG, which in Army parlance is the "f*cking new guy." Jim is the general, we're going into war, and I'm his private, his FNG, and I'm going to try and accomplish everything that he wants to do. The whole film for me was pretty much military - yes sir, no sir - and I think Jim kind of caught on to the fact that that was the way I wanted to be treated, and that's the way we worked together. I literally felt like I could run through a wall for him.
Bill Paxton (Actor, "Aliens", "True Lies")
I visited Jim on the set of "The Abyss," and when I saw the kind of punishment he had to put himself through physically to shoot that movie... The actors talked about how hard it was to work underwater, but they were down there for a few hours at a time - with breaks. Jim was down there all day, so long that he pushed the Navy dive tables beyond their recommended limits. He figured there was a little room to push the envelope.
There was an air filling station at the bottom of the tank, and he would just keep filling up. At the end of the day, he had to decompress in about ten feet of water for about an hour and a half. Since Jim doesn't like to waste time, he had a plate-glass window put in so he could watch dailies while he was decompressing.
The helmet that Jim designed for the movie - so he could see the actors' faces underwater and record dialog - was really heavy. It was hard on Jim's shoulders and neck. So at the end of the day when it was time to decompress, he would hang upside down on a rail to take the pressure off his neck and watch dailies on a television monitor that was turned upside down. I think that's a pretty extreme James Cameron moment.
Joel Kramer (Stunt Coordinator, "True Lies", "Cliffhanger")
You've got to try to stay three steps ahead of him, because he thinks at warp speed. Working on a Jim Cameron picture you're working at the extremes, using all of your resources.
John Bruno (Visual-Effects Supervisor, "True Lies")
When you're planning sequences on a James Cameron film, you know that once he has approved it, his goal is to shoot it. He won't fall short of it, and he won't shrug it off and say: "Oh, we can't do this." And you know that when you get an idea like putting Arnold Schwarzenegger in a jet on the roof, there aren't many directors that would follow through on that line of thinking. I've been on sets where directors have said, "This is silly, we're not shooting this" after considerable time has been spent planning it out. You know Jim is not only going to shoot what's there, he's actually going to make it better.
Sigourney Weaver (Actress, "Aliens")
He really does want us to risk our lives and limbs for the shot, but he doesn't mind risking his own. What else could you expect from a guy who grabs the tails of sharks for sport?
Mario Kassar (Chairman, Carolco Pictures)
He is obsessed with perfection, so it's always a challenge being around him, and beyond that he's a great storyteller who can always take a plot to much higher levels.
Jamie Dixon (Visual-Effects Supervisor, "True Lies", "Toys")
Jim is a fabulous hero to those of us in the effects industry, because he's done that thing that everybody wants to do: He has transcended special effects. I think he still struggles with being an effects guy, I mean the question must have come up for him, "Can you direct actors?" I guess it's something he's had to deal with, but it's like, "God, Jim, who are you trying to convince?" I'll never forget that scene in "Aliens" where Sigourney Weaver rides down the elevator to the alien den - and neither will millions of other people.
Russell Carpenter (Director of Photography, "True Lies", "Hard Target")
The "Jim Factor" is that on the set he's going to find a way to make the scene more exciting, more powerful, better in some way. What that often means is that the supporting players around him are going to have to be more flexible than they would have to be on a lot of other shows. Jim's not afraid to change something at the last moment if he knows it's going to make it better. We went bonkers, but the results were great. That's the trade-off.
William Wisher (Screenwriter, "Terminator 2")
The interesting thing about Jim is he hasn't changed much over the years. If anything, he's relaxed. But you know how power can change people? Jim acts the same today as he did at eighteen, except older and wiser. But even then you knew he was going to be a guy in charge. When he was young and didn't have two nickels to rub together, he was just a guy with a cash flow problem. You never doubted that he was going to be successful.
Todd Graff (Actor, "The Abyss", "City of Hope" Screenwriter, "Used People", "Angie")
Jim is a true visionary. I looked the word up. According to Webster's it means, "given to idealistic theorizing; a dreamer." Writing for Jim, the only rule was to not edit your imagination - acting for him was the same but with worse hours. Instead of "If You Build It, They Will Come." Jim's motto is "If You Can Imagine It, They Will Build It." And for Jim they always do - or else.
Mike Cameron (James Cameron's brother and V.P. Operations, Lightstorm Technologies)
He's really genuine, truly believes in what he is doing. All this stuff that keeps coming up about him being tough on the set - well, doggone it, why shouldn't he be tough? He takes these projects so seriously and is so involved with them at every level. There's no room to sugar-coat anything. So tough? Yes. But that shouldn't be the first thing you think about when you think about him. You should think about how wonderful and creative he is and how great it is to be working with someone so visionary. Anyone who can't take it should consider a less stressful line of work.
Michael Biehn (Actor, "The Terminator", "The Abyss")
You could spend so much time with Jim, and you realize he's like a kid in a candy store. He's having a lot of fun. He is very passionate about what he does and why he does it and what he wants to communicate. Beyond that, he's like: "Let's go out to dinner. Let's go surfing. Let's go diving. Why don't you come up for New Years?" He's not intimidating in life at all. But he's one of those people - and there are actors like this too - that are so passionate about their work that they let it consume them. Jim as a person is gentle and giving and interested. He'd be the first person - if somebody called him with a problem - to say, "What can I do for you?" He's proved it to me over and over again. He's a guy you can count on as a friend. He's not about James Cameron. He's about Jim.
Rae Sanchini (President, Lightstorm Entertainment)
He's a writer, and as with any writer he consumes himself with these characters - what their motivations are, and what their back stories are and what they're looking for. And he really has a story to tell, a very human story that he is able to blend with action and, certainly in the case of "True Lies," with humor. But it's fascinating to think that in addition to everything else, he's the one who came up with the original idea. He's there all the way through from "Wouldn't it be cool to do a movie about some sort of terminator that comes back from the future?" to release printing, color timing, marketing, video transfer and so on.
Brad Fiedel (Composer, "True Lies", "The Terminator", "Terminator 2")
On "True Lies," Cameron took a lot of risks as a filmmaker, moving from what he'd done into this film, which deals with comedy in a different way and with relationships. I admire his risks and his allowing me the freedom to really stretch and do different things musically as a collaborator. To go from "T2" to "True Lies" - from an electronic, rhythmically oriented score to a full 106-piece orchestra score that includes tangos and comedic horse chases and romantic moments and family emotional moments - that was a big jump. Once we got started there was a lot of trust there, and he allowed me to stretch and change as an artist and do something different from what had been done before. I think he did that in the film as well.