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James Cameron used Titanic to get what he wanted when making Avatar

James Cameron faced push-back from the studio while making Avatar, despite the success of Titanic, until he 'drew a line in the sand.'


A well-known motto in Hollywood is: “underestimate James Cameron at your peril.” Throughout his career – from Terminator to Titanic to Avatar – people have been absolutely certain that he’s headed for unmitigated disaster, only for him to blow the box office out of the (impeccably rendered) water.

Speaking to the New York Times ahead of the re-release of the original Avatar (2009), Cameron discussed having to fight the studio on some things, despite his proven track record. “I think I felt, at the time, that we clashed over certain things. For example, the studio felt that the film should be shorter and that there was too much flying around on the ikran — what the humans call the banshees. Well, it turns out that’s what the audience loved the most, in terms of our exit polling and data gathering.”

He continued; “And that’s a place where I just drew a line in the sand and said, “You know what? I made Titanic. This building that we’re meeting in right now, this new half-billion dollar complex on your lot? Titanic paid for that, so I get to do this.” And afterward, they thanked me. I feel that my job is to protect their investment, often against their own judgment. But as long as I protect their investment, all is forgiven.”

Considering the thirteen year gap since the first Avatar, during which time Cameron has released no movies, there is understandable skepticism once more regarding the slew of sequels that are about to be released. Cameron has spent over a decade perfecting the technology, especially surrounding motion-capture underwater, for Avatar: The Way of Water. Three more sequels are planned for 2024, 2026, and 2028.

But, to reiterate, underestimate James Cameron at your peril! After all of these years, Cameron still has two movies in the top 3 highest grossing movies of all time. Place your bets now to find out whether Avatar 2 can topple Top Gun: Maverick at the top spot on the 2022 box office charts.

While we wait to see if Cameron will be vindicated and triumph at the movies once more, check out our guide to the best science fiction movies.