James Cameron's latest film, Avatar, is set to hit theaters next week. The CGI heavy film has taken Cameron over fifteen years to create, delayed by Cameron's own busy schedule, Hollywood politicking, and the sorry state of computer technology in the mid 1990s.
To give Cracked readers the inside scoop on the big movie of the holiday season, I met Mr. Cameron at his office in Los Angeles after some mild subterfuge. There we talked about the film, and the lengthy process involved in bringing his vision to the screen.
Chris Bucholz: Hello Mr. Cameron.
James Cameron: Oh Please, call me James.
CB: OK, sure James. I guess first off, I'd like to say I'm just a huge, huge fan of yours.
JC: Glad to hear it. -Cameron's face twitches as he says this, almost like he's winking at me-
CB: Uh, yeah. I just totally break down crying every time I see True Lies. And Almost Famous was incredible.
JC: That... that was actually Cameron Crowe.
CB: Such a good movie though.
JC: It was. -His face twitches again. Is he extremely attracted to me, or merely in possession of a facial tic, I wonder.-
CB: -I cross my legs slowly.- But I guess I'm really here to talk about your latest film, which is called Avatar.
JC: Yes. Avatar has been my p-p-ppp-passion and my burden for a long time now.
CB: Yes, I've heard about its lengthy development. We'll talk about that later. For now, can you tell me what the film is about?
JC: Well it's about this planet, where humans are battling the native species for control of a valuable resource. The protagonist - the hero - is this guy who, using DNA technology, creates a shell that looks like one of the natives. So he remotely takes control of this shell, or "avatar" and goes undercover, as a spy for the humans. And as the story develops, maybe it turns out that everything isn't quite what it first seemed.
CB: So it's exactly like the Wizard of Oz.
JC: It is nothing like the W-w-w-wizard of Oz, dammit!. -Another facial tic.-
CB: You said there's a guy controlling an empty shell. Like the Wizard did with his big fire breathing statue.
JC: -sighing- OK. It is a little bit like the Wizard of Oz.
CB: A lot of people say that was a great movie. Not me. Didn't care for it. Not believable. So I guess that's a point against you. -I make a great show of placing a big heavy X in my notepad.- Ok. Let's talk a bit about the challenges in developing the film.
JC: -Sounding mildly annoyed.- Yes, well I came up with the original idea in 1994, and wrote up most of the script for it. I sort of shopped it around a bit, but before long I ended up getting sidetracked with a little movie about a boat.
CB: Growing Pains.
JC: No. What? Oh. Kirk Cameron. OK, again, not me. Anyways, I looked into it again in the late 90's and decided that the technology wasn't there to realize my vision. I didn't look at it again until 2005, after I saw some of the work being done in other films, like with Gollum in The Lord of The Rings.
CB: So this is a sequel to The Lord of the Rings.
JC: Sure. Why not. I've also been working very hard with 3D technology, to create a really immersive experience. -Cameron's whole body starts shuddering at this point, his left arm flapping about like a seal that's excited about something.-
CB: Are you OK?
JC: Yes, of cc-c-c-ourse.
CB: All right.... So you don't find 3D movies to be distracting headache machines?
JC: No, but I know what you're talking about. We've worked very hard to make the effect very subtle and immersive. No spears flying right at the viewer, but techniques to make the viewer feel like they're really there, at the scene of the action.
CB: Just like you did in Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
JC: -Long pause- OK, I got it. Cameron from Ferris Bueller's Day Off. That's a bit of a stretch now. What are you, fucking with me?
CB: Oh, I'm totally fucking with you. I'll be totally level with you James because you've been so cool. My name isn't Joel Siegel, and I do not work for Good Morning America.
JC: Well then who the hell are you?
CB: My name's Harry Knowles and I write for Ain't It Cool News.
JC: -frowning- You hide both your fatness and unpleasantness well Harry.
CB: I've been taking some classes at the Learning Annex.
JC: I seee-eee-ee-eeugheeee. TTTTTTTTTTTT ERROR 802: LOST CONNECTION WITH VPN.
JC: 126.96.36.199 RECONNECTING... CONNECTED.
JC: I'm sorry about that. I have a cold.
JC: I'm very sick right now, and I have a cold. I apologize for anything I just said or any unwanted radiation I emitted.
CB: Are you a robot?
JC: No, I'm... something else.
CB: Because I'll tell my readers you're an evil Nazi sex-robot if you don't explain yourself. That's just the kind of journalist I, Harry Knowles, am.
JC: No, don't! All right, I'll level with you. I'm not James Cameron. I'm an avatar. Mr. Cameron has built multiple remote control versions of himself, which he deploys to speak with representatives from lesser known media outlets.
CB: If you want to get technical, Ain't It Cool News is quite well known. It's just not respected or enjoyed by anyone. So you're like James Cameron's personal assistant?
JC: No. Mr. Cameron's company has outsourced the operations of his avatars to my company. My name's Greg Dosanjh. I'm actually working out of Hyderabad.
CB: Wow Greg, I gotta say, I am impressed. For an Indian, you are really up to speed on American movie and television culture. You picked up those Cameron references like a champion.
JC: Oh thanks man. I basically live on the Internet here, so it's not too hard to keep up. Like I know you're not Harry Knowles. You write for Cracked, right?
CB: Good eye!
JC: Thanks! Man you guys are great.
CB: Thanks! I will quote you on that James Cameron.
JC: Oh please don't. You could cost me my job. Actually, please don't tell anyone about what just happened here. I am so far off script right now...
CB: Ok. You have my word. Could you do my one favor though?
JC: Uh, sure, what?
CB: Can you tell me straight: does James Cameron ever make sweet horrifying love to his own avatars?
JC: Oh, man. I dunno.
CB: He does it, doesn't he? Sick. He does it and makes you take part. Holy shit. I want to barf and high five someone all at once.
The interview ended not long after that, and it turns out I did barf a little in the elevator on the way out. As for my actual impressions of the Avatar film, I'll say that the special effects look amazing, and so long as the image of James Cameron making slow, unhurried love to another James Cameron wearing a little cowboy outfit doesn't enter our mind, you'll probably enjoy it.