It was on this date, August 16, 1954, that Canadian film director James Cameron was born in Kapuskasing, Ontario. Director of The Terminator (1984), Aliens (1986), The Abyss (1989), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), True Lies (1994), Titanic (1997), and Avatar (2009), Cameron has been nominated for six Academy Awards overall and won three for Titanic: picture, director and film editing. Cameron’s Titanic and Avatar are the two highest-grossing films of all time.
Inspired to make films by watching the original 1977 Star Wars movie, Cameron claims that during a bout of food poisoning, while making a film on location in Jamaica, he had a nightmare about an invincible robot hitman sent from the future to kill him. This gave him the idea for The Terminator, the film that put Cameron on the Hollywood directorial A-list. Known for advancing film special effects as well as film technology itself, Cameron pushed the envelope again and again, first with The Abyss, then winning awards for sound, sound effects editing and visual effects for the Terminator sequel, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, best visual effects for True Lies, best visual effects, best sound and best sound effects editing for Titanic, along with advances in underwater filming technology—and he pioneered stereoscopic digital 3-D in the film Avatar. Ironically, Cameron’s films frequently depict the uneasy relationship between humanity and technology.
The Science Fiction Hall of Fame inducted Cameron in June 2012. In October 2013, a new species of frog Pristimantis jamescameroni, from Venezuela, was named after him in recognition of his efforts in environmental awareness, in addition to his public promotion of veganism, saying the best thing you can do to fight climate change is to “stop eating animals.” He has been married five times and is described by the British newspaper The Independent as “notorious on set for his uncompromising and dictatorial manner, as well as his flaming temper” and one actor who worked with him spoke for many when he described Cameron as “not real sensitive when it comes to actors.” However, Cameron’s directorial style has inspired directors Joss Whedon, Baz Luhrman and Peter Jackson.
A self-described “converted agnostic,” as a child, Cameron described the Lord’s Prayer as being a “tribal chant.” Not only is Cameron an unabashed atheist, but in the 2009 biography The Futurist by Rebecca Winters Keegan he says, “I’ve sworn off agnosticism, which I now call cowardly atheism.” Continuing, James Cameron says, “I’ve come to the position that in the complete absence of any supporting data whatsoever for the persistence of the individual in some spiritual form, it is necessary to operate under the provisional conclusion that there is no afterlife and then be ready to amend that if I find out otherwise.”