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James Cameron Admits He Played The ‘Titanic’ Card When Clashing With The Studio Over The Original Avatar Film

Zoe Saldana in Avatar.
(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

James Cameron's track record as a director is absolutely incredible but there was a time when he had only made one of the most successful movies of all-time, and apparently when that’s the case even James Cameron still has to fight the studio over getting to make the movie he wants. It turns out that in order to make the version of Avatar he wanted, Cameron had to remind the studio who had made Titanic for them. 

Avatar was the highest grossing movie of all-time upon its release, and globally it still is, though it was briefly dethroned by Avengers: Endgame. At this point, it’s hard to imagine anybody saying “no” to James Cameron, they let the man wait over a decade to make Avatar sequels, but the director tells the New York Times, that he did clash with the studio over several elements of the film, including the runtime. Cameron explained…

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.

While the studio was clearly unsure about Avatar, James Cameron was convinced that he was right. He was so sure of it, in fact, that he apparently told the people who were questioning him to let him do what he wanted, because Titanic paid for the room they were in at the time. It was a pretty strong argument to be sure. Cameron 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.

Hollywood is a business, that's not exactly new information. James Cameron says that he’s well aware that the studio has an investment they’re trying to protect. Cameron understands that and is trying to do the same. Of course, in this case, the two sides have very different perspectives on the best way to do that. Cameron, of course, thinks he knows best, and Titanic was certainly strong evidence at the time that he was not wrong. 

In the end, one assumes the Fox executives were glad they relented and listened to James Cameron. They were probably able to build another half billion dollar complex thanks to the box office receipts from Avatar. Will the sequel do the same for Disney? James Cameron certainly thinks it will work, and he hasn't been proved wrong yet.

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.