James Cameron, Benevolent Tyrant

Posted on October 19, 2009

The New Yorker has a long piece about director James Cameron and his tyrannical ways on the set of his new SF film, Avatar.

The director James Cameron is six feet two and fair, with paper-white hair and turbid blue-green eyes. He is a screamer-righteous, withering, aggrieved. "Do you want Paul Verhoeven to finish this motherf*****?" he shouted, an inch from Arnold Schwarzenegger's face, after the actor went AWOL from the set of True Lies, a James Bond spoof that Cameron was shooting in Washington, D.C. (Schwarzenegger had been giving the other actors a tour of the Capitol.)

Cameron has mastered every job on set, and has even been known to grab a brush out of a makeup artist's hand. "I always do makeup touch-ups myself, especially for blood, wounds, and dirt," he says. "It saves so much time." His evaluations of others' abilities are colorful riddles. "Hiring you is like firing two good men," he says, or "Watching him light is like watching two monkeys f*** a football." A small, loyal band of cast and crew works with him repeatedly; they call the dark side of his personality Mij--Jim backward.

Mij -- he sounds kind of like Sybil, only he only has two different personalities. Avatar has had so much hype that we are really wondering if it can really live up to the colossal expectations. It is costing around $230 million to make and will hit theaters on December 18. We can't wait to see it, of course.

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