James Cameron revealed in a recent interview with The New York Times that he knocked out 20th Century Fox executives when they tried to fight him over a key sequence in “Avatar.” Cameron rejected the studio’s notes to shorten the film and shorten the film’s flying sequences by telling executives that he was directing “Titanic” and thus paying for much of the 20th Century Fox studio lot.
“I think at the time I felt like we were clashing over certain things,” Cameron said. “For example, the studio felt that the film should be shorter and that there was too much flying around the ikran – what people call the banshees. Well, it turns out that’s what the public liked the most, in terms of our exit polls and data collection. And that’s a place where I just drew a line in the sand and said, ‘You know what? I made ‘Titanic’. This building where we meet now, this new half-billion dollar complex on your lot? ‘Titanic’ paid for that, so I get to do this.’”
“And then they thanked me,” Cameron added. “I feel it is my job to protect their investment, often against their own judgment. But as long as I protect their investment, all is forgiven.”
Since “Avatar” made more than $2 billion worldwide and remains the highest-grossing film of all time at the global box office (unadjusted for inflation), the studio was smart to listen to Cameron’s instincts.
“It’s such an intense process when you’re editing a movie and you have to fight for every frame that stays in it,” Cameron added to The Times. “I felt pretty good about the creative decisions that were made at the time. In the ten years since, we have invested a lot of time and energy in improving our process. But there is certainly nothing shocking. I see small spots where we have improved facial performance work. But it won’t get you out. I think it’s still competitive with everything out there today.”
“Avatar” returns to theaters on September 23 in IMAX and 3D formats ahead of the upcoming release of “Avatar: The Way of Water,” the highly anticipated sequel set to hit theaters December 16.