joshua blanchard/ getty images
joshua blanchard/ getty images
Golden Globe winner James Cameron has been a sci-fi fan since he started to read and watch television. And a practitioner of the genre since 1984, the year he made The Terminator. Aliens, The Abyss or Avatar have only continued his passion over the years. His career has put him among the five top directors in global box office revenue. Now Cameron wants to give credit where credit is due with a series of interviews with other geeks like Steven Spielberg, Guillermo del Toro, George Lucas and Ridley Scott talking about their passions and influences in the limited series James Cameron’s Story of Sci-Fi.
You are now the person that influences other creators. How much responsibility do you feel?Responsibility! That’s a very grown-up word. (Laughter). I think part of being a storyteller, especially in science fiction and fantasy is to stay somewhat a kid. I still love the genre now as much as I loved it when I was in the third grade doing little drawings after I had just seen Ray Harryhausen’s Mysterious Island. You take it in and it inspires you, and if you are an artist, you have to react, you have to do something. The only difference is that as you become an adult, you realize how there are important resonances between these imaginative ideas that you have and the society that we are in and the opportunity that you have to say something about the world, about Government, about politics or religion, or male/female relationship, about gender and race. Sci-Fi grows in conscience when you get out of your teens.
Have you learned anything from guests on the series that made you change your mind on what sci-fi is?I think doing this series and searching and talking to some of the experts has deepened my understanding of the resonance between Science-Fiction and the zeitgeist of the moment in which it was written or created. In the 60s, network television couldn’t deal overtly with a lot of race and gender issues, so it manifested on Star Trek, on other planets, where people had different perspectives. Uhura was just a communications officer and nobody said a word about it but she was a woman and she was black. It’s like, boom! As Whoopi Goldberg says in one of the episodes: “there were no black people in space when I was a kid, and she was the first one.” When I was a white kid growing up in Canada, I missed the point and it didn’t occur to me that that was an issue. But she didn’t miss the point. That is what Sci-Fi can do and it’s very powerful.
Do you think that now is especially a fertile time?Especially. Sci-fi is a way to reflect the angst of our time and the issues of our time. History doesn’t sell as well as another galaxy. You have something like The Handmaid’s Tale about the suppression of women and women treated as objects and so on and look at what’s happening in the zeitgeist right now. But you also have to remember there is a real schizophrenia to Sci-Fi right now. You have got the kind of Star Wars escapist fantasy-adventure epic neo-myth on the one hand, and then you have got The Handmaid’s Tale and Black Mirror and things like that on the other hand that are warning us about the technology and changes in society. Television is more willing to explore some of these social themed issues than the movies. I still see Science Fiction in the movies as mostly escapist fare at the highest, at the big scale. At the smaller scale, however, you have things like Ex-Machina dealing, pretty intelligently, with the emergence of AGI, Artificial General Intelligence. It was a pretty good film.
With so many of your own projects to be done, what are you doing here and not working at home?(Laughs) I was late today because I was working on two Avatar movies, so don’t try to guilt trip me about a bad work ethic. (Laughter) I have already written the scripts for two more, finished scripts, so we are making four and at the same time hopefully, we are doing the first Alita: Battle Angel movie, and I was in a story conference this morning about the three new Terminator movies. So don’t try to guilt trip me.