By Rebecca Keegan
There is a commonly held impression of James Cameron, concocted from rumors and myths from the sets of his increasingly expensive and visionary projects. Rebecca Keegan has a far more nuanced take on the director, benefiting from personal access to the man himself and almost every co-worker she could find, as well as family members and people who’ve known him since he was a lowly effects and landscapes artist on no-budget Roger Corman movies 30 years ago. Certain parts of the stereotype hold up: Cameron is an extremely demanding boss to work for, but no one works harder than he does, and his movies are direct expressions of the work ethic he practices (professionalism and teamwork are themes in all his movies), and are thus uniquely his own. As Keegan writes, “He is interested in doing things that are hard, and doing them perfectly,” which means that Cameron has expended much of his capital in pursuit of absolute creative and financial freedom. She also reminds us that Cameron—via his own effects shop Lightstorm Entertainment—has “more than anyone else muscled the movies into the digital age,” developing landmark CGI effects for Terminator 2: Judgment Day and the state of the art 3-D of Avatar. And Keegan doesn’t skimp on
the personal details that have contributed to his vision. For instance, we learn that Sarah Connor, the heroine of the Terminator saga, is loosely based on Cameron’s dynamic mother, who was a painter, Canadian army soldier, and occasional stock-car racer, and that Cameron’s single most frustrating experience was dealing with the British
craft unions at Pinewood Studios for Aliens. The portrait of Cameron painted here—with his help—dispels the myth and makes him real again.
Review by John Patterson