Born in Kapuskasing, Ontario, Canada, James Cameron grew up in the historic village of Chippawa, near Niagara Falls. In 1971, he moved to Brea, California where he studied physics at Fullerton Junior College while working as a machinist and, later, a truck driver. Cameron quit his trucking job in 1978 and raised money from local dentists to produce a 35mm short film.
The visual effects in this film led to work on Roger Corman's Battle Beyond the Stars (1980), on which he served as production designer, matte artist and visual effects DP.
In 1983 Cameron wrote three scripts: Rambo: First Blood Part 2, Aliens, and
he Terminator. He directed The Terminator, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, in 1984. It became an unexpected box office hit and made the Time magazine ten best of the year list.
Cameron subsequently directed Aliens (1986), then wrote and directed The Abyss (1989). Following that he wrote, produced and directed Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), True Lies (1994), Titanic (1997), and Avatar (2009). He also co-wrote and produced Point Break (1991) and Strange Days (1994), as well as producing Solaris (2003).
His films have blazed new trails in visual effects and set numerous performance records both domestically and abroad. AVATAR currently holds both the domestic and worldwide box office records having grossed over $2.7 billion at the global box office, beating the previous record holder, Titanic, which held that record for 12 years. Cameron's films have also earned numerous nominations and awards from a variety of organizations, including Titanic's 14 Academy Award nominations (a record) and 11 Oscars (the most any movie has received), including Cameron's 3 Oscars for Best Picture, Best Direction and Best Editing.
Avatar, a 3D science fiction epic set in the virgin ecosystem of a distant planet, required over two years of development of new production technology, including image-based facial performance capture, a real-time virtual camera for CG production, and the SIMULCAM system, for real-time tracking and compositing of CG characters into live-action scenes. These techniques are combined with stereoscopic photography to create a hybrid CG/live action film. Avatar won the Golden Globes for Best Director and Best Picture. It was nominated for 9 Academy Awards and won 3.
In 1999, Cameron co-created the one-hour television series Dark Angel. The show ran for two seasons on the Fox Network and gained a loyal following and a number of prestigious nominations and awards, including the 'People's Choice Award' for 'Best New Television Drama'. It also launched a new star: Jessica Alba.
Cameron has been an avid scuba diver since 1969, logging over 3000 hours underwater. Seeking to combine his two great passions - diving and filmmaking - he directed The Abyss, which broke new ground in underwater cinematography and lighting. His attraction to the deep ultimately drew him to the Everest of shipwrecks: Titanic. In 1995, Cameron made 12 manned-submersible dives to the Titanic in preparation for his feature film. For that expedition Cameron developed unprecedented filming, lighting and robotic equipment for use in the extreme pressures of the deep. The technical success of that expedition fueled his desire to bring the experience of deep ocean exploration to audiences around the world. He turned to documentary filmmaking and formed Earthship Productions to develop films about ocean exploration and conservation.
Cameron set to work on a digital 3-D camera system, which he developed with partner Vince Pace. The goal was to bring back the experience of deep ocean exploration with unprecedented clarity to a global audience.
In preparation for his 2001 expedition to the Titanic wreck, Cameron developed revolutionary fiber-spooling mini-ROV's as well as numerous other deep ocean lighting and photographic technology. His team's historic exploration of the inside of Titanic was the subject of Cameron's 3-D Imax film, Ghosts of the Abyss. In May of 2002, Cameron guided his robotic cameras inside the wreck of Bismarck, which resulted in groundbreaking discoveries about the sinking of the legendary German battleship, and the
Discovery Channel documentary, James Cameron's Expedition: Bismarck.
Cameron's team then made 3 expeditions to deep hydrothermal vent sites in the Atlantic, Pacific and Sea of Cortez over a two-year period, which became the subject of Aliens of the Deep, also released in 3D Imax. He was joined in his exploration of these extreme environments by a team of young scientists and marine biologists to study how life forms discovered there represent life we may one day find on other planets and moons in our solar system. Most recently, Cameron returned again to the Titanic to complete his interior exploration of the ship, which was showcased in the Discovery Channel's program, Last Mysteries Of The Titanic. Cameron has ultimately
led 7 deep ocean expeditions with over 70 deep submersible dives, including 49 Mir dives to depths up to 16,000'.
As an explorer, Cameron has been equally fascinated by outer as well as inner space. He has worked for years with space scientists and engineers, developing viable architectures for the human exploration of Mars, and has been involved with a number of robotic space exploration projects. He is currently a co-investigator on the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Mastcam, the "eyes" of the Curiosity rover, which will explore the Martian surface next year. Cameron served on the NASA Advisory Council for 3 years, is an active member of the Mars Society and the Planetary Society, and remains as committed to the exploration of space as he is to the exploration and conservation of the oceans.
Cameron's passion for archeology led him to become Executive Producer of Exodus Decoded and Producer of The Lost Tomb of Jesus, both award-winning documentaries directed by Simcha Jacobovici.
Cameron continues to work with his engineering partner, Vince Pace, to develop camera systems and tools for 3D photography, for movies, documentaries, sports and special events. Their Fusion Camera System is the world's leading stereoscopic camera system, and has been used on Avatar, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Hannah Montana: Best of Both Worlds, U2:3D, Tron: Legacy, as well as numerous special event projects, such as the NBA All Star Game.
Cameron is also continuing to develop a number of ocean projects, and other environmentally themed documentaries.
Watch an exclusive clip from James Cameron's episode of Visionaries, and click here to check out deleted scenes that didn't make it into the show!