Last night in Hollywood James Cameron and Gale Ann Hurd did a Q&A after a 30th anniversary screening of The Terminator (still the best film in the series, by the way), and at one point Cameron, reflecting back on the filmmaker he was three decades ago, talked about how he has changed... for the better.
Cameron is infamous for being a jerk on his sets. "You Can't Scare Me, I Work For James Cameron" read the crew t-shirts on The Abyss. He called for LA Times critic Ken Turan to be fired for the crime of disliking Titanic. And on his first studio feature, Aliens, Cameron had to deal with a mutiny when the English crew at Pinewood rejected his long hours and denial of tea time. After a long, long meeting that almost led to the replacement of the crew the "Tea Trolley Mutiny" was put down, but the crew and Cameron never again saw eye to eye. At the end of the shoot Cameron stood before the people who had worked hard on his movie and said:
“This has been a long and difficult shoot, fraught by many problems. But the one thing that kept me going, through it all, was the certain knowledge that one day I would drive out the gate of Pinewood and never come back, and that you sorry bastards would still be here.”
But that James Cameron is gone, according to James Cameron. Speaking to a sold out crowd at the Egyptian Theater Cameron said he put that "primadonna shit" behind him.
"The tantrums I threw on sets - they were because I thought that was how you did the job," Cameron told the crowd.
What changed? The director says the experience of making his expedition documentaries - Expedition: Bismarck, Ghosts of the Abyss, Deepsea Challenge among others - that showed him another way. On these trips, with small crews and a shared experience that no one else on Earth would ever understand, Cameron said he learned that the biggest thing he wanted was to earn the respect of his crew.
"The joy," he said. "Is in the doing."
That's certainly good news for anybody who has to work with James Cameron going forward. But what a loss for those of us who love gossipy behind the scenes stories.