James Cameron: Biography at a Glance

  • Director of the two top-grossing films of all time, "Titantic" and "Avatar"
  • Winner of five Academy Awards and four Golden Globes
  • Master visual effects artist and film technology pioneer, major contributor to 3-D and underwater filming technology, and 3-D filmmaker with the highest box-office revenue
  • Accomplished deep-sea explorer, first person to reach the bottom of the Mariana Trench solo
Award-Winning Director & Explorer

James Cameron is a Canadian-born filmmaker, deep-sea explorer, pioneer of film technology, and philanthropist. Cameron has written, produced, and directed a number of landmark films that have blazed new trails in visual effects and set numerous box office records.

Cameron is best known for his 2006 sci-fi epic "Avatar" (won the Golden Globe for Best Drama and Best Director) and his 1997 romance-disaster "Titanic," (won the Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Editing). These are the two highest grossing films of all time.

Born in Canada, Cameron moved to California in 1971 at the age of 17. He studied physics at Fullerton Junior College while working as a machinist, and later a truck driver. Setting his sights on a career in film, Cameron quit his trucking job and went to work on low-budget science fiction films as a self-taught designer and visual effects artist.

In 1984, Cameron directed his first film, "The Terminator," which became an unexpected breakout hit and established Cameron’s name in Hollywood. He then went on to write and direct sci-fi horror classic "Aliens" in 1986, followed up by "The Abyss" (1989), "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" (1991), and "True Lies" (1994). After this, Cameron began work on his long time passion project, "Titanic," which blended his two loves—filmmaking and deep-sea diving. Making "Titanic" required Cameron to make 12 submersible dives to the wreck of the ship itself, two and half miles down in the North Atlantic.

Cameron’s next project, "Avatar," pushed the limits of his visual effects skills to the extreme. The 3-D science fiction epic set in the lush ecosystem of an alien planet required more than two years of development of new production technologies, 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 were combined with stereoscopic photography to create a hybrid CG/live-action film. "Avatar" was nominated for four Golden Globes, winning Best Director and Best Picture. It was also nominated for nine Academy Awards, winning Best Cinematography, Best Visual Effects, and Best Art Direction.

Cameron is currently working on the second "Avatar" film, which is slated to come out in 2020.

Bitten by the deep-ocean exploration bug, Cameron formed Earthship Productions to make documentary films about ocean exploration and conservation. Since that first expedition, Cameron has led six subsequent expeditions, including a forensic study of the Bismarck wreck site, and 3-D imaging of deep hydrothermal vent sites along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the East Pacific Rise, and the Sea of Cortez. He has made 72 deep submersible dives, including 33 to Titanic, logging more hours on that ship than Captain Smith himself. Of these dives, 51 were in Russian Mir submersibles to depths of up to 16,000 feet.

To bring the experience of deep-ocean exploration to a global audience, Cameron set to work on a digital 3-D camera system, which he developed with engineering partner Vince Pace.

In preparation for his 2001 expedition to the Titanic wreck, Cameron developed revolutionary fiber-spooling mini-ROVs, as well as other deep-ocean lighting and photographic technology. His team's historic exploration of Titanic's interior was the subject of his 3-D IMAX film, "Ghosts of the Abyss."

Cameron returned to the Titanic site in 2005 to extend his interior exploration with new, smaller fiber-spooling ROVs, ultimately surveying more than 60 percent of the extant interior spaces of the ship, including imaging the stunningly intact Turkish Baths and other well-preserved examples of Edwardian elegance deep in the labyrinth of the wreck.

Cameron recently wrapped a journey to the deepest known place in the planet, the Marina Trench, a journey seven years in the making. The expedition is chronicled in the documentary "Deepsea Challenge," which was released August 2014. Cameron is the first person to make this journey solo, and only the third person to do so ever.

As an explorer, Cameron has been equally fascinated by both outer and 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. Cameron served on the NASA Advisory Council for three 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. In honor of his efforts to promote the environmental awareness, in October 2013 a new species of frog from Venezuela was named Pristimantis jamescameroni.

Cameron is currently developing a number of ocean projects, including an environmentally themed expedition series for television. Working with Vince Pace, Cameron is continuing to develop 3-D imaging tools and workflows for cinema, television, documentaries, and exploration under their CAMERON | PACE Group banner.

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