James Cameron on the lure of Atlantis and ‘making Avatar 2, 3, 4 and 5’

Famed Canadian director took time out from Disney attraction and more to chase the lost city with Simcha Jacobovici.

Canadian James Cameron is the undisputed king of the box office, having directed and written the two highest grossing films of all time: Avatar and Titanic.

What is not as well known is that the Oscar-winning director also has a deep love of science and history, which has led him to produce lavish, technologically advanced documentaries that run from deep sea exploration of the German battleship Bismarck to the mystery of undersea volcanoes.

This time around the Kapuskasing, Ont.-born Cameron is teaming with Israeli-Canadian journalist Simcha Jacobovici (recipient of the Gordon Sinclair Award for Broadcast Journalism at the 2017 Canadian Screen Awards) to try and figure out if the lost city of Atlantis actually existed in Atlantis Rising. The documentary premieres Sunday on Discovery.

The search takes off in a sailboat that goes across the Mediterranean including the islands of Santorini, Malta and Sardinia.

Since the success of Avatar in 2009, Cameron, 62, has been strangely invisible. He has worked consistently as a writer and producer on passion projects such as his documentaries but hasn’t directed a major motion picture since. (He certainly doesn’t need the work: Forbes has estimated his wealth to be in the $700-million range.) But it turns out he’s not been exactly inactive. This year Cameron may well be the busiest man in Hollywood.

The Star caught up with him as he launches the estimated $500-million Pandora: The World of Avatar at Disney World in Orlando this May and preps for his highly anticipated four-sequel shoot for Avatar.

Condolences, first of all on your friend Bill Paxton. I was thinking of Paxton while looking at your relationship with Simcha Jacobovici in the documentary. You’re sending Simcha to the ends of the Earth to find Atlantis. However, Bill was your first roving reporter. In Ghosts of the Abyss, your documentary on the Titanic, you sent him deep underneath the sea.

That was fun. That was on our second Titanic expedition. We had done Titanic the movie together and for that film I had dived the wreck 12 times. I was always telling him what an amazing experience it was. And we had been on dive trips in the past, but just to scuba depths. I said, ‘Come on Bill, you love adventure.’ He jumped on and became the everyman voice of that show. He loved history and the arts in general and storytelling. He had such a respect for the history of Titanic he brought a real gravitas to that film. He was such a great human being. You felt the tragedy through his eyes.

Your relationship with Simcha reminded me of the dynamic between J. Jonah Jameson and Peter Parker in Spider-Man (a movie that Cameron was once slated to direct). The whole idea of the crusty editor and the overly enthusiastic reporter. You keep reining him in and telling him to “go west.”

(Laughs) That’s a pretty good analogy. Simcha and I always joke I’m the skeptic and he’s the starry-eyed theoretician that comes up with all these connections. It’s a good throttle-and-brakes relationship.

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