James Cameron – Aliens and T2
Cameron next began the sequel to Alien, the 1979 film by Ridley Scott. Cameron named the sequel Aliens, and again cast Sigourney Weaver in the iconic role of Ellen Ripley. According to Cameron, the crew on Aliens was hostile to him, regarding him as a poor substitute for Ridley Scott. Cameron sought to show them The Terminator but the majority of the crew refused to watch it and remained skeptical of his direction throughout production. Despite this and other off-screen problems (such as having to replace one of the lead actors, Michael Biehn from Terminator took James Remar’s place as Corporal Hicks), Aliens became a box office success, and received Academy Award nominations for Best Actress in a Leading Role for Weaver, Best Art Direction, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, Best Sound, and won awards for Best Sound Effects Editing and Best Visual Effects.
Cameron’s next project stemmed from an idea that had come up during a high school biology class. The story of oil-rig workers who discover otherworldly underwater creatures became the basis of Cameron’s screenplay for The Abyss. Initially budgeted at $41 million U.S. (though the production ran considerably over budget), it was considered to be one of the most expensive films of its time, and required cutting-edge effects technology. Because much of the film takes place underwater and the technology wasn’t advanced enough to digitally create an underwater environment, Cameron chose to shoot much of the movie “reel-for-real”, at depths of up to 40 feet (12 m). For creation of the sets, the containment building of an unfinished nuclear power plant was converted, and two huge tanks were used. The main tank was filled with 7,500,000 US gallons (28,000,000 L) of water, and the second with 2,500,000 US gallons (9,500,000 L). The cast and crew resided there for much of the shooting.
After the success of The Terminator, there had always been talks about a sequel to continue the story of Sarah Connor and her struggle against machines from the future. Although Cameron had come up with a core idea for the sequel, and Schwarzenegger expressed interest in continuing the story, there were still problems regarding who had the rights to the story, as well as the logistics of the special effects needed to make the sequel. Finally, in late-1980s, Mario Kassar of Carolco Pictures secured the rights to the sequel, allowing Cameron to greenlight production of the film, now called Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
For the film, Linda Hamilton reprised her iconic role of Sarah Connor. In addition, Schwarzenegger also returned in his role as The Terminator, but this time as a protector. Unlike the T-800, who is made of a metal endoskeleton, the new villain of the sequel, called the T-1000, was a more advanced Terminator made of liquid metal, and with polymorphic abilities. The T-1000 would also be much less bulky than the T-800. For the role, Cameron cast Robert Patrick, a sharp contrast to Schwarzenegger.
Cameron had originally wanted to incorporate this advanced-model Terminator into the first film, but the special effects at the time were not advanced enough. The ground-breaking effects used in The Abyss to digitally depict the water tentacle convinced Cameron that his liquid metal villain was possible.
Like Cameron’s previous film, it was one of the most expensive films of its era, with a budget of about $100 million.Terminator 2, or T2, as it was abbreviated, broke box-office records (including the opening weekend record for an R-rated film), earning over $200 million in the United States and Canada, and over $300 million in other territories, and became the highest-grossing film of that year. It won four Academy Awards: Best Make-up, Best Sound, Best Sound Effects Editing, and Best Visual Effects.
James Cameron announced a third Terminator film many times during the 1990s, but without coming out with any finished scripts. Kassar and Vajna purchased the rights to the Terminator franchise from a bankruptcy sale of Carolco’s assets. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was eventually made and released in July 2003 without Cameron’s involvement, although Schwarzenegger returned as the Terminator.
Before the release of T2, Schwarzenegger came to Cameron with the idea of remaking the French comedy La Totale! Titled True Lies, the story revolves around a secret-agent spy who leads a double life as a married man, whose wife believes he is a computer salesman.
Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment signed on with Twentieth Century Fox for production of True Lies. Cameron’s least successful film in terms of returns against budget, from a budget of $115 million, the film earned $146 million in North America, and $232 million abroad.
Cameron decided to script and film his next project based on famous sinking of the ship RMS Titanic The picture revolved around a fictional romance story between two young lovers from different social classes who meet on board. Before production began, he took dives to the bottom of the Atlantic and shot actual footage of the ship underwater, which he inserted into the final film. Much of the film’s dialogue was also written during these dives.
Cameron’s budget for the film reached about $200 million, making it the most expensive movie ever made at the time. Before its release, the film was widely ridiculed for its expense and protracted production schedule.