July 7, 2006

“Titanic” director Cameron plots CG extravaganza

By Sheigh Crabtree

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Nine years after the
launch of his last feature film, James Cameron is targeting a
summer 2008 release for his next project, 20th Century Fox's
"Avatar," and he hopes to start shooting a cast of unknown
actors on a stage in Los Angeles by February.

Cameron is plotting a high-concept comeback film for his
return to mainstream features, well in the wake of his
king-making helming of 1997's "Titanic." His new project, which
also has gone under the cover title "Project 880," follows a
paraplegic war veteran who is brought to another planet
inhabited by a humanoid race at odds with Earth's citizens.

"Believe it or not, the shooting is a very small part of
it," Cameron says. "It's a very, very big project where the
shooting is like a month and a half -- not really very much.
There's just so much CG (computer-generated), and the visual
effects are a huge component. A lot of it is performance
capture. We use different techniques (from Sony Pictures'
upcoming 'Monster House,' for example), but it's the same
general idea."

Cameron takes pains to make a distinction between his use
of performance capture versus the more popular motion-capture
techniques that often heavily modify recorded gestures in

"With performance capture, you're capturing exactly what
the actor does and translating it to the CG character without
the interpretation of animators," he says. "So it's not
performance by committee, it's performance by the actor. I'm an
absolute stickler about this, and I wanted to make a
director-centric performance-capture process. We've spent
literally since August of last year creating this and now we're
ready to go."


Now that his next-generation production technologies have
been hammered out, Cameron is focusing on auditioning actors.

"We're very active right now in terms of casting," Cameron
says. "We're not looking at anyone, we're looking at everyone.
There are a number of characters that we can cast from that
up-and-coming talent pool. They're not going to be well-known
names -- until after the movie, hopefully."

Cameron says he much prefers discovering new talent than
relying on the known quantities of established stars.

"It's more of a thrill to find people who are just about
ready to break and recognizing what they have and then moving
them to the next level," the director says. "That's more
exciting, I think, than just hitching my wagon to Tom Cruise or
John Travolta or whatever. They're great guys, I know them, but
it's not as interesting to me."

But Cameron doesn't shun celebrities, either.

"There are what, 10-15 bankable stars?" he says. "There are
a lot more movies than that, and there have to be other ways to
make movies. We may end up with stars in 'Avatar,' but it's not
a requirement."

Cameron openly jokes about the digital HD 3-D digital
camera rig he has been developing for six years with the help
of Vince Pace.

"Vince and I have worked since 2000 developing this camera
system," Cameron says. "And the irony is it was developed for
me to use. And I've been going off and doing all these
expeditions and doing expedition films in 3-D. We've really
flogged the camera, made sure it works, upgraded it,
re-engineered it, but now other people are using it, which is
good, which I also like."

Four Cameron/Pace 3-D HD camera rigs are being used in
production. Three are out on Eric Brevig's "Journey 3-D" for
New Line Cinema in Vancouver and Giant Screen Films is using a
rig in South Africa on the Imax feature "Ocean Frenzy." Next it
will be Cameron's turn to put his own technology to use.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter