James Cameron Rejected Fox’s ‘Avatar’ Notes by Telling Execs: ‘I Made “Titanic”‘ and It Paid for Your Half-Billion Dollar Studio Lot

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James Cameron revealed in a recent interview with The New York Times that he shut down 20th Century Fox executives when they tried to battle him over a key sequence in “Avatar.” Cameron rejected the studio’s notes to make the film shorter and to trim the movie’s flying sequences by telling executives that he directed “Titanic” and thus paid for a large portion of the 20th Century Fox studio lot.

“I think I felt, at the time, that we clashed over certain things,” Cameron said. “For example, the studio felt that the film should be shorter and that there was too much flying around on the ikran — what the humans call the banshees. Well, it turns out that’s what the audience loved the most, in terms of our exit polling and data gathering. And that’s a place where I just drew a line in the sand and said, ‘You know what? I made ‘Titanic.’ This building that we’re meeting in right now, this new half-billion dollar complex on your lot? ‘Titanic’ paid for that, so I get to do this.’”

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“And afterward, they thanked me,” Cameron added. “I feel that my job is to protect their investment, often against their own judgment. But as long as I protect their investment, all is forgiven.”

Considering “Avatar” earned over $2 billion worldwide and remains the highest grossing film of all time at the worldwide box office (unadjusted for inflation), the studio was smart to listen to Cameron’s instincts.

“It’s such an intense process when you’re editing a film and you have to fight for every frame that stays in,” Cameron added to The Times. “I felt pretty good about the creative decisions that were made back then. We spent a lot of time and energy improving our process in the decade-plus since. But there’s certainly nothing cringeworthy. I can see tiny places where we’ve improved facial-performance work. But it doesn’t take you out. I think it’s still competitive with everything that’s out there these days.”

“Avatar” is returning to theaters Sept. 23 in IMAX and 3D formats ahead of the upcoming release of “Avatar: The Way of Water,” the long-awaited sequel that opens in theaters Dec. 16

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