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James Cameron on Ridley Scott's genius, plant-based diets and reissuing 6 of his top films

What size James Cameron are you? Small ("True Lies"), medium ("Aliens"), large ("Titanic") or XL (the ongoing "Avatar" series)?

Ardent fans of the meticulous, irrepressible and wildly successful director ($8 billion in worldwide grosses) will want to mark their calendars for a half-dozen high-definition rereleases of his films.

"I put a lot of care and craft into optimizing my movies for the viewer experience," Cameron tells USA TODAY. "The theater experience is the ultimate. But home (TV) sets are getting so good, we wanted to make sure that experience could be the best it could be."

Fans can now purchase "Titanic 25th Anniversary Collector’s Edition" in 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, or stream the movie in that format on Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV and Fandango/Vudu. On Dec. 6, select theaters will show the 1989 underwater thriller "The Abyss: Special Edition" in remastered 4K.

Director James Cameron and actor Edie Falco on the set of "Avatar: The Way of Water." Cameron is planning five movies in the series and is currently working on part three.
Director James Cameron and actor Edie Falco on the set of "Avatar: The Way of Water." Cameron is planning five movies in the series and is currently working on part three.

On Dec. 12, 4K Ultra HD versions of "Aliens Collector’s Edition," "The Abyss Collector’s Edition," "True Lies Collector’s Edition," "Avatar Collector’s Edition," and "Avatar: The Way of Water Collector’s Edition" will be available on Prime, Apple and Fandango/Vudu, and the titles will be released on Blu-ray Dec. 19.

Finally, March 12 will mark the arrival in 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray disc of "Aliens 4K Collector’s Edition," "The Abyss 4K Collector’s Edition," and "True Lies 4K Collector’s Edition." All reissues feature Dolby Vision HDR quality and with an immersive Atmos audio mix.

Cameron, along with producer Jon Landau, offered insights about the collections, thoughts on filmmaker Ridley Scott and declarations about Jack's death in "Titanic." (Edited and condensed for clarity.)

Question: What are some examples of special insights fans can get from these editions?

James Cameron: Well, for example, there are short docs with "The Abyss: Special Edition" that talk all about the challenges involved in creating the helmets and sets and underwater lighting, what the actors went through. For "Avatar: The Way of Water," we show you how we do a scene, from the motion capture to how it makes it to the screen, if you wonder why it's taking me so long to make these movies.

And I hear you run a tight ship.

Cameron: Making "Way of Water," I told the crew if we're making a movie about environmental concerns, we have to walk the walk. So I challenged them to eat at least one plant-based meal per day. And they did. At the end, we gave them all vegan cookbooks, and they loved it. So one featurette is all about that broad effort.

Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) learns to ride one of the flying sea creatures that live in the oceans on Pandora in the sequel to "Avatar."
Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) learns to ride one of the flying sea creatures that live in the oceans on Pandora in the sequel to "Avatar."

Was it tough to follow up Ridley Scott's 1979 film "Alien" with your "Aliens," seven years later?

Cameron: "Alien" was a very important film for myself and the visual effects people I knew. Ridley had set a high bar, and I learned so much about lenses and camera movement by deconstructing his film.

Did you consult with him while making "Aliens"?

Cameron: My sense at the time was the whole process (of another director doing the sequel) was insulting to him, so once I started it was hard to approach him. But after years, maybe decades, we healed that "Aliens" rift.

Jon Landau: He even came to the set of "Avatar" (2009).

Cameron: Yes, he did, and in fact, while there I remember his reaction was, 'I've got to get back to my science fiction movies. And then he made "Prometheus" (2012). So that's my gift to cinema, maybe. I got Ridley reinspired to do science fiction.

Leonardo DiCaprio plays Jack and Kate Winslet is Rose in an iconic moment from "Titanic."
Leonardo DiCaprio plays Jack and Kate Winslet is Rose in an iconic moment from "Titanic."

Finally, let's talk "Titanic."

Cameron: Oh, that old thing. It still sinks; Jack still dies.

But 25 years later, people are still debating whether Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) should have gotten on the door with Rose (Kate Winslet) to save himself. What's your take?

Cameron: We proved through experiments that he would have killed them both by getting on. If he'd had a college degree in hypothermia and tried a few other things first, maybe, just maybe. The point people miss is that he needed to sacrifice himself for her. But if people are still talking about this 25 years later, I'll take the win.

The Titanic still mesmerizes people. You've been down to the wreckage many times, and then there was the recent tragedy when the Titan sub imploded.

Cameron: I've dived to the Titanic 33 times. I've spent more time on the ship than the captain did, I've totaled it up; I know when he got on and when he got off. The accident was inexcusable, but it happened for human and hubristic reasons, which is the same story of the Titanic itself: disaster as a result of unheeded warnings.

Are you pessimistic about the human condition?

Cameron: Whether it's climate change or, now, artificial intelligence, we humans seem to often be architects of our own demise. I had a cat once, he always got on the table and we'd squirt him with water, but he'd come back every time. His name was Lloyd, and my wife Susie calls that Going Lloyd. We don't profit enough from the lessons of history, which is why it's important to do movies like (Ridley Scott's) "Napoleon," or "Titanic."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Titanic,' 'Avatar" and other James Cameron epics now available in 4K