James Cameron recalls his ‘angry wannabe filmmaker’ phase [video]

June 13, 2014 | 11:49 a.m.
1884116 ca 0531 hero21 ac James Cameron recalls his angry wannabe filmmaker phase [video]

Writer/director James Cameron photographed during the 2014 Hero Complex Film Festival at the TCL Chinese 6 Theatres in Hollywood on May 31, 2014. (Anne Cusack/Los Angeles Times)

1884116 ca 0531 hero24 ac James Cameron recalls his angry wannabe filmmaker phase [video]

Writer/director James Cameron speaks at the 2014 Hero Complex Film Festival in Hollywood on May 31, 2014. (Anne Cusack/Los Angeles Times)

1884116 ca 0531 hero26 ac James Cameron recalls his angry wannabe filmmaker phase [video]

Writer/director James Cameron speaks at the 2014 Hero Complex Film Festival in Hollywood on May 31, 2014. (Anne Cusack/Los Angeles Times)

1884116 ca 0531 hero27 ac James Cameron recalls his angry wannabe filmmaker phase [video]

Los Angeles Times reporter Rebecca Keegan interviews writer/director James Cameron during the 2014 Hero Complex Film Festival in Hollywood on May 31, 2014. (Anne Cusack/Los Angeles Times)

While writing his 1984 breakout film “Terminator,” James Cameron lived on McDonald’s, diner coffee and the money he made painting one-sheets for bad direct-to-video movies.

The director, who would go on to helm the highest-grossing movie of all time, “Avatar,” expressed a surprising fondness for that early, “zero billion dollar” stage of his career while speaking at the fifth annual Hero Complex Film Festival recently.

“It was actually easy to write cause I didn’t have to self-isolate like I do now, from multi-tasking with other businesses, and with a family with five kids,” Cameron said, when he took the stage late last month at the event, which was held at the TCL Chinese 6 Theaters in Hollywood May 30-June 1. “I was already isolated… basically just a sad, dark, isolated human being.”

In an in-depth conversation between screenings of “The Terminator” and its sequel “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” the Oscar-winning director spoke thoughtfully about his work on the time-travel sci-fi franchise and touched on other highlights from his remarkable career in fantastic cinema, including his upcoming plans for three sequels to his box-office blockbuster “Avatar.”

But most of the evening focused on “Terminator,” with Cameron telling stories about his “urban noir film” and the period of his life when he was crafting the script.

“There was an innocence to it in a funny way,” Cameron said. “I was the anonymous, kind of angry wannabe filmmaker. There’s some courage that comes from that, you say whatever comes into your head. It gets harder and harder to do that as you go along and you get encumbered by expectation and business relationships and all of that sort of stuff. I was kind of like a free voice in the wilderness in that stage. Most people hate that period of their life when they’re just trying to break in as an artist, and then you spend the rest of your career wishing you were back in that situation.”

Watch the clip above to hear what else Cameron had to say, and look for more video from this conversation and others from the festival soon.

– Rebecca Keegan | @thatrebecca

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