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Interview with James Cameron

Aired April 20, 2010 - 16:49:00   ET



BECKY ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Whether he's terminating mankind, battling aliens or creating new planets, James Cameron never fails to impress. Known for creating new film frontiers, Cameron directed the two most successful movies in blockbuster history. His 1997 epic, "Titanic," earned a record breaking $1.8 billion and went on to win 11 Academy Awards. And last year's "Avatar" has once again broken all records, to become the highest grossing film of all time.

But today, Cameron has turned his love of planets to the one at hand. He's been in the Amazon rainforest working with local tribes who are fighting the creation of a potentially harmful hydroelectric dam.

From creating other worlds to saving our own, James Cameron is your Connector of the Day.


ANDERSON: And he recently joined me by satellite from Washington.

And I started by asking him how he got involved in this fight against this hydroelectric dam being planned in Brazil.

And this is what he told me.


JAMES CAMERON, DIRECTOR: I've actually been to the Amazon twice in the last three weeks. The first trip was to speak at the Sustainability Forum in Manaus, which is right at the center of the -- the Amazon. And I made a number of contacts there. And I wound up making a decision, with some friends of mine, that the -- the Amazon Watch Group and some of the Brazilian NGOs that I was dealing with down there, to go back on a kind of mission to try to draw some media attention to this dam project, which I feel is -- needs to be stopped.

ANDERSON: So was this in any way inspired by "Avatar?"

CAMERON: Absolutely. On our first trip, I got to meet with a number of indigenous leaders. And one of the meetings was way out in the rainforest, in a village. And I found that I was basically in "Avatar." It's quite a -- it's quite astonishing.

The struggles that we've had here in North America with -- with, you know, with indigenous rights being eroded and so on have mostly taken place in -- in -- in the past of this country. But it's -- it's happening right now in Brazil.

ANDERSON: Jim, lots and lots of viewer questions tonight.

Jurgen has written to us. He says: "What do you think needs to be done to help connect people living in the Amazon with the rest of us?"

CAMERON: Well, I think that they -- they definitely feel, these indigenous leaders -- and I'm talking about, you know, guys wearing, you know, war paint and carrying bows and arrows -- they feel that their voice is not heard by their own government. So it may take their voice being -- being spread internationally. I don't know, maybe it's films, maybe it's documentaries, maybe it's just interviews like this, maybe it's Web cams in their -- in their village.

But it may take international pressure to get the -- the Brazilian government to pay attention to these people.

Now, obviously, it's going to take Brazilians themselves understanding what's happening with other citizens of Brazil. I don't think the urban populations in Brazil -- Sao Paolo and Rio and the other big cities -- I didn't think they really understand what's happening out in the rainforest to their -- their fellow Brazilians.

ANDERSON: Christian Mosey (ph) has written to us from the Seychelles. A question for you. He says: "If the dam isn't built, do you think people in Brazil will ever achieve a better standard of living?"

CAMERON: Look, the -- the Brazilian standard of living has come up a great deal in the last few years. And the Lula government -- President Lula's administration is to be praised for that. But there's a certain point where you have to decide, you know, what -- at what cost?

And when there are alternatives. They -- they look at the rivers of their country as liquid gold, as, you know, hydroelectric is the way they make energy down there.

But they're sitting on the equator. They've got a lot more solar flux, probably times 10, than -- than you do in the U.K. And probably a couple times more than we have here.

Why not -- why not embrace solar?

Why not embrace offshore wind?

Why not be creative, innovative and 21st century about the -- the alternative solutions and not go with the dinosaur solutions that are killing rivers, killing rainforests, displacing indigenous people, destroying cultures and all of these things?

And it's not just a story for Brazil. It's a story for -- for all across the -- the developing world.

ANDERSON: Martin Pluta (ph) writing in from Berlin, a question for you. He says: "Do you think Hollywood should or could do more to help raise environmental awareness? How could this be achieved and what are the other issues," he says, "that you personally are interested in?"

CAMERON: Look, you know, I've become a lot more active in the last few months as people have come to me in the wake of "Avatar." You know, I - - I sort of thought, as an artist, as a filmmaker, I put my movie out there. That's my statement. That's the good that I -- that I do.

And -- and I've realized that's only the start of it, you know?

So I've -- I've -- I've, you know, been approached by so many organizations. I've made, you know, so many friends, so many fertile relationships in terms of understanding these issues on a -- on a -- on a global level. And I -- I realize that quite apart from -- from, you know, helping "Avatar," this is an opportunity for "Avatar" and our -- you know, the -- the public spotlight that we have right now to actually give something back, to do some good.

But I realize it's going to take a tremendous amount of pers -- personal effort to do it. And I'm there. Because I think -- I think this is an urgent crisis. I think we need to solve energy and we need to solve climate change and you can't solve one without -- without the other. And - - and the -- you know, the defining challenge of -- of our time really is solving this energy crisis.

ANDERSON: Hema666 from Egypt: "What do you think about the future of 3-D movies, sir?"

CAMERON: I think it's the -- I think it's there. I think it's -- it's pretty much self-defining right now. You know, people -- the -- the audiences of the world have spoken. They've said we like 3-D. We're willing to pay more for a ticket. We're willing to line up, you know, so - - so 3-D is happening.

And I just think it needs to happen properly. You know, it has to be good 3-D and not sort of contaminate the market. The other thing is that 3-D is coming to the home. And it's coming to the home much -- on a -- on a much closer horizon than -- than we thought, as we were out evangelizing for 3-D over the last few years.

ANDERSON: Jeroen Tenberg (ph) from Wellington in New Zealand wants to know whether you'd consider making movies a step back from cutting edge technology, something like the film "The Road," for example?

CAMERON: Certainly not all films need to use the technologies that we pioneered in "Avatar." My next film will very probably be another "Avatar" movie, so -- so methodologically, it will be pretty much the same -- a very different story, different environments and -- and so on.

But -- but certainly, filmmakers have a very, very broad choice. They can shoot in a very basic way, just with a camera and some actors. Or they can go to the opposite extreme, which we did on "Avatar," where you fabricate a world to a level of photo reality using C.G. and everything in between. That's the beauty of cinema.

ANDERSON: Aminu from Nigeria says she wants to know which movie you love the most amongst those that you've directed?

CAMERON: Oh, you know, anyone with children knows that you can't answer that question.


CAMERON: You can't say which child you love more than the others. But, you know, practically speaking, I think "Avatar" probably is a film that -- that, if I look -- and this is a guess now. If I look back 10 years from now and say what film had the most impact, I'm going to have to say "Avatar." "Titanic" is still a favorite for a lot of people. But I feel right now that "Avatar" is connecting -- connecting me personally to so many causes and so many fascinating people and giving me an opportunity to do something that I believe is meaningful -- maybe more meaningful than making the film itself.

ANDERSON: James Cameron speaking to me earlier for you. Those were your questions, of course. And you can learn much more about the work that James is doing in the Amazon on Earth's Frontiers: The Energy Debate. And fittingly, for this cutting edge director, Cameron will appear via hologram. That's right, a hologram. You don't want to miss that. It airs 8:30 a.m. Eastern. That is 12:30 GMT next Thursday, April the 29th.

Well, tomorrow, our Connector of the Day is a former mayor of Cincinnati, Ohio who you may better -- you may know him better as the host of "The Jerry Springer Show," infamous for confrontations, chair throwing and fist fights, amongst his guests. He's got a new show. It's a dating show. It's in the works and he is going to answer your questions tomorrow.

Get involved. Remember to let us know where you're weren't from. That's the Web site,