James Cameron turns 64 today and is renowned as one of Hollywood’s biggest directors. The Terminator, True Lies, Titanic, Aliens, The Abyss, Avatar, Alita: Battle Angel… All box office-busting goliaths that every cinema-goer knows.
Prior to his Avatar sequels, the first of which is released in December 2021, Cameron cements his reputation with Terminator: Dark Fate, the sixth movie in the sci-fi franchise.
Cameron acts as producer on the movie, released this October, reuniting with stars Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton for the first time since 1991 masterpiece Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
But outside of those big-hitters, there are other James Cameron projects that have gone under the radar...
1. Xenogenesis (1978)
(Co-writer and co-director)
Long before James Cameron started messing about with multi-million-dollar budgets and cutting-edge CGI, he wrote and directed this modest little short about a couple travelling on a giant sentient starship searching for a planet to live on.
Only 12 minutes long and obviously produced on a pocket-money budget, like how humans and technology co-exist, that Cameron would develop in his later films.
2. Piranha II: The Spawning (1981)
1978’s Piranha was one of the better exploitation flicks, as well as one of the most successful, released from the Roger Corman stable (Corman was a filmmaker notorious for producing quick, cheap and mostly rubbish rip-off movies), and plans were swiftly set up for a sequel.
Cameron was, at the time, working in the special effects department on Piranha II, but found himself promoted to director after the sequel’s first director, Miller Drake, was sacked.
But clashes with the movie’s producers meant that Piranha II wasn’t quite the feature film debut Cameron might have wished for. Despite him calling it "the finest flying killer fish horror/comedy ever made", it was a box office bomb and currently holds a miserable 7% rating on review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes.
3. Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)
James Cameron got the gig of penning the follow-up to Sylvester Stallone’s uber-violent Vietnam vet movie from his pal David Giler, who’d done uncredited rewrites on the first film.
Unfortunately for Cameron, Stallone rewrote his script, jettisoning the character of Rambo’s new sidekick and ramping up the action.
4. Strange Days (1995)
Nowadays, movie written by James Cameron and directed by Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty) would be headline news. But Strange Days was, mystifyingly, a flop when it was released in 1995.
Quite why is anyone’s guess, as it plays to the strengths of both its creative parents – it’s an engrossing techno-noir thriller directed by Bigelow with a documentary-like urgency.
Ralph Fiennes is the ex-cop-turned-street-hustler who accidentally uncovers a conspiracy in Los Angeles in 1999, with able support from Angela Bassett, Juliette Lewis and Tom Sizemore.
Although a box office dud at the time (it grossed only $8m from a $42m budget), its reputation has ballooned in the years since and it’s now regarded as a minor SF classic.
- Terminator: Dark Fate – everything we know about the Terminator sequel and where it fits in the Skynet timeline
- Terminator: Dark Fate reveals behind the scenes footage at Comic-Con
- Celebrating Arnold Schwarzenegger's best Terminator moments
5. Dark Angel (2000-2002)
(Creator, writer and director)
Co-conceived by Cameron, Dark Angel arrived on TV screens in 2000 to a deafening fanfare. Starring the then-unknown Jessica Alba as a genetically enhanced super-soldier in the near-future, it justified the hype for its first year, winning rave reviews and impressive ratings for the Fox network.
Cameron only directed the show’s final episode, but his influence is all over the series (he kept a beady eye over every element of the production). Sadly, even having James Cameron’s name in the credits wasn’t enough to save Dark Angel's falling ratings during its second year and it was axed in 2002. He hasn’t been near another television show since.
6. Expedition: Bismarck (2002)
Cameron’s first foray into documentary filmmaking follows an underwater expedition to the German battleship Bismarck, complete with digital reconstructions of the events that led up to the ship's sinking during World War II.
As a plus for Cameron nuts, it's narrated by none other than Lance Henriksen, who of course played Bishop the android in Aliens.
7. Ghosts of the Abyss (2003)
Cameron’s most famous feature documentary riffs on his most famous film, as the director and his crew, including actor Bill Paxton, film themselves travelling to the wreckage of the Titanic.
Using two small, purpose-built remotely operated vehicles, nicknamed Jake and Elwood, the movie takes us inside the famous ship, revealing details unseen since it sank in 1912.
And one project that you definitely will be hearing about...
Terminator: Dark Fate (released 23rd October)
Who says nostalgia and killer cyborgs don't mix? Terminator: Dark Fate scraps the events of films three through five, acting as a direct sequel to T2. This allows for the return of Linda Hamilton's rocket-wielding Sarah Connor, mother of mankind's saviour John (played by T2 actor Edward Furlong).
Somehow, Arnie is back as an aged version of his T-800 Terminator (at least, that's what we assume from the trailer). New faces include Mackenzie Davis as warrior figure Grace and Gabriel Luna as a deadly new Terminator shape-shifter.
As mentioned, the movie is produced by Cameron (he also shares a story credit) and directed by Deadpool's Tim Miller. Check out the trailer below.
Are you looking forward to James Cameron's return to the Terminator franchise? Let us know @Cineworld.