CHARLIE ROSE: Tell me what’s the most important thing you know about
JAMES CAMERON: You have to find a key into the heart of the audience,
which means you have to find universals of human experience and then
express them in exotic new ways. So you’ve got to find something that
people recognize, simple as boy meets girl on a ship which is going to
But the knowledge that it’s going to sink was a critical part of that
story telling, because otherwise you had two hours of women in corsets and
funny hats before anything happened, before the ship even hit the iceberg.
But if you know it’s sinking, you hang around for all that. You see what I
mean? So that was a part of the story telling.
But I think it’s always about the characters and about how those
characters express something that the audience is feeling. So it has to
have some universality to it having to do with relationships, where it’s
parent/child, male/female, whatever it is. And then you have to take them
on a journey. And then you have to make it excruciating somehow.
CHARLIE ROSE: Excruciating?
JAMES CAMERON: Excruciating.
CHARLIE ROSE: They have to be challenged. They have to be in danger.
They have to be in pain.
JAMES CAMERON: That’s right. They have to be in fear.
CHARLIE ROSE: And triumphant.
JAMES CAMERON: And triumphant, yes.
JAMES CAMERON: Right, that’s an element of it, some form of triumph.
JAMES CAMERON: Some form of triumph, exactly.
CHARLIE ROSE: Whether it’s values, or a victory, something.
JAMES CAMERON: Yes. In the case of “Titanic” everybody died,
including at the very end of the film the main character. But she lived a
life that she had learned. There was an energy transfer from one character
to another, which I also think is a fundamental of a love story, that
there’s some flow of energy from one character to the other.
And so I applied that rule set at a very abstract level to “Avatar,”
because it’s a very different story, obviously — different setting,
different characters, different goals to the story and to the
But there’s — I think you can step back to a very abstract level of
general principles, and if you apply those principles, it will work.