LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - One year after his 3D adventure "Avatar" was ringing up movie ticket sales on its way to a global box office record of $2.8 billion, James Cameron is back in theaters with a new thriller, "Sanctum."
The movie, which was produced by Cameron and directed by Alister Grierson, tells of a diving team that becomes trapped in underwater caves. The group must find a way out while battling raging water, paranoia and panic as its equipment and supplies dwindle.
Shot in 3D, "Sanctum" hits theaters on Friday. Cameron spoke to Reuters about why nature figures prominently in his work and how his "Avatar" is coming along.
Q: This film is based on an actual experience that "Sanctum" producer and co-writer Andrew Wight had in Australia. What about nature makes it at once terrifying and beautiful?
A: "When you deal with the ocean or a cave, it's going to do what its going to do, and it does not care if you're there. You can get swatted like a fly. On the other hand, nature offers us incredible gifts, incredible beauty and incredible insights. It's a give and take."
Q: This film is a bit of a departure for you -- it's an independent thriller with no stars. It's not one of your big-budget studio films or one of your many documentaries.
A: "There's a list of things we have to tell people that 'Sanctum' is not. It's not a documentary. It's not a monster movie in a cave. There's no supernatural component to this. It's pure survival drama."
Q: The environment itself is almost like a character.
A: "It's a labyrinthian environment that continues to evolve, sometimes constricting down to a very claustrophobic space and sometimes opening out to stadium-sized caverns. That variety, along with the unexpected that comes around each corner, is part of what I think propels the movie."
Q: Would it have a different effect if it was 2D?
A: "It's a diminishment of the full sensory experience. Movies have progressively moved toward a more sensually enriched experience -- first adding sound, then color, then going wide screen..."
Q: Your last two films, "Titanic" and "Avatar," both dealt with the power of nature. What do these films, including "Sanctum," say about you?
A: "I think filmmakers expose who they are through their films and this is really who I always was. As a kid, I was the head of the science club in my high school. Living in rural Canada, I spent all my time hiking around. I had to explore. I was very curious, restless and drawn by nature. To grow up in Niagara Falls, how can you not be impressed by the power and the awesome spectacle that nature can provide? These are the things that form you."
Q: What's happening with the "Avatar" sequels?
A: "I'm writing the scripts. We are developing the software and all the nuances to our performance capture system to take it to the next level. And we're developing some new technology that needs to be in place by the end of this year."
Q: Will the story still have an environmental slant?
A: "The environmental themes and themes of indigenous rights will absolutely continue, but stay in balance with a good kick-ass action adventure. We'll continue with the characters that survived the first movie. We'll bring in new characters and new pictorial environments."
Q: A year ago at this time, you were walking the award show red carpets for "Avatar" with long hair. Now you're sporting a much shorter 'do. What prompted the change?
A: "After 'Titanic,' I got recognized by every third person walking down the street. It was a creepy feeling. I had this fantasy that if I let my hair grow really long, that's the way everybody would see me at the Oscars. Then I could cut it and nobody would recognize me."
Q: Do you get recognized now?
A: (laughs) "Not as much. Luckily with directors, you have your moment in the sun and then the memory fades away. Unlike actors, you get to go back to anonymity after a certain period of time."
Editing by Patricia Reaney