The Craziest James Cameron Behind-The-Scenes Stories


When it comes to famous Hollywood directors, James Cameron is a study in contrasts. On one hand, he is the acclaimed filmmaker who has brought us hits ranging from Titanic to Terminator 2 to Avatar. On the other hand, he is known for working his actors hard and creating set environments that are downright unpleasant for those who are weak of heart.

Whether or not you’re a big fan of Cameron, you should know the man has led one heck of a life. The contrast between his career success and his extreme style of directing has created some behind-the-scenes stories even crazier than his films. 

Don’t believe it? Buckle up and get ready for the craziest behind-the-scenes stories involving the one-and-only James Cameron!

The motivation behind his biggest movie

Titanic was a huge film for the actors involved. It’s fair to say that it helped transform stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet into some of the biggest stars in the world. And while James Cameron was already a very successful director, the sheer popularity of Titanic helped make him one of the most sought-after filmmakers in the world.

Because of that, you might think Cameron was very passionate about bringing the film to life. Surprisingly, that’s not true: the director’s real passion was exploring the actual wreck of the Titanic. In later interviews, he was very frank about how he just wanted to finance his trip and took a cue from others about making Titanic to fund his own historic expedition into the seas.

The Titanic cast was accidentally drugged

At one point during the filming of Titanic, James Cameron and about 80 members of the cast and crew were high on PCP. That wasn’t because they were interested in doing drugs. Instead, everybody was affected by some chowder that was laced with the illicit substance.

Back when it first happened, the going assumption was that everyone was suffering from food poisoning. A later investigation revealed the presence of PCP, but nobody ever figured out who laced the food. While Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet weren’t drugged, some really big names were, including both Bill Paxton and James Cameron.

James Cameron’s weird punishment for loud cellphones

By the time Avatar was filming, James Cameron’s reputation for being hard on his actors was the stuff of Hollywood legend. He didn’t exactly mellow out over the years, however, and he still hated interruptions. That’s why he developed a particularly wild way of keeping actors’ cell phones from going off while they were in the middle of filming.

Avatar star Sam Worthington confirmed that if Cameron heard someone’s cell phone going off, he would staple it to the wall, above the exit. The message was clear: like a teacher dealing with distracted children, Cameron was reminding his actors they could only have their phones back once they were done working!

No bathroom breaks on set

Remember when we said that James Cameron had a reputation for working his actors very hard? The most extreme example of this is that the director sometimes forbade the cast from using the bathroom when they had to go. This affected Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was stuck inside the jet prop for long periods of time while filming True Lies.

How long are we talking about? At his worst, Cameron allegedly kept everyone working for up to 10 hours without taking any breaks. If anyone objected, they would be shown the door, as Cameron made it clear that such interruptions would result in the cast member’s job getting terminated…and nobody knows more about terminating than Cameron!

Some big names peed in the Titanic water tank

Sadly, James Cameron’s habit of not letting anyone take a bathroom break continued after the filming of True Lies. He did the same thing on Titanic and likely didn’t think there would be any complications. However, he wasn’t counting on the fact that the latest movie had something that True Lies didn’t: a giant water tank that the cast had to wade through while filming.

It became commonplace for actors who were forbidden from using the bathroom to simply pee in the water tank. This included Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, both of whom admitted to answering nature’s call while inside that water tank. While we may never know for sure, Winslet’s negative experiences with Cameron (including this bathroom drama) contributed to why she was unwilling to work with the director again for literally decades. 

Making everyone live in the rainforest

James Cameron saw Avatar: The Way of Water as his most ambitious film yet. Because of that, he wanted to make sure he and the cast were on the same page. To do that, the legendary director took the primary actors to live with him temporarily in the Amazon rainforest.

This may sound strange, but Cameron hoped the unusual exercise would help everyone bond with one another. Given that the Avatar sequel became yet another mega-hit, it looks like this bonding exercise was another great idea from this notoriously quirky director.

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