Nobody can tell James Cameron how long his movies should be.
In a new interview with GQ, the “Avatar: The Way of Water” director recalled the time he reamed out a Fox executive who told him to cut the runtime of the original 2009 blockbuster.
Cameron said that the exec, “who will go unnamed, because this is a really negative review,” approached him after a pre-release screening of the film with “stricken cancer-diagnosis expression” and tried to get the director to shorten the movie 162-minute movie.
“I said something I’ve never said to anybody else in the business,” he said. “‘I think this movie is going to make all the f**king money. And when it does, it’s going to be too late for you to love the film. The time for you to love the movie is today. So I’m not asking you to say something that you don’t feel, but just know that I will always know that no matter how complimentary you are about the movie in the future when it makes all the money’—and that’s exactly what I said, in caps, ALL THE MONEY, not some of the money, all the f**king money.”
The director continued, “I said, ‘You can’t come back to me and compliment the film or chum along and say, ‘Look what we did together.’ You won’t be able to do that.’ At that point, that particular studio executive flipped out and went bug shit on me. And I told him to get the f**k out of my office. And that’s where it was left.”
Despite concerns over the film’s length and its then-record $237 million budget, “Avatar” went on to become the highest-grossing film of all time, with nearly $3 billion earned at the worldwide box office.
As for his theory of why the movie was so successful, Cameron said, “I don’t think I need a theory. I think anybody that’s seen the movie knows why; it’s a f**king gigantic adventure that’s an all-consuming emotional experience that leaves you wrung out by the end of the movie. And it was groundbreaking visually, and it still holds up today. So I don’t think I need a theory.”
The sequel, “Avatar: The Way of Water”, ups the ante even more, with a running time of 192 minutes.
“Avatar: The Way of Water” opens in theatres Dec. 16, with a third film in the franchise set to open the following year.