The Truth About James Cameron

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Photo: Courtesy of Fox

Weighing in at almost 11,000 words, Dana Goodyear's terrific profile of James Cameron in today's New Yorker is nearly as long and ambitious as one of Cameron's films and twice as exciting. The budget-busting, four-wife-divorcing Avatar director comes off just as crazy and comically unreasonable as you'd expect. Making him seem awesome, too, though, is the way Goodyear's feature sort of reads like a list of "Chuck Norris Facts." Our favorite James Cameron Facts from the piece, after the jump.

• According to Titanic star Bill Paxton, the word "no" gives James Cameron an erection.

• Here's what James Cameron says to studio suits who impede his vision: "Tell your friend he’s getting fucked in the ass, and if he would stop squirming it wouldn’t hurt so much."

• "James Cameron doesn’t go to the bathroom; he goes to the head," writes Goodyear.

• James Cameron "has held his breath for more than three minutes and reached a depth of a hundred and ten feet."

• James Cameron signs all correspondence "Jim out."

• Something James Cameron actually shouted to Arnold Schwarzenegger on the set of True Lies: "Do you want Paul Verhoeven to finish this motherfucker?" (We vow to find a way to work this into casual conversation today.)

• During the filming of Avatar, James Cameron taught Zoë Saldana to shoot a bow the James Cameron way ("It’s a two-fingered inverted draw past the head, like a Samurai”). Recalls James Cameron: "The archery instructor came and said, ‘Do you want me to teach them archery or do you want me to teach them this? This would never work.’ I said, ‘See that bush?’ It was a hundred and fifty feet away. I nailed it."

• There is a strict no-tan policy on the set of James Cameron movies. "What's with the tan?" James Cameron asks an Avatar crew member. "We see the sun as we drive to work, and not again till the next morning."

• Even forest fires are afraid of James Cameron, who has a fire truck in his driveway: "Everybody else just runs for the hills," he says, mocking his Malibu neighbors. "'Oh, my God!' We sit and wait. Put on our yellow coats and our breathing gear and wait. And, you know what? It’s impressive. When these hills light up with a hundred-foot-tall wall of flames coming over the top of the hill there, you feel like it’s Armageddon."

• James Cameron bought George C. Scott's house.

• Of the lawn chairs on his patio, writes Goodyear, James Cameron "looked at the furniture uncertainly, as if he had never contemplated using it before."

• James Cameron drinks decaf coffee. (He stopped drinking caffeine after Terminator 2, reports Goodyear. Probably because some dudes got killed, we'd imagine.)

• To prepare her for her role in Terminator 2, James Cameron put Linda Hamilton on a yearlong fat-free diet and made her train with a former Mossad agent, "who taught her to strip weapons blindfolded while he threw things at her and asked for her identification number. She got so that she could escape from L.A.P.D. handcuffs using just a paper clip." But not even that could prepare her for marriage to James Cameron — they were wed in 1997, but divorced after eight months (before Hamilton could get her scuba license, even).

• "There are two things about Jim," says Abyss cinematographer Mikael Salomon. "You shouldn’t call him Jimmy, and you shouldn’t touch him if you don’t know him very well."

• On the set of Abyss Titanic, a disgruntled worker spiked the crew's chowder dinner with PCP. James Cameron "had the presence of mind to stick his finger down his throat, and was one of the few who didn’t spend the night in the emergency room."

• James Cameron has a piece of shrapnel in his arm from Terminator 2 that never came out.

• James Cameron broke a tooth while shooting Avatar and he hasn't bothered to fix it. Why not? James Cameron doesn't "smile that broadly anyway," he says.

Man of Extremes [NYer]