Is James Cameron the victim of dirty Oscar campaigning or just his own ego?
It's hard to imagine a PBS show affecting the Oscars, but this year it may just tip the balance of the Best Picture race. Moreover, the incident on "Charlie Rose" Thursday night may just be the first cast of dirty Academy Award campaigning since the nominees were announced earlier this month.
In one of his few TV interviews since "Avatar" landed nine Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Best Director, James Cameron appeared on "Charlie Rose" to discuss the mega-success of what has become the highest grossing picture of all time. During the sit down Rose talked about how Academy voters might be torn picking between Cameron and Bigelow. Hours before the interviewed aired, popular industry site Deadline.com posted a transcript and video clip with the brazen headline: "Cameron: Give Best Picture To My Team - But Give Best Director To Kathryn Because 'I Don't Really Need Another One.'"
Here's a rundown of what was posted before the show aired:
Rose says, "So, if someone sitting there says, 'Look, I'm going to give it to Cameron for Best Picture, but Bigelow Best Director..."
"That would be a fantasy," Cameron says. "That would be my fantasy outcome. Absolutely."
Rose clarifies, "That would be what you'd like to see?"
Cameron reiterates clearly, "That's the best possible outcome. Because I know how hard my team worked and how much they would -- how proud they would be of that accolade, you know what I mean? And look, for myself, I have already got an Oscar. I've got a couple of them, you know what I mean? And I respect the whole institution of the Academy Awards because it's the pinnacle of achievement in my chosen profession. But I don't really need another one. But to be honored - you know, to have the team honored and for their accomplishment, that would mean so much to them. And I think that would be the fantasy outcome in this."
Rose, "So you're saying to the voters, please take a look at my team and go for us as Best Picture, but..."
Cameron, "Yeah, and I..."
Rose, "Go for Kathryn Bigelow for Best Director."
Cameron admits, "I mean, all I can say is that would make me very happy if that...you know, I don't want to try to get..."
Rose," Happier than if it was Best Director for James Cameron?"
Cameron, "Honestly, yes."
The headline clearly slants the filmmaker's comments to insinuate voters shouldn't vote for him not because he believes Bigelow might have accomplished more with her work, but as a pity move since he already has a few golden statues of his own. But what was missing was what the filmmaker said before that passage in their conversation. When Rose brought up the hard to ignore fact that both Cameron and Bigelow were once married, Cameron immediately went on to praise her work instead.
"I think we're really not that different in different ways," Cameron says. "We know that about each other and we're both dedicated to the craft and for us it's about a passion for the craft of filmmaking...in our minds it's not a competition. That's a narrative that's imposed by others because it is a good story. I have produced two of her films, one of which I wrote and produced after we were divorced. She saw 'Avatar' five times at different stages of its development. She'd come over and tirelessly and give notes. So, would Mark Boal. And they had shared 'Hurt Locker' very early on. And I said, 'Don't change a damn thing.' And they of course were very nervous..."
Cameron goes on to say about "Locker," "It's consummately good filmmaking. You are in those guys shoes. I' have been in screenings and literally see people sit in their seats. It's that taught. She's out gunned the guys."
Cameron continues, "Because she's always done that. And now it's the recognition catching up with the scope of her talent."
He also noted, "And she would reject that being a woman has anything to do with it."
Again, this was praise delivered unprovoked by Cameron before the other line of questioning. Is that commentary from an ego-driven man who "already has one"? Not in context. and in hindsight it's inaccurate and embarrassing reporting by Deadline. While it's unclear who supplied editor Nikki Finke with both the video clip or the transcript (we doubt it was anyone at PBS or Fox), to not review this segment within the entire context of the interview is just plain bad journalism.
As for the rest of the 20 minute discussion, Cameron and Rose focused mostly about the message of "Avatar" and the director deflected many of the accusations of "liberal politics levied on the film. In fact, Cameron's defense of the film from both the left and right was much more interesting than his comments on the Oscar race. He was quite eloquent talking about the "noble savage" argument against the film. And even defended the picture against some harsh criticism from David Brooks of the New York Times.
That's not to say Cameron didn't put his foot in his mouth during the interview. His biggest mistake came before the Oscar questions when he got sucked into a comparison of "Avatar" and "Star Wars" by Rose. The filmmaker admitted he was aiming for the creative heights of '"Star Wars" and of Stanley Kubrick's "2001" and while he heaped massive praise on both by noting "time will tell," it certainly was a bit presumptuous to compare it to both classics so soon after "Avatar's" release.
But, it's clear Cameron was doing everything he could to keep his notorious ego in check. He flatly admitted he's still paying for the "I'm the King of the World" remark he made after winning an Oscar for "Titanic." Cameron joked, "There is nothing like making a fool out of yourself in front of a billion people."
And as widely reported elsewhere, Cameron said his next project would be a sort of prequel to the movie which will be his first novel.
"I planned this novel project for a long time, so I'm gonna do it in the next few months. Assuming I can write a novel. This is uncharted territory," Cameron says.
He also said if he can strike a deal with 20th Century Fox "we'll continue with this world" in additional "Avatar" films.
Still, what's most disturbing is that Deadline would jump so quickly on a story taken completely out of context and make themselves a tool in the art of dirty Oscar campaigning. Especially in a Best Picture race that everyone knows is coming down to the wire. If 20th Century Fox is smart, they would ask the producers of "Charlie Rose" to post the entire Cameron interview so Academy voters who missed it can judge for themselves.
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