James Cameron isn’t just one of Hollywood’s most successful directors ever, he’s also a lover of deep sea exploration.
Those paths have crossed in two of his biggest hits, “Avatar” and “Titanic.”
While Cameron has not publicly commented on the current search for the Titanic tour OceanGate submersible with five people on board, he has personally made 33 dives to the wreckage site.
CNN has reached out to representatives of Cameron for comment.
Here’s what the director has said in the past about the deep sea exploration.
Cameron told Playboy in 2009 that it wasn’t a love story aboard the doomed Titanic that inspired him to make his hit 1997 film.
“I made ‘Titanic’ because I wanted to dive to the shipwreck, not because I particularly wanted to make the movie,” he told the publication.
“The Titanic was the Mount Everest of shipwrecks, and as a diver I wanted to do it right,” he said. “When I learned some other guys had dived to the Titanic to make an IMAX movie, I said, ‘I’ll make a Hollywood movie to pay for an expedition and do the same thing.” I loved that first taste, and I wanted more.”
Cameron sees his filmmaking and sea exploration as connected.
“I think the through-line there is storytelling,” the director told NPR in 2012. “I think it’s the explorer’s job to go and be at the remote edge of human experience and then come back and tell that story.”
Cameron told National Geographic that while he grew up in Ontario, Canada, hundreds of miles from the ocean, as a youngster he remembers “watching with amazement” sea explorer Jacques Cousteau’s specials.
In his youth, Cameron took a trip to the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, where he saw an exhibit of an underwater habitat designed by Joe MacInnis that prompted him to write a letter to MacInnis.
To a then 14-year-old Cameron’s surprise, MacInnis responded.
“He actually sent me back the address of his contact at … the Plexiglas manufacturer… . I contacted them, and they sent me a sample of Plexiglas,” Cameron recalled. “And at that point, I had the window [for the underwater habitat]. I just had to build the rest of it! That was important. That creates the sense of it being possible.”
See never-before-seen view of Titanic wreckage reconstructed from 700,000 images
Cameron has made dozens of deep sea dives since filming “Titanic.” In 2012, he dived to the Mariana Trench, considered one of the deepest spots in the Earth’s oceans at almost seven miles below the surface.
He did it in a 24-foot submersible vehicle he designed called the Deepsea Challenger.
Cameron took cameras to document the entire trek in the western Pacific. In a National Geographic video and essay, he described the experience that began with an early morning descent.
“I took off like a shot, fastest I’ve ever seen. The surface just receded,” he said in the video. “It just went away. I’m looking at the depth gauge and I’m at a thousand feet in the first like couple of minutes. Than it’s two thousand, then three thousand. The sub’s just going like a bat out of hell.”
Quickly, he said, he went past Titanic depth. When he got to 27,000 feet, which was the deepest Cameron said he had ever dived before, there were still nine thousand feet to go to the ocean floor.
As he continued to dive, Cameron said he reflected on the seven years it took to make the trek happen and was enjoying the solitude when his wife, Suzy Amis Cameron, who played Lizzy Calvert in “Titanic,” got on the communication system from the surface.
“Here I am in the most remote place on planet Earth that’s taken all this time and energy and technology to reach and I feel like the most solitary human being on the planet, completely cut off from humanity, no chance of rescue in a place no human eyes have ever seen,” Cameron said. “And my wife calls me. Which of course was very sweet.”
“I call it bearing witness. I get to bear witness to a miracle that’s down there all the time,” Cameron told 60 Minutes Australia in 2018 of his deep sea explorations. “This is not just some, you know rich guy ego thing. This is about, you’ve got so much time on this planet, so much life, so much breath in your body. You have to do something. If you should be fortunate enough to make some money and have some capital, some working capital, why not put it into your dream.”