James Cameron, the director of several of the biggest films in history, has cultivated a reputation as a perfectionist who isn’t above screaming and yelling at people on his sets to achieve his vision. But it sounds like Cameron is actively making an effort to try to chill out a little bit, and he is looking at a fellow Hollywood veteran as his new North Star: Ron Howard, the filmmaker behind Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, and The Da Vinci Code. Read about Cameron’s aspiration to be more like Ron Howard below.
Same School, Different Approaches
/Film’s Chris Evangelista watched James Cameron’s new MasterClass on filmmaking and wrote a great piece breaking down several of the biggest lessons and takeaways from hearing one of our greatest living filmmakers talk about his craft. Chris’s entire article is well worth your time, but there was one observation we thought deserved its own spotlight, and that’s the way Cameron analyzes his own on-set behavior and talks about how he views Ron Howard as something of an idol – not in terms of directing prowess, but rather in temperament.
Cameron and Howard both came up under Roger Corman, the pioneering independent film producer who famously cultivated an environment in which he would frequently give up-and-coming filmmakers their shot to direct low-budget movies. (Martin Scorsese, Peter Bogdanovich, Joe Dante, and Francis Ford Coppola are among the other major directors Corman would mentor over the years.) Both Howard and Cameron obviously became incredibly successful, but with wildly different approaches behind the camera: Howard is widely viewed as one of the most good-natured directors in Hollywood, while Cameron took a much harsher path — one that resulted in him regularly clashing with his actors and using an authoritarian, “my way or the highway” style that has rubbed many people the wrong way over the years.
Finding His Inner Ron Howard
During the MasterClass, Cameron points out how, when it comes to on-set behavior for a director, there’s no one better than Ron Howard. Cameron tells a story about visiting one of Howard’s sets and being “dumbfounded” at the amount of time Howard spent giving people compliments, which was a far cry from his approach on his own sets. “I aspire, even today, to try to be my inner Ron Howard,” Cameron said.
“I could’ve listened more,” Cameron said, admitting that his dictatorial approach may not have been the best one. Yes, it got results, but it sounds like he has come to the realization that getting into big confrontations and scaring his actors into obedience isn’t the only way to elicit the end result he was looking for. “I could’ve been less autocratic. I could’ve not made the movie more important than the human interaction of the crew.”
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