Made by some guy named James Cameron. I know about him because he’s Canadian. We Canadians know all about fellow Canadians working in Hollywood, it’s like the Holy Grail for us. And if we deny we want to work in Hollywood no one believes us and they shake their heads and feel sorry for us, telling such an obvious lie and thinking we can get away with it. Poor, dumb, naive Canadian.
There’s even a documentary, The Candian Conspiracy, about how we’ve been trying to take over the American entertainment industry – it was made in the early 80’s so you’ll have to ask your parents to tell you who Anne Murray and Margot Kidder are (and what that weird Superman movie was all about), but it’s only gotten worse.
But it’s the early years of James Cameron’s career I want to talk about and a guy he worked with who isn’t Canadian but sure seems like he is.
In 1980 James Cameron was the art director on a movie called Battle Beyond the Stars, one of the many Star Wars rip-offs that came out at the time.
On a movie like, say, Avatar, art director is a pretty important position that involves a lot of art. On a movie like Battle Beyond the Stars art director was likely a gopher job given to a guy who owned his own car and could source out or make cheap props.
But the important thing about Battle Beyond the Stars was that it was written by John Sayles.
I have no idea if Sayles and Cameron ever talked to one another then, but they sort of worked on the same movie again the next year. John Sayles wrote the screenplay for Piranha in 1978 (a Jaws rip-off) and in 1981 Cameron made his directorial debut when the director of Piranha II: The Spawning was fired or quit (I’m sure it was over artistic differences, it must have been about the art) and Cameron moved from art director to director (something that really only happens when the movie is being produced by Roger Corman).
Sayles used the money he made writing these movies to write and direct his own film, The Return of the Seacacus Seven which later, in a reversal of Sayles’ earlier screenplay rip-offs was itself ripped off by The Big Chill (the difference in the treatment of "the outsider" in each of those films would make a great term paper).
Cameron used the money he made from directing Piranha II and the connections he made to write and direct his own film, The Terminator.
Now really, it seems like it should have been the American to go on and make Aliens and Titanic and Avatar and the Canadian who’d go on to make Matewan and City of Hope and Men With Guns but there you go.
Later, of course, John Sayles made some of the most quintessentially American movies, Passion Fish, Lone Star, Sunshine State, Limbo, Silver City and The Honeydrippers. All of them really good films.
So, tonight while everyone I know is going to see my fellow Canadian James Cameron’s giant sci fi movie epic I’m going to stay home and pop in my DVD of Brother From Another Planet, my kind of sci fi movie.
And then maybe I’ll watch The Canadian Conspiracy (“Lorne Greene – green card? You think that’s a coincidence?!?!):