LOS ANGELES — There was a time when James Cameron's career looked as though it might join Titanic, down in the lower depths.
Before he became king of the modern blockbuster with "Titanic" and "Avatar," Cameron teetered on an abyss as his romance set aboard the doomed ocean liner ran into production delays, cost overruns and smug talk in Hollywood that the director was out of control and going down with his extravagantly expensive $200 million shipwreck.
Fifteen years, 11 Academy Awards and $1.84 billion at the worldwide box office later, Cameron is re-launching "Titanic" in a 3-D version whose new earnings will close the gap on the film that eventually surpassed it as contemporary Hollywood's top-grossing flick. That would be Cameron's sci-fi epic "Avatar," with $2.8 billion.
Fresh from his record-setting seven-mile solo ocean dive in the Mariana Trench, done while on a break from writing his two "Avatar" sequels, Cameron continues to ride a wave of success no one foresaw amid the gloomy predictions of 1997, when "Titanic" was bumped from summer to Christmas release because of production problems.
"We were the biggest idiots in Hollywood, and they already had us tried and sentenced and hung from the lamppost in the town square before they'd ever seen a foot of the film," Cameron said. "Ultimately, it proved to be a good film, and they all had to eat their words or just kind of shut up and pretend they hadn't said them. That kind of thing puts a lot of pressure on you as a filmmaker, and I interpreted it as just the pressure to be good and to make the best movie that we could.
"That's when we moved out of summer and decided, screw it, if we're going to lose a lot of money, let's at least make a good film and not compromise, not try to rush it into theaters."