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San Francisco Tuesday, 20 February, 2001, 07:50 GMT
Titanic director aims for the skies
James Cameron
Cameron is passionate about space
By the BBC's Matt McGrath in San Francisco

James Cameron, the director who made the phenomenally successful movie Titanic, has enquired about producing a film on board the International Space Station (ISS).

The Canadian director has had tentative discussions on the subject with the Russians, major partners in the $60bn ISS project.

Cameron told the BBC such a movie could help to recapture the enthusiasm for space exploration felt by everyone on Earth when Neil Armstrong stepped on to the Moon in 1969.

It's technically feasible but it would be very expensive

James Cameron
He said: "If such a thing proves to be possible, I think some filmmaker should go.

"It should be someone who is dedicated to the cause of trying to popularise space flight again because the public has lost its passion."

Cameron talked about his desire to go into orbit at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

He was chairing a seminar on the human exploration of space, which included speakers from the American space agency Nasa and Lockheed Martin.

The director said he would not go through with the film project unless he was absolutely sure he had a winning idea.

Space tourist

He said: "It's technically feasible but it would be very expensive.

"So, the question is, can you justify it with a commercial project that pays for itself? I don't want to go if it can't be profitable.

"That sounds very mercenary but you have to make the clear distinction between space tourism, which is about having an experience for your own gratification, and going as a filmmaker to interpret the experience of space travel for everyone on Earth who can't go and have it for themselves.

"This is the major disconnect in the professional space programmes. They aren't able to captivate the imagination of the public."

Cameron was linked at one stage with the possibility of doing a movie on the Mir space station.

The private company that had the commercial rights to Mir actively sought novel ideas for the platform's use from the entertainment industry.

Next stop Mars

A US TV network had discussions about doing a "reality show" based around Mir.

But nothing came of the plans because the Russian Government decided to scuttle the 15-year-old station, which was struggling with numerous system failures.

It is not known how the Americans would react to the idea of Cameron making a movie on the ISS.

The US, which is the major partner in the 16-nation space construction project, has already expressed dissatisfaction with the Russian authorities for sanctioning the visit of a tourist to the platform.

Dennis Tito, a multi-millionaire, has bought a ticket that could see him board the ISS in April.

Cameron's desire to visit the ISS is borne out of his passion for space. He would like to make a film that really got behind what it was like to be an astronaut.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet
Titanic won 11 Oscars
He said: "You have to get behind the eyes of the people that go there, the people that dedicate their lives to being astronauts.

"What does being in space do to you day after day? What does it do to you being in that kind of a confined space?

"What does it do to you being away from your loved ones, away from planet Earth, in a fundamentally different environment than the one you were evolved to be in?

"How does that improve you, how does it erode you?"

Cameron said everyone should sit up and take notice of the ISS, which he said was an extraordinary project and one he hoped would be a stepping stone to Mars.

He said: "If there was a way to rekindle the kind of human bond that we had with each other at the moment Neil Armstrong stepped on to the Moon, then I think people would get behind it.

"When the ISS comes to the end of its construction phase and goes into a maintenance period, then Mars could step right into its shoes. Working on more or less the same budgets, we could go to Mars."

See also:

22 Feb 00 | Washington 2000
26 Jan 99 | Anaheim 99
05 Oct 00 | Entertainment
24 Mar 98 | Oscars
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