James Cameron Added A Titanic Nod To Avatar: The Way Of Water Without Realizing He’d Already Written It For Jack

The best artists steal and, for Cameron, that means stealing from himself.

Avatar: The Way of Water, Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox, Disney)

Pablo Picasso reportedly said, “good artists borrow, great artists steal.” Well, if you’re acclaimed auteur James Cameron, who better to steal from than yourself? The director has been responsible for three of the top ten highest-grossing films of all time so, needless to say, the guy knows how to pen a script that resonates with a general audience. The filmmaker says he accidentally added a nod to one of the most iconic and enduring of his works in his latest box office juggernaut, Avatar: The Way of Water, without realizing he had written the very same line for Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jack Dawson to say in Titanic.

James Cameron caught with EW to discuss reuniting with his Titanic co-lead Kate Winslet for the Avatar follow-up 25 years after first working together. The movie maker also took a moment to discuss a pattern in his work, the phrase “I see you.” In his sci-fi series, the line represents a formal greeting and sign of respect that illustrates the love the main characters share for one another.

The phrase has a similar meaning to the leads in the 90s historical-fiction drama, which depicts a real-life maritime disaster. The True Lies director says he had forgotten he’d written the line for Jack to say to Rose but isn’t embarrassed. The Oscar winner told the trade how he landed on that line for his Pandora-set saga and poked fun at himself when it comes to recycling his own ideas:

I had totally forgotten that Jack says it in Titanic. … Well, it means a lot, and it seems to resonate with people. I literally was just sitting there coming up with, What would one tribal person say to another tribal person from a different group? ‘I see you’ was the most obvious thing. Like, literally just go to the most basic semiotics of it. And then I started layering in all these other meanings, and I went back and saw I’d already done that. I always tell my crew, ‘I’ve only ever had four or five good ideas. I just keep recycling them.’

The filmmaker is being modest. Cameron is responsible for some of the best action movies and sci-fi movies to ever grace the silver screen. You can only sustain a career in Hollywood spanning nearly 45 years and create some of the most beloved flicks with some level of cinema genius. (We’ve also ranked all of Cameron’s movies.) The man has clearly had a fair share of great ideas so, if he needs to borrow a line or two from his past movies, so be it. Borrow away, Mr. Cameron!

Avatar: The Way of Water continues the saga of Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and his growing family on Pandora. The gorgeous and thrilling sequel has received mostly positive reviews , with many particularly praising the visuals as more stunning than anything else you can catch in the cinemas. The follow-up, 13 years in the making, has been a box office triumph for the 68-year-old filmmaker, as it’s even beat out Top Gun: Maverick for a record.

While The Way of Water is still raking in the dough, James Cameron has another 2023 movie release headed to theaters, and it’s an oldie but a goodie. To celebrate its 25th anniversary, Titanic is headed back to cinemas just in time to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Paramount Pictures will release the romantic epic in 4K and 3D for a limited time beginning February 10th. If you can take in the romantic epic in the theater, keep your eyes peeled for more patterns that might emerge across Cameron’s oeuvre.


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