“He just looked at me like, you poor kitty, what the hell did you do?”
James Cameron didn’t feel like the king of the world after the bad reaction to his 1998 Oscars speech.
The “Titanic” director, who won three Oscars for the epic period piece, including best picture and best director, quoted the film as saying he felt “king of the world” as a winner on stage. Still, the quote resonated immediately, as evidenced by watching host Warren Beatty’s face backstage, according to Cameron.
I’ll tell you exactly when I first found out (it was going to be a problem): when I went backstage and Warren Beatty had a look on his face like, “What the hell have you been doing?” He just looked at me like “You poor kitty, what the hell did you do?” said the director of “Avatar: The Way of Water”. The Hollywood Reporter. “And I said, ‘Oh, wasn’t that good? OK.’ I mean, obviously I analyzed it. My wife at the time, Linda (Hamilton), said, “Well, if you’re going to quote a line from the movie, quote it with gusto.” I say, “Well, I can do that.”
Cameron continued: “And what I’ve come to realize is that the problem with it is that it’s too self-referential and seen as hubristic — not just the semiotics of ‘I’m king of the world’, but the script. you quote your own movie as if every single member of the audience is a huge fan because there were many people in the audience who didn’t vote for ‘Titanic’. You can’t make the assumption that the way you win, you won by a huge landslide.”
“As Good as It Gets,” “The Full Monty,” “Good Will Hunting” and “LA Confidential” were also contenders for Best Picture that year.
Cameron noted that he meant the nod to “Titanic” as a “celebratory” nod to his parents, who were in the audience.
“I talked to my parents. If you actually look at the transcript, I say, “Mom, Dad, I know you’re back,” because they were in the back of the house. I said, ‘I can’t tell you how I feel right now, except that I’m the king of the world!’ It means I talk to my parents and they say, “I’m fine now.” And that’s it,” Cameron explained. “What I didn’t say specifically is, ‘I’m going to show all the dicks how to do it, and yes, I’m king of the world!’ It’s me! Not what I said. But of course they heard that.”
The “Terminator” director continued: “And of course, as a director, I’m supposed to be better than that. I have to know what the audience is hearing—how the line actually lands is actually part of the art.”
During THR’s oral history of the Oscars for “Titanic,” Academy showrunner Louis J. Horvitz admitted that Cameron was an “ass” for the speech, while former Fox Filmed Entertainment head Bill Mechanic speculated that Cameron’s perceived arrogance ” could be included” in the Oscar film.
“If he had done that before the polls closed, we would have lost,” Mechanic said. “That’s the kind of thing that would cost you a win.”
“Titanic” actor Billy Zane added: “We were like, ‘Wow, that’s…’ ‘Wow…’ ‘Yeah, that’s…’ I got it, but yeah.
Meanwhile, host Beatty infamously suffered his own Oscar mishap decades later when he misread the Best Picture envelope and inaccurately announced “La La Land” (“Moonlight” was the actual winner).
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