There was a time when Ontario-born filmmaker James Cameron wondered if Titanic would even turn a profit. "It was a chick flick set in 1912 it was three hours long, and everybody dies in the end. How could it possibly be successful?" mused James, of the $600-million 1997 box office hit, adding: "I don't think anybody really believed in its upside potential - myself included."
Born in the small Canadian town of Kapuskasing in Ontario on August 16, 1954, James Cameron was the first son he has a younger brother, Michael - of engineer father, Philip, and nurse-turned-housewife mother, Shirley. It was quickly apparent the youngster had inherited his mother's passion for the arts, showing an early talent for drawing. A keen Spider-Man fan, he dreamed of becoming a comic-book artist when he grew up.
Fantasy was also one of the young film enthusiast's fascinations. "In my youth, I was an absolutely rabid science fiction fan," he reveals. "I was fascinated by other worlds, other environments." When James was in his mid-teens, his father was transferred to Orange County, California, taking the ambitious youngster one step closer to Hollywood.
Upon graduating from high school in 1973, the A-grade student had to decide between pursuing a career in the arts or sciences. "I decided I was going to be a scientist," he recalled. A two-year community college programme in physics and English, with a minor in engineering, ensued. Though he did well in his chosen field, James dreamed of finding more creative outlets and often borrowed his friend's video camera.
While his father was keen to see James follow in his own footsteps as an engineer, the aspiring writer dropped out of college at 20 to pen screenplays. He went on to make home movies and held viewings for family and friends, but his life was still a long way from the Hollywood dream and while working on a sci-fi script he drove a truck to make ends meet.
After marrying his high school sweetheart Sharon Williams in 1978, James' career finally began to take off when a friend, who was pitching his own ideas to a group of small investors, asked him to help with the presentation. Soon after, his script was accepted, allowing him to finally quit truck driving and realise his dream.
In 1980, James presented his short film Xenon Genesis to the same Hollywood studio where Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese got their start. "I just knocked on their door one day with these reels," he said. There the aspiring film-maker learned the movie business from the ground up, quickly working his way to the role of director on the 1981 feature film Piranha Part Two: The Spawning.
Blockbuster hits followed, including 1984's The Terminator, The Abyss, True Lies and, in 1997, the Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio vehicle Titanic, which earned him three Oscars.
The filmmaker"s personal life has been just as eventful. Following three divorces, he married The Terminator star Linda Hamilton in 1997, with whom he already had a daughter, Josephine. Two years later, the couple divorced and in June 2000 James walked down the aisle for a fifth time, with Suzy Amis. The couple have three children together.
After the success of Titanic, the director decided to focus his efforts on documentary filmmaking, including a 2005 film based on NASA scientists: Aliens Of The Deep. He went on to make global headlines with the controversial 2007 documentary The Lost Tomb Of Jesus.