James Cameron announces his next film. The King of the World says he'll direct his first feature in seven years, a sci-fi epic shot in high-definition 3-D

January 22, 2004 at 05:00 AM EST

”The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” may have helped spur the Return of the King of the World. That would be James Cameron, who proclaimed himself our earthly monarch when he won the directing Oscar for ”Titanic,” still the biggest hit movie of all time. Nearly seven years later, Cameron says he’s finally ready to direct his follow-up feature, a sci-fi epic he plans to shoot for Twentieth Century Fox at the end of the year, Variety reports.

Cameron announced his plan to make what he called a ”big-budget science-fiction film with a pile of special effects” during a question-and-answer session following a Hollywood screening of his 1991 hit ”Terminator 2: Judgment Day” on Tuesday. He was quiet about the title and concept, but he noted that the Middle-earth saga had inspired his return to the multiplex. ”When I see a movie like ‘The Lord of the Rings’ films and I see what’s possible with digital effects now, I can’t resist,” he said. ”I’ve got to come and play because there are some really cool images that I was never able to do before that I want to do now.” He noted that ”T2” had just 47 CGI shots, while ”Return of the King” had more than 1,400.

In the years since his ”Titanic” triumph, Cameron has remained below the surface, directing such smaller-scale projects as the TV documentary ”Expedition: Bismarck” and the IMAX film ”Ghosts of the Abyss.” Cameron said he would use the high-definition 3-D camera system he helped develop for ”Ghosts” to shoot the upcoming feature.

He told the screening audience that the upcoming film would not be ”The Avatar,” an underwater sci-fi tale to which he’s been linked. Nor would it be ”The Dive,” the true story of husband-and-wife divers Francisco ”Pipin” Ferreras and Audrey Mestre, though he said he still plans to direct that feature eventually. Meanwhile, he’s due back in IMAX theaters soon with another documentary, ”Extreme Life.”

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