Almost a decade after ''Titanic,'' James Cameron crows about his two new movies, and why they're like nothing you've ever seen

By Degen Pener
Updated February 17, 2006 at 05:00 AM EST
Schwarzenneger & Cameron: Merie W. Wallace

After nine years, three documentaries, one Entourage stint, and about 15,000 Celine Dion jokes, the shock isn’t that James Cameron is back. It’s that his first feature since Titanic won’t be Battle Angel, the sci-fi-meets-anime project (based on Yukito Kishiro’s Japanese graphic novels) that Cameron fans have been anticipating for years. ”We’ve moved Project 880 into first position,” Cameron told Entertainment Weekly at the Santa Barbara film festival.

So just what is Project 880? Don’t ask Cameron: ”It’s as classified,” he says, ”as the Manhattan Project.” (That secrecy hasn’t stopped some industry observers from guessing that 880 is actually a version of Avatar, the director’s oft-rumored love story set against interplanetary war.) Whatever it is, Cameron is ready to shoot 880 at Twentieth Century Fox — where he’s also preparing Battle Angel. Neither film has been completely cast, but 880 is now slated for ’07 and Angel is set for ’09. ”We couldn’t do one unless we do both,” says Cameron. ”They use the same technology.”

And that’s where things get really cool. Cameron is no stranger to cutting-edge gadgetry — he’s been on the forefront of the CGI revolution since Terminator 2. Now he’s using realistic-looking motion-capture techniques like those that made The Lord of the Rings‘ Gollum so eerily lifelike, and shooting both new movies in brand-spanking-new high-definition 3-D. The catch? If the movies are to be distributed in 3-D format, he hopes to have at least 1,000 theaters converted to digital projection. (You’ll view high-def 3-D through an updated version of the old glasses, but regular 2-D will be available.) Don’t take these release dates to the bank, however. ”We don’t want to get jammed up like on Titanic,” he says, refusing to rule out the possibility that Project 880 could move to 2008. ”The consensus has been we will serve no wine before its time.”

(Additional reporting by Hannah Tucker)