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Avatar may be the front-runner for Best Picture at the Oscars this year — it’s already been nominated for Golden Globes, Directors Guild, and Producer Guild awards — but director-producer James Cameron isn’t so sure he’d be a welcome sight on the red carpet. “After jumping up and making a fool of myself with my acceptance speech [for Titanic], I’m sure nobody wants to see me at the Academy Awards again,” he says. “Or maybe they want me to win again to see if I can make an even bigger fool of myself.” Even if he doesn’t take home a statue, though, Avatar’s $1.3 billion grosses are already making him feel like King of the World. “Let me put it this way,” he says. “All those naysayers, the nattering nabobs of negativity, the people who were saying the movie looks bad before they’d even seen anything — you have to learn to ignore them. That’s something I learned on Titanic. But yeah, it’s satisfying that I was able to prove them all wrong.”

Proving everyone wrong didn’t come without an insane amount of hard work. Avatar took so many years of dedication that Cameron barely had time for swine flu. “I took a half day off,” he says. “I took a day off about once every seven weeks, when I started slurring my words. I did get frustrated and cranky. But then one day, I just sort of bitch-slapped myself. I told myself, ‘You’re f—ing rich. You don’t have to do this. You could be off doing deep-sea exploration. So you better find a way to love it.’ The next day, I came to work whistling. I was slapping the grips on the back. It lasted till about noon.”

Photo Credit: Mark Fellman

For more on James Cameron and the secrets of Avatar, see this week’s Entertainment Weekly, on stands now.

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