Special effects wizard and blockbuster director James Cameron was busy getting in touch with his oceanographer side this weekend. The Avatar and Titanic filmmaker completed a record-breaking Mariana Trench dive — a place National Geographic describes as “Earth’s deepest, and perhaps most alien, realm.”
He’s the first person to take a solo dive into the ocean’s cavernous recesses — a section of Pacific waters known as “Challenger Deep” that extends 35,768 feet deep. In 1960, Navy Lt. Don Walsh and the late Swiss engineer Jacques Piccard made the journey with few instruments at their disposal and were unable to see much beyond the clouds of mud stirred up from the ocean floor when they made touchdown. Cameron, however, spent three hours in his Deepsea Challenger armed with multiple 3D cameras, a robotic claw, “slurp gun,” and an eight-foot LED tower for illuminating the murky depths — technology similar to the kind hinted at in his most popular films like Terminator and Avatar. Scientists will be reporting some of their findings from Cameron’s samples later today. National Geographic magazine will feature a story about the event, and a 3D feature film centered on the historic dive is also in the works. In total, Cameron has taken 70 deep submersible dives — even visiting the real-life Titanic shipwreck 33 different times.
Clearly Cameron’s passion for diving is as strong as his love of filmmaking. We felt inspired by his deep sea adventures to explore some of the other crazy and compelling things filmmakers have done in their everyday lives. Read on for more, and leave your votes below.
Body horror auteur David Cronenberg has hinted at his love of cars and all things racing in movies like Crash and the most random chapter in his filmmaking career — 1979 B-action film, Fast Company. The director is an avid race fan and accomplished driver, having even raced several vintage cars. His interests led him to an unrealized feature film (for which there is a completed script) about the Formula One Championship rivalry between Ferrari drivers Phil Hill and Wolfgang Von Trips. The filmmaker eventually published an illustrated art book version of his unproduced screenplay.
Documentarian Michael Moore explored America’s history and culture of gun violence in the 2002 film Bowling for Columbine. Before he was calling to task organizations like the NRA (National Rifle Association), however, Moore was a boy growing up in Flint, Michigan — an area that became economically depressed and rife with gun violence. Reportedly as a youngster, the director was a skilled marksman — but it wasn’t until after the Columbine shootings that Moore became a life-member of the NRA in an attempt to become its president and force new gun control measures. Eventually he gave up and Bowling for Columbine was born. We’re not sure if Moore’s still shooting guns these days, but his off-screen activities have certainly taken the filmmaker to some interesting places on screen.
Danish provocateur Lars von Trier was raised in an atheist family, but after a deathbed confession from his mother that the man who raised him was not his biological father, the director reportedly rebelled against his upbringing by converting to Catholicism. Still, the filmmaker doesn’t seem to totally subscribe to his confirmed religion. In a recent interview Von Trier shared, “I don’t know if I’m all that Catholic really. I’m probably not … Perhaps I only turned Catholic to piss off a few of my countrymen.”
When German director Werner Herzog isn’t busy wooing us with his voice or putting his cast and crew at risk in movies like Aguirre: The Wrath of God and Fitzcarraldo, he’s dodging bullets like an immortal superhero and rescuing famous actors from car wrecks. During an outdoor interview in 2006, Herzog was wounded when an unseen sniper took a shot at the director. In true Herzog fashion, he said the injury was insignificant and practically brushed it off. That same year, when Walk the Line actor Joaquin Phoenix overturned his car, the 63-year-old filmmaker — who thankfully lived nearby — rescued him from the wreckage. So, what have you done today?
“As a kid I was really into pen pals — when I was sixteen I wrote to this convicted murderer in prison. I felt I had to reach out but I didn’t know why, even if it was in an inappropriate way,” indie director Miranda July shared during an interview.
“Just the fact that a 38-year old man who I never actually met, who I became very close to, and was so different from me, a 16-year Berkeley prep school kid — that we both existed in the world and there was no obvious connection but what we made, and that it was a very awkward connection, it wasn’t always functional … If I look through almost everything I have ever made, that’s always been appealing to me. There’s something just so poignant or ‘life-y’ about that … ”
Cinema’s modern mystic Alejandro Jodorowsky will begin shooting his surreal autobiographical movie The Dance of Reality this summer (hopefully). Until then, you can find the surrealist filmmaker lecturing on the ancient art of tarot in Paris — often performing readings for strangers. He even created his own deck of cards, reconstructing the original Tarot de Marseille. If you can’t make the trip to partake in Jodorowsky’s unique brand of magical wisdom, he’s often on Twitter chatting about much of the same.
Trying to choose one “crazy” thing actor-director Mel Gibson has done in his everyday life isn’t easy since he hasn’t been a perfect picture of mental health in recent years. The Passion of the Christ filmmaker has done everything you’re not supposed to do as a celebrity — including buying a private island in Fiji and pissing off the people who have lived there for decades. Native inhabitants of Mago Island — who were originally displaced from their land in the 1800s — became quite upset when Gibson snatched up the Pacific paradise for $15 million. Mago is now Gibson’s personal oasis, but he has reassured everyone that he won’t be starting any Jim Jones-esque cults there (for now, anyway).
Guy Ritchie’s films feature tough guys who aren’t afraid to use their fists to settle a score. The director behind such manly man movies such as Snatch is also familiar with fighting the good fight. Ritchie has been a martial arts practitioner since childhood and currently holds several different belts, including a brown belt in jiujitsu. The filmmaker has even sparred with Robert Downey Jr. in preparation for action scenes in Sherlock Holmes 2 . We have to wonder if he ever went at it with Madonna, putting her Popeye arms to the test.