Turns out, Hollywood budget-buster James Cameron can do more with less. The Oscar winner — who spent $200 million to make Titanic — managed to shoot tonight's 90-minute Dark Angel season finale for a measly $3 million. "So, theoretically," he jokes to TV Guide Online, "I should be able to make a [two-hour] movie for about $5.5 million."
Of course, features and episodics are two very different beasts — as Cameron quickly learned. "I think we did 116 set-ups in one day... those are nutso numbers," he marvels. "The most set-ups I've ever done in my life before that was probably 40. But I think some of the lessons I learned will be valuable from a filmmaking standpoint.
"On TV, you have to figure out the things you can really honest-to-God live without," continues the auteur, who co-created and executive produces Dark Angel. "And you have to rely a lot more on your actors to just be there front and center, and get it right."
Still, Cameron made the most of his limited means for tonight's action-packed installment. "There is a lot more physical stuff," he reveals. "Where we might normally have two or three action sequences, here we have five or six. I'm sitting on the mixing stage right now mixing the big fight sequence. It's like six minutes long; it's gonzo. It's the most complicated piece of action choreography I've ever done. It's like the entire cast fighting all of the bad guys."
Off-screen, Jessica Alba and Co. are facing a life-and-death battle of their own. With the show's ratings down considerably this year — a development Cameron blames on its new Friday-night timeslot — Dark Angel is hardly a shoo-in for renewal. Still, this evening's episode was not meant as a farewell.
"If it's the series finale, then there's still a lot of stuff hanging," Cameron admits. "I don't believe in thinking in defeatest terms. The rational part of my mind says it's a 50/50 chance that we're going to come back [in the fall]. So, it's not a slam dunk. But there's no point in thinking about that."
However, if Fox hopes to attach Cameron's name to future TV projects, it may want to think long and hard before clipping Dark Angel's wings. "If we're two years into something and I don't have the backing of the studio [20th Century Fox] and the network [Fox], I'm not going to be really anxious to go do [another series] for those guys," the self-proclaimed King of the World says. "But if they play fair with me this time, and they honor the investment that I've made and that all my cast and my crew have made, then I'll be much more open to that."