The 3D Geniuses


George Lucas & James Cameron

To say Cameron, 57, and Lucas, 67, march to the beat of their own drummers -- and dreams -- doesn't begin to describe their approach to filmmaking and the marriage of storytelling and technology. In 1977, Lucas made history when releasing Star Wars, which became a worldwide cultural phenomenon and launched the era of the fanboy tentpole. He also defied the Hollywood system by retaining rights to his films and building his own special effects empire hundreds of miles from Los Angeles in Northern California.

Likewise, Cameron has again and again pushed the boundaries. Everyone said Titanic would be a financial disaster for Fox, to the point that the studio shed risk by bringing Paramount aboard as a co-financier. Titanic, released in 1997, reigned as the top-grossing film of all time for more than a decade after raking in more than $1.8 billion worldwide. Of course, it was trumped only by Cameron's Avatar, which revealed the true artistic promise of digital 3D and took a decade to realize so that technology could catch up with his vision. As with Titanic, naysayers said Avatar -- which cost more than $300 million to make -- would sink Fox. They realized how wrong they were when the movie grossed nearly $2.8 billion globally.

Neither man is resting on his laurels, and both remain technological mavericks at the forefront of the 3D movement. The 3D conversion of Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace is set to hit theaters Feb. 10, and Cameron's 3D version of Titanic opens April 6. Cameron recently shared footage of his film with members of the media, who were wowed. There's big money at stake, if the September theatrical rerelease of Disney's The Lion King in 3D is an indication -- that reissue grossed $164.2 million worldwide.

Lucas intends to convert all six Star Wars films. In fact, his team has been studying and perfecting the conversion process for seven years to avoid complaints that it is a cheap trick to generate grosses. "It's not cheap," Lucas confessed to theater owners in March when speaking on a panel with Cameron, "and it's not fast. If you want to do it right, you can do it right." If there's a motto both he and Cameron live by, it's that.

Photographed by JUCO on March 30 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas

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