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Suzy Amis Cameron: 'Titanic' Changed My Life

When actress and mom Suzy Amis Cameron began work more than 15 years ago on the iconic 1997 film Titanic, she had no idea that a fictional love story would inform real life. Neither did the film's director, James Cameron, who would later declare, Oscar in hand, that he was the "king of the world."

As 2012 marks not only the 100th anniversary of the Titanic sinking but also the 15th anniversary of the film's opening, much attention has been paid to James for his work on the movie. But there was a life-changing moment for both him and his now-wife, Suzy, who has since given up acting and devoted her time to motherhood and founding a socio-economically diverse school in Malibu where kids are celebrated for being individuals.

It just put my life on a completely different trajectory.

What part of the filming of Titanic has still resonated with you after all these years?

Everything, because it totally changed my life. I have incredibly fond memories of the actual filming because that’s where Jim and I met—although we did not tip our hands to each other that we liked each other until we were completely finished with filming.

So there were sparks?

There definitely were sparks, and namely (co-star) Gloria Stuart, who became, even though she was 51 years my senior, my best girlfriend until she passed away at 100. She saw the whole thing—the sparks flying with Jim and me completely unfold. She was very much a matchmaker. I not only gained a beautiful best friend and confidant and mentor and peer, but I found the love of my life.

It just put my life on a completely different trajectory.

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Speaking of a different trajectory, what was your inspiration for founding Muse School?

Jim and I have five children total (who range in age from 22 to 5). We watched our two older children—he brought a daughter to the marriage, and I brought a son to the marriage—go through different schooling systems, and just watched layers and layers of things, watching their spirit be squashed, watching them be put into a box, expectations that they had to behave like everyone else. Jim and I are really big advocates for the environment, and I wanted to create a school that was fully sustainable, that celebrated children for who they are as individuals and allows them to learn in their own way at their own pace and to really explore what their interests and passions are.

Seven years later, we have 97 students, and we have our own campus, which is in Malibu Canyon now. It’s fully sustainable. We have all-organic snacks and lunches and gardens. We have a global program, so we connect with schools in Thailand, New Zealand, India, and we’re working on a school in Tanzania, France and England right now with ideas to expand and open nine more Muses around the world.

How do you and your husband incorporate travel when it comes to the kids?

Jim is getting ready to go back into Avatar 2, 3 and he’s talked a little bit about No. 4. He will shoot those back-to-back between here and New Zealand. In the first Avatar, which took close to six years, mainly because they were creating the technology—they were writing the book on how to do it—we definitely stayed intact as a family and traveled when we could and were able to take school work and that sort of thing. We learned a lot from that experience. So going into it this time and having the children be a little bit older, we will be taking a teacher with us that will keep the children connected to the school.

Do you have any "mom" advice that has come in handy over the years?

I think the biggest thing as a parent is to listen and spend time with your children. The piece of advice that someone gave me when we were going through the teenage years is never let them see you lose your cool. And you can very easily get into a back-and-forth, pushing buttons kind of situation. Because children have feelings and expressions and opinions and ideas, and they want to share them. What’s important is that they learn how to share them in a respectful way. When they get upset, we basically hold our cool and say, “Come find me when you’re ready to talk calmly about it.”

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How do you spend "me" time?

(Lots of laughing) The first thing that pops into mind is a very sweet little book that someone gave me when I was about to have my third child. It’s called Five Minutes’ Peace, and it’s a really sweet little book. Sometimes I’ll keep tennis shoes in the back of car, and I’ll just go walk around the neighborhood without my cell phone. Just walk. To me, walking has been my safe haven.

Which of your husband's films is your favorite? Your kids' favorite?

That’s a loaded question. I think Avatar is, all wrapped up in one. It hits everything for me because there’s the environmental piece in it, there’s the caring about home, there’s the relationship, there’s the going out and making something happen.

Also, the children were just exposed to Titanic, and the other films are not appropriate for them—for the little ones. And again, I have a really soft spot in my heart around Titanic because of how much it changed my life.

And the children actually got to see it. We had a screening of it when it came out on 3D. My 5-year-old loved all the pretty dresses. We actually didn’t let her watch it once it hits the iceberg, because it gets so intense. My 9 year-old little boy was like, “That was cool!”

And the interesting thing is how touched they were about how sad it was. And Avatar, too. They were like, “Why did they cut down their home tree?” We’re raising little environmentalists.

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