US turns to king of the disaster movie for its happy ending

The American government may be turning to Hollywood in its desperate search for an end to the environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico, but even if the director involved is James Cameron no one is assuming a happy ending.

Mr Cameron is best known for directing Avatar, a science fiction story of ecological calamity on another planet, and the ocean disaster movie Titanic. It is, therefore, perhaps unsurprising that he should be included in a group of about 20 scientists invited to meet with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Washington earlier this week to try to come up with last-ditch solutions to the oil disaster.

It was mostly for his expertise in deepwater submersible technology that Mr Cameron was added to the group. He had earlier offered to loan submersible craft that he owns to the effort in the Gulf. Mr Cameron purchased them for his own exploration of the real Titanic beneath the Atlantic and for a series of other documentaries on deep ocean exploration.

The meeting was convened "as part of the federal government's ongoing efforts to hear from stakeholders, scientists and experts from academia, government and the private sector as we continue to respond to the BP oil spill", the EPA said in a statement.

BP has said it has received more than 3,000 unsolicited suggestions from the public of strategies or contraptions that might be deployed to seal the leak. But being a celebrity helps get their attention. Kevin Costner, the star of the film Waterworld, has offered BP a machine he has developed to clean polluted oceans using centrifugal force. BP has reportedly given initial approval to use the technology, which is supposed to have the capacity to rinse 97 per cent of any oil in sea water.

Also involved in the clean-up is Victoria Principal, the former star of Dallas, the soap opera about the family of an oil baron. Her contribution has been monetary: $200,000 (£137,000) towards the mop-up operations. Mr Cameron attended the Washington meeting with deep-ocean expert Phil Nuytten, president of the Vancouver-based Nuytco Research, seen as a world leader in undersea technology. Mr Nuytten's company built the mini-submarines used by Mr Cameron in the making of another of his water-themed films, The Abyss.