James Cameron knows a thing or two about creating strong female characters. After all, he’s the guy who created waitress-turned-Terminator killer Sarah Connor; who helped turn Sigourney Weaver into a bona fide female action hero through Ellen Ripley in Aliens; and who made Kate Winslet unsinkable in Titanic.

So when the writer-director approached Winslet for Avatar: The Way of Water and its sequels, the Oscar winner couldn’t say no. “Jim has always written for women characters who are not just strong, but they are leaders,” Winslet said at a recent press event. “They lead with their heart, with integrity. They stand in their truth. They own their power.”

Considering that legacy, Kate couldn’t say no — and Cameron knew it, Winslet joked. “To be part of that and included, it was just so flattering that Jim asked me because Jim does not suffer fools. And I knew that he was asking me because he knew I was too damn foolish not to say, ‘Oh, you see that in me? But guess what? I’m going to show you that I can do exactly that thing. And maybe that thing, and maybe that thing."”

One of those “things” included extensive underwater training that led Winslet to hold her breath for a dizzying 7 minutes, 14 seconds.

Avatar: The Way of Water is currently the number one movie in the world.

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