James Cameron opens up about Avatar 2, his long-awaited sequel

What do you do after making the world’s highest-grossing movie of all time, breaking the record you set yourself over a decade ago? If you’re James Cameron, you take a breath and then dive headfirst into the deep end – literally. After it topped the box office in 2009 symbol picture, the brilliant tropical epic of blue-skinned aliens and environmental messages, the director vowed to return not with one four Planned sequences. He decided that the first of these (in theaters December 16) would be set primarily underwater, requiring years of technology research and months of training actors to hold their breath for lengths that would impress even a Marine.

Now Cameron is finally ready to welcome fans back to Pandora with an ambitious aquatic marvel that was a veritable decade in the making.

“It seems kind of crazy, this process,” admits Cameron, 67, with a laugh. “I mean, so symbol picture We never made that damn much money, and we never would have – because it’s kind of crazy.”

Listen to the director’s description symbol picture Flight 2 makes “kind of crazy” seem like an understatement. Cameron began planning the sequel himself in 2012, bringing in a writing team in 2013 that helped define four stories that span Pandora’s diverse geography and complement the film’s first story of man versus nature. Photography symbol picture 2 (an official title yet to be announced) began in 2017, with a story set about 14 years after the original: ex-human soldier Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and warrior Na’vi Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña) settled down and started a family, and the centerpiece Big from the movie on their pre-teen offspring.

“In the end, the sequels are a story about the family, and the lengths parents will go to keep this family together and keep them safe,” explains Producer John Landau. “I always say Jim’s films have universal themes – and in fact, there is no theme more universal than family.”

Both symbol picture 2 and 3 are set mostly in and around the ocean, introducing a new reef-dwelling clan of Na’vi called the Metkayina. Landau describes the neotropical beaches and the beaches of Pandora as a coastal paradise: “Bora Bora on steroids.” If the first movie was about the rainforest, with its cautionary tale about deforestation, the new entries are a love letter to Cameron’s first charmer, The Sea. the Titanic The director has always championed ocean conservation, completing a record-breaking trip to the bottom of the Mariana Trench in 2012. “I do something in the ocean when I’m not making movies,” he says. “So if I can combine my two greatest loves–one exploring the ocean; the other, filmmaking–why not?”

But setting a story below sea level presents more than a few challenges. Innovative performance capture process designed for the first time symbol picture It wasn’t intended to work underwater, so Cameron and his team had to design a way to accurately record the actors’ smallest movements and expressions while submerged. That footage was then animated by artists at Oscar-winning visual effects company Weta Digital. Much of the performance photography was filmed in a 900,000-gallon tank (built specifically for sequences), which can simulate ocean eddies and crashing waves. “My production colleagues lobbied hard to do this ‘dry for wet,’ or hang people on wires,” Cameron notes. I said, ‘It won’t work. It will not look real. “I even let them do a test, where we picked up dry water for wet, and then we picked up in the water, a raw level to pick us up in the water. And it wasn’t close.”

Several cast members prepared for diving by earning a scuba certification, culminating in a scuba diving field trip with a manta ray in Hawaii. But when it came to filming, air bubbles and scuba technology could interfere with the performance capture process – so every actor had to train with professional divers so they could dive free, holding their breath for minutes at a time. Cameron says 72-year-old Sigourney Weaver, who will return in a new, top-secret role after her death in the first film, could easily hold her breath for six and a half minutes, while new cast member Kate Winslet stunned everyone away when she did a seven-and-a-half breath of silence. minutes and a half.” symbol picture 2 represents the reunion between Cameron and him Titanic Winslet’s star here, the 46-year-old Oscar and Emmy winner plays one of Metkayina’s characters, a mysterious character named Ronal.

“One of my favorite memories was we had this circular tank, probably 40 feet wide, with a large glass gate inside. I walked one day and saw Kate Winslet walking on the bottom of the tank,” Landau recalls. “She walks toward me and sees me in the window, and she just waves, gets to the end of the wall, turns around, and walks all the way back.”

The first movie was no small feat, it took more than a decade for it to hit the screen after Cameron first dreamed up the idea. But Cameron and Landau say their goal from the relay was to aim higher — and dive deeper. Principal photography is already over symbol picture 3 (scheduled for 2024), and Weta began early post-production in some scenes. The fourth and fifth films are currently set for 2026 and 2028. “What we’re doing now, from a story point of view and from a global perspective, is on a much larger scale,” Landau says. “This is exciting and challenging. We are putting more details, first of all, into the performance of the actors, but we [also] Putting more detail and diversity into the world we make.”

However, while a string of big-budget sequels to the highest-grossing film of all time may seem like a heavy blow, Cameron notes that the theatrical landscape has changed dramatically since the first symbol picture hit theaters. In 2009, Netflix streaming began to gain popularity, and Blockbuster has not yet declared bankruptcy symbol picture The 20th Century Fox studio was still far from being absorbed by Disney. In a new era of superheroes and superheroes, Cameron – 13 years later – hopes to keep audiences in touch with his vision of distant and adventurous planets. After all, in 2019 Avengers: Endgame get over it symbol picture As the biggest movie of all time – but symbol picture snatched its crown again after a reissue in China in early 2021, setting a new record with up to $2.847 billion worldwide (best of game over around $50 million).

“The big issue is: Are we going to make any outright money?” Cameron says about his planned sequels. “Big, expensive movies should make a lot of money. We are in a new post-COVID and post-streaming world. Maybe these [box office] The numbers will never be seen again. Who do you know? It’s all just a big dice.”

But hey, if you want to make a big splash, you don’t have to be afraid of getting your feet wet.

For more of our preview of 2022, order the January issue of Entertainment Weekly Or you can find it on newsstands starting Friday. Don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in cyberwar.

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