Director James Cameron’s plans for Avatar sequels have seemed like mostly talk for many years now, but the director is finally going full steam ahead on the films, the first of which will arrive in theaters eleven years after the original movie. Speaking with Vanity Fair, Cameron spoke about the sequels and his re-teaming with his Titanic star Kate Winslet.
“She’s very excited about it,” the director says of the Oscar winner’s involvement. “She blazed through for a couple of days of rehearsals and saw the world that we had created, and how we do the work, and she’s very excited. She plays a character who’s part of the Sea People, the reef people. The one thing she did do is demand that she do all her own water work. I said, ‘All right, that’s fine, we’ll have to teach you how to free dive.'”
Cameron went on to reveal some information about a scene they recently shot involving not only child actors, but underwater and performing simultaneously.
“The other actors are up to three- and four-minute breath holds. We’ve already been doing underwater capture. We did a scene last week with six teenagers, well, actually five teenagers and one 7-year-old underwater holding their breath for a couple minutes and acting, actually doing a dialogue scene under water because they speak kind of a sign language.”
The director also spoke about the now meme-worthy amount of delays the film has had, saying:
“I wouldn’t call them delays. It was highly optimistic that we could start quickly until scripts are written. If there’s no scripts, there’s nothing, right? The scripts took four years… We’re doing very well because of all the time that we had to develop the system and the pipeline and all that. We weren’t wasting time, we were putting it into tech development and design. So when all the scripts were approved, everything was designed. Every character, every creature, every setting.”
Cameron also seemed to air on the side of caution about the fourth and fifth films which are planned, noting that audiences have to return for the second and third movies.
“Let’s face it, if Avatar 2 and 3 don’t make enough money, there’s not going to be a 4 and 5. They’re fully encapsulated stories in and of themselves. It builds across the five films to a greater kind of meta narrative, but they’re fully formed films in their own right, unlike, say, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, where you really just had to sort of go, ‘Oh, sh*t, all right, well I guess I better come back next year.’ Even though that all worked and everybody did.”
Returning from the original film are Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Joel David Moore, Stephen Lang, Matt Gerald and Sigourney Weaver. Cliff Curtis and Oona Chaplin are also joining the sequels. Cameron recently explained that Stephen Lang’s Colonel Miles Quaritch is coming back for all four sequels and will be the main villain throughout the story. Filming officially started on Avatar 2 and Avatar 3 on September 25, 2017. Shortly after, James Cameron announced young cast members for the sequel, which include the Sully family and children from the Metkayina Na’vi clan who live near ocean reefs, led by Tonowari (Cliff Curtis). The only actor who will appear in live-action playing a non-CGI character is Jack Champion as Javier “Spider” Socorro, a human teen born at the Hell’s Gate military complex seen in the first film.
20th Century Fox and Lightstorm Entertainment previously announced release dates for the four Avatar sequels. Avatar 2 will be coming to theaters on December 18, 2020, and will be followed by Avatar 3 on December 17, 2021. Filming will then begin on Avatar 4 and Avatar 5, which will be released on December 20, 2024 and December 19, 2025.
Released in 2009, the first Avatar film remains the highest-grossing film worldwide with over $2.7 billion in box office grosses. Titanic was previously the record holder with $2.186 billion worldwide.