James Cameron talks 'Avatar' sequel, the evolution of 3D, and respect for his geeks

james-cameronImage Credit: Michael Tullberg/Getty ImagesUsually a couple of decades need to pass before a classic motion picture gets brought back to the big screen for a major rerelease. So leave it to Avatar — the film that’s broken all the records — to pull it off in just eight months. On Aug. 27, the movie that’s already grossed nearly $3 billion worldwide will be returning to about a thousand 3-D screens across the country, with nine additional minutes of footage. EW sat down with James Cameron to ask him how things are going on the sequel, what he thinks about the post-Pandora explosion of 3D in Hollywood, and how he really felt about losing to his ex-wife at the Oscars earlier this year.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So what’s in the extra nine minutes?
JAMES CAMERON:
Cool stuff. All cool stuff. There’s a big rousing sequence where they’re hunting these herd animals called sturmbeests. There’s another new creature that you haven’t seen before called the stingbat. There’s a really powerful emotional scene toward the end of the film where the leader of the Na’vi is dying after a battle. There’s a bit more in the love scene with Jake and Neytiri. There’s more bioluminescent stuff in the night forest. Little bits and pieces here and there.

When scenes are added to a movie for a rerelease — especially pop culture milestones like Star Wars and Avatar — doesn’t it blur the lines of history? For instance, is this new version with the extra nine minutes now the official director’s cut of Avatar? Or is the one that made billions of dollars last year the official film?
This rerelease is a limited special edition. It’s just an experience you can have with your family at the end of the summer. The last hurrah in theaters. People can watch the original release — it still exists indefinitely on DVD and Blu-ray — or they can watch this new one. We’re going to do an even longer version that will exist only on DVD. There are people who felt that they could have spent more time in Pandora. So we’re giving them that.

Speaking of those people — Avatards, they’re called…
I think they’re called fans.

Well, there were reports that some of those fans were so upset Pandora didn’t really exist outside your movie, they fell into serious depressions after leaving the theater.
I suspect that’s hyperbole. Everybody writes in purple prose in the blogosphere. But I would hate to think that people really were getting depressed. If they really feel that they’re not getting enough of the wonders of the natural world in their life, then they should just go on a damn walk in the woods. Or go snorkeling.

Is this your William Shatner moment? Get a life?
That was really funny [on SNL], but no. I think you have to be respectful of fans, because, let’s face it, I’m a geek. If I’m geek enough to put all the detail in the machines and technology and ecosystems in my movies, then the people who value that are going to be just as geeky as me. I can’t dis them.

There’s a segment of the audience that hasn’t fallen in love with 3D. There seems to be a backlash building.
The whole 3-D market kind of overheated. Everybody got a little ahead of themselves. The studios were taking movies and just slamming them into 3D with slapdash conversions that didn’t live up to a standard of quality that would justify charging extra for the ticket. So people started feeling ripped off…. I think we’re in a period where it’s recalibrating the market. But even now, even after all that, the 3-D movies are still performing well above their 2-D versions.

You’ve promised to make all your future movies in 3D. But are all movies right for 3D? Would The Hurt Locker [which edged out Avatar for top honors at this year’s Oscars] have been better in 3-D?
It would have been better in 3D.

You think so?
Absolutely. It wouldn’t have been hugely better in 3D, but I’m talking about a future when you don’t have to put “in 3D” on the movie poster anymore, the same way that you don’t put “in color” on posters anymore. Imagine that point in time, when 3D is just a natural, innate part of viewing.

Were you surprised that The Hurt Locker beat Avatar for Best Picture and Director?
Look, I’m the one who always wins the betting pool at our little Academy Awards party, so I knew in advance that it was a slam dunk for Kathryn [Bigelow, Cameron’s ex-wife] to win director. It was David and Goliath. The Goliath had made more than a couple of billion dollars and Hurt Locker had made about what it cost to shoot, about $15 million. The Academy always likes to be the great equalizer. But I don’t begrudge her any of that. I couldn’t think of a better outcome for our two lives. I got my Oscar. She got her Oscar.

What’s this we hear about you writing a novelization of Avatar?
I hate that term. A novelization is when the merchandising department hires a hack writer for $15,000 to adapt my script. This is the novel.

But it’s the same story as the movie?
Yeah. But it’s a different art form, a different medium. It’s more inside the minds of the characters. It gets into Grace’s back-story, how she came to the planet as a young scientist. It sets up all the seeds of what will happen over the greater story arc.

About that greater arc, how far along are you on Avatar 2?
We’re in the early days right now. I’ve got tons of notes. The way I work is I write hundreds of pages of notes. It’s like writing a novel, except I don’t worry too much about the narrative. It’s all about the technology, the culture, the psychology, the character development. I’ve got to create the stage for the story to play out on, and then later I’ll connect the dots and figure out how the story works. I’ve always had a story arc in mind for the sequel, but then I took a trip to South America after Avatar came out and that has altered the story line somewhat.

What happened in South America?
I was doing a fund-raiser for these people called the Achuar. [The Achuar are an Amazonian community who want to keep oil companies from drilling near their homelands.] This fund-raiser was trying to get public attention. A bunch of Achuar were bused in to watch Avatar at an IMAX theater in 3D. These are people who had never been in a movie theater. They’re wearing feathers and paint. And they put on the glasses and watch Avatar, the first movie they’ve ever seen. And when they came out, the BBC interviewed them. This one woman, a tribal elder, says, “In this movie, they solved their problems by fighting. We are not afraid to fight, but we have decided to try to solve our problems through dialogue. So this movie needs a better message.”

Ouch.
I felt like I’d been punk’d. But it made me think.

To read our entire interview with James Cameron, which also includes discussion of his work toward a solution to the BP oil spill crisis, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on stands now.


Comments (142 total) Add your comment
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  • UGH

    *yawn*
    wake me when Cameron finally makes Battle Angel.

    • Joe

      Amen to that, I just hope there is a 2D version available as well, while 3D gives some nice effects, it’s not worth the risk of a seizure… and Avatar 2 better not solve their problems by dialog lol, we need epic battles!

      • bobbbb

        you and every other idiot in amerikkka

      • Ron

        Battle Angel is exactly what I have been dying for him to do. I’m worried that after Avatar 2 and 3 he will go back to the Terminator series, which I must admit needs his saving. So around Camron’s 80th birthday we will get Alita.

      • jujubeans

        OMG better not watch 3D so I dnt get a seizure!!11!1

        (as I eat my Big Mac, text while I drive, and smoke my cigarette)

    • hadassah

      John Landau said Avatar will be first with Battle Angel coming soon after

  • DavidJ

    As much as I loved the first Avatar and would probably go see a sequel… I’d MUCH rather he devote the time to something new instead.

    • Corbijn

      Yeah, maybe he could make a sequel to Titanic?

      • leo

        yeah, how about Titanic … the beginning

      • Nirveeze

        No: TITANIC RISING!

        Jack is back with the ship, and HE IS PISSED!

        Titanic Rising: coming to a theater near you!

        Hahaha! I love Titanic, but it doesn’t need a sequel or even a spiritual sucessor. Leave it as it is.

      • Becky

        How about TITANIC-THE REVENGE where the Titanic rises out of the ocean as a ghost ship with the passengers, now the Undead leashing out revenge on all the shipping construction corperations guilty for the shoddy cost-cutting work that caused it to sink. (actually I wouldn’t watch it but it’s a funn idea) Huggs Becky

    • sam

      I agree with you. Avatar isn’t the kind of movie where the audience is left wondering what happens next. Seems a little bit like “Spaceballs 2: the Search For More Money” to me.

      • lewax00

        THAT’s what he should make. I’d see that.

  • Josie

    As much as I love his movies, he sounds like an ass. Seriously, I don’t know if it is how he comes across on the page, but I want to reach inside my computer and smack him. Hard

    • nodnarb

      No he doesn’t. He sounds like a person who is passionate about his craft… which is exactly what it takes to make films of this caliber.

      • Jcthinker

        He only sounds like one. Any way you serve it or “craft” it, tripe is tripe.

      • nodnarb

        The only people who sound like asses are the ones who leave bitter, hateful comments with zero substance.

      • harry

        Amen!!!

      • jcthinker

        Nodnarb: you know yourself very well !!

      • Tarantula

        nodnarb – you were looking in the mirror when making that comment! DUH!!!

      • nodnarb

        Hilarious! So what we’ve learned from the last 2 comments is that the people who are most viciously anti-Cameron have the maturity and intellect of a 7th-grader. Got it.

    • RyanK

      General public perception about Cameron is not that he’s an ass. He’s just a pretty regular guy with a huge ego. Can’t say I blame him. I’d be the same if I was the guy who made Aliens, Titanic, and Avatar.

      • Matt

        you forgot Terminator 2, the first $100 million movie in movie history, and one of the best action movies of all time

      • Dave

        what is sad is that twilight (Both of them) bruce almighty, night at the museum and my big fat greek wedding made more than twice what terminator two did… I think that ryan named those movies because they were the most successful in the box office.

      • agenice

        Actually.. the first to hit $100 mil would be The Godfather. And if you want to call BS and say rereleases got it there, then i submit, Star Wars. either way, both before Terminator 2.

      • Ernesto

        He’s referring to the production budget. T2 was the first $100 million movie. Regardless when you have the 1 and 2 highest grossing movies of all time (not adjusting for inflation) you know your good. Hence him having a huge ego which he damn well deserves.

      • Stacey

        @Dave – Night at the Museum is an excellent movie!

    • L.T.

      @ Josie The guy is a SERIOUS D**kHEAD! He is so arrogant he thinks his poo is GOLD stop massaging his ego already! When he received his award from Mel Gibson at the Globes last year he said that Mel Gibson should have just handed him the trophy over the fence..he has no IDEA how BIG his head is!

      • Joe

        L.T.: No, you’re wrong. He just joked that he and Gibson were neighbors in Malibu and he could have handed the award over the fence. A dumb joke, but how is that egotistical?

  • Sgt. Rock

    Well, now Cameron ripped off “The Terminator” and “The Omega Code” and there’s all this talk about “Avatar” being ripped off from “Call Me Joe” and a bunch of other sci fi stories, so tell me, who is this James Cameron clown? He sounds like someone who steals other people’s stuff for a living. I won’t let my kids see his movies, I want them to grow up to be honest and truthful.

    • dummy

      blah blah blah…it’s a sad fact, but that is how the world is. Do whatever it takes to get ahead. If you don’t like Cameron’s alleged ripped-off work, I guess you don’t let your kids watch Disney. Take The Little Mermaid for instance. Did you know that in the original fairy tale that the Mermaid doesn’t get the man in the end? Disney fluffed up the ending to their own liking, competely disregarding the true outcome of the story. Not THAT is what I call dishonest.

    • nodnarb

      Cameron ripped off The Terminator? Seriously, you can’t be that dumb. And I hope you’re not letting your kids watch any Disney movies considering they’re ALL adapted from earlier source material.

    • RyanK

      How in the world could Cameron rip off The Terminator!!?? IT’S HIS MOVIE!!

      • Gamthin

        Actually, he did rip off the original concept, and after a long legal battle, there is now an acknowledgment to Harlan Ellison at the end of the movie crediting the original idea to his short story from from ’60’s.

      • GK

        Gamthin is right. You need to read short stories by Harlan Ellison called ‘Soldier,’ ‘I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream’ and several others to see that Cameron did indeed lift MAJOR elements when writing Terminator. A soldier that travels through time, an evil computer called SKYNET(!) etc etc. I love his movies but Terminator is, let’s say, “derivative.”

    • Corbijn

      Blah, Blah, Blah. Everything influences something else. Star Wars basically ripped off everything from Metropolis to the Foundation books. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea has been ripped off how many times in how many ways? If you haven’t figured this out by now you need to pull your head out of that area where the sun don’t shine.

    • bob

      Pitty!

    • Psac

      The story from Avatar was ripped off from Disney’s Pocohontas, but the visuals were a piece of art. Worth every cent of admission.

      • T

        Right, because Pocahontas was created completely by Disney and in no way based on history. [/sarcasm font]

      • Nix

        The Disney version was. [/innocent font]

      • James

        You can’t rIp off history you dolt.

        Hahahahahahaha.

        No but seriously, look at dances with wolves. Same thing there too. People need to wake up, many storys are repurposed and retold. Thats what stories have always been.

    • MATTY

      sgt rock, you sir are a complete retard. everything is made and created from someone else’s idea. How do you think half of the things we have today are made. You must be really dishonest because in fact you are probably typing on a computer that if you read the history of windows, Bill Gates took other people’s ideas and made them his and better’d them and thus created windows. Congrats on being probably the dumbest redneck.

    • Just Me

      I heard a saying awhile ago that there have been virtually no original stories after Shakespeare. Haha. I think it’s true. There’s only so many ways to write a story. Plot and character development can only differ so much from story to story. Pretty soon they all sound similar.

      • Kaye

        Actually, all of Shakespeare’s works are direct ripoffs. It’s true.

    • emerson

      There will be a day you realize that there is no more original stories. The more literature you read, the more movies you see and the more Television you watch you will learn that everyone shares the same mythos and that the only thing we ever change are the characters. We also learn that we can’t quit watching the same story over and over again no matter how many times it is overdone. Audiences get wrapped up in the emotions and the characters whether it was stolen or not originality isn’t required. Just a good involved entertaining story that reaches the heart is all that counts!

    • Sam

      I feel sorry for your kids ..

    • Whatever dude

      …and we ripped off the genes and chromosomes of our parents.

    • Joe

      Ripped off OMEGA CODE?! I never heard of this before and can see no connection.

  • Jose

    I don’t hate the guy, but the re-release seems like such a waste, I’d rather wait for the DVD.

    • Max

      The DVD is out!

      • Jose

        Not the special edition with the special features.

    • Spike5

      I saw it in the theater in 3D and I saw it on a large screen HD tv in BluRay and there was no comparison. I’m looking forward to a second chance to see it the way it’s meant to be seen. (And I’m over 60.)

      • ron

        I didn’t take my 5 year old to see it in theaters because I thought it was too long for her – she loved the DVD. I will be taking her for the 3d the first day.

      • BlackIrish4094

        @Ron, yeah that’s really an appropriate movie for a 5 year old. I’m sure your fellow movie goers will be thrilled.

  • CATom

    If he is thinking about a new movie that means he found some other obscure sci-fi book to ripoff

    • pb

      piss off loser…

      • Audrey

        It be true though

      • BlackIrish4094

        Truth hurts??

  • RyanK

    I think he’s very right about the 3D backlash. Every movie I’ve seen that was originally shot in 3D has been impressive, but cheap conversions like Clash of the Titans are ruining public perception. We need more 3D in the quality of Avatar and Despicable Me.

  • Jcthinker

    Good working title: Crap Redux.

  • Steinmayer

    I met Cameron at the SBCC in Santa Barbara, and out of ALL the celebrities that have been there, n that goes from Brad Pitt to Sandra Bullock, he was by far one of the nicest, not that the other ones were bad or anything, but he stayed there signing everything and talking to everyone for way longer that anyone I’ve ever seen, and he was really nice. So I don’t know, I always heard all these nasty things about him, but he proved to be otherwise.

    • Bibbitybobbity

      I love people who assume that becasue they do not like something no one does

  • ky

    Avatar must be the most overrated movie in the history of movies, it is a really boring movie except for about 20 minutes.

    3d is the most hyped non-event in the art form of movies. His statement that 3d films outperformed 2d is not true, especially if you count ticket per ticket sales, instead of just counting in the inflated dollars of 3d viewings. Most of the public simply do not care about 3d.

    • jj

      so true it was a good movie but totally overrated

    • BlackIrish4094

      I agree.

  • Ric

    why cant people see Avatar for what it is? a great way to spend some quality time with your family.

    • amused

      Reading the comments on this thread, it sounds like most people here have no clue about Cameron. Do you homework before posting incorrect, negative comments.

    • James

      Yea, I cherish the 3 hours I spent talking with my family too.

      Oh wait….

    • WTFFTW18

      Spending time with your family, that movie is a way to ignore your family, and your life if you have one. It was a neat movie but way over hyped. I am not into wearing the emperor’s new clothes. You want to spend time with your family go to a park or something.

  • Sgt. Rock

    Nobody’s wished James Cameron a Happy birthday yet, so let me be the first to do it. Did you know that John Smith made up the story about Pocahontas saving his life? She hadn’t even been born yet. So the Disney movie is a big fib of history. As for Cameron, he’s Canadian so he doesn’t understand that copyright comes directly from the U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 8, Clause 8, as I recall. Currently copyright extends until 70 years after the death of the author. I guess he doesn’t know this.

  • Eddie Norwood Jr

    Mr. Cameron,
    I will be 66th Aug. 18th and my father was a movie person and he got me into going to movies every week, why did he do this to me and to this day i go to the movies once every week.Long story short, you came alone with your beautiful mine thats way out their in space and i love what you put in my mine and for this i love evrything you put out their and Avatar was outstanding.As a kid i always dream that someone would come from out of space and take me around the world. i never finsh high school but you have given dreams!

    Thank Mr. Cameron

    • Bob Krane

      why don’t you marry the guy?

      • Eddie Norwood Jr

        Hello,
        Mr.Bob Krane,give credit when it’s due, at least he put it togehter,can you do better?
        God Bless you!!!!!

  • dctoronto

    Didn’t they release a no frills DVD this spring with plans on releasing a more elaborate one in time for Christmas? The re-release sounds like it’s meant to drum up interest in the film just in time for the DVD.
    As for his saying 3D outperformed 2D this summer. I’d like to see where he got his stats from and whether they factor in the inflated ticket price.

  • Keri Mills

    Don’t bother! The ending for the first Avatar was a cop out. All that build up to a nothing ending. It’s like he ran out of money and things to do special effects about and just ended it.

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