Director James Cameron and screenwriter Jon Landau share behind-the-scenes stories about the making of the blockbuster Avatar: The Way of Water.
A week since its official release worldwide, blockbuster Avatar: The Way of Water has earned $ 555 million from the global box office (according to Box Office Mojo statistics). This figure means that the $400 million blockbuster is 25% of the way to the $2 billion mark – the breakeven and profitable milestone according to James Cameron’s calculations. The future of The Way of Water at the box office is still wide open with the Christmas and New Year 2023 holidays approaching.
Avatar: The Way of Water is both a continuation of Avatar (2009) and a blockbuster that ushered in a new era on screen for the franchise. Regardless of expectations, “The Way of Water” captivated the audience. In addition to love and admiration, the audience is also very interested in the behind-the-scenes stories of the film: How many years did James Cameron take to conceive his idea? What obstacles did you and your team have to deal with or the meaning placed on the characters or plot?…
Dive 10km into the ocean for inspiration
According to IndieWire, James Cameron spent two years in Australia helping to design a special diving device called the Deepsea Challenger. This device allows filmmakers and 3D cameras to dive to depths of more than 10km above sea level, exploring the deepest places under the Mariana Trench. According to James Cameron, the expedition into the ocean in March 2012 helped him accumulate a lot of knowledge and experience for Avatar: The Way of Water. “I’m very meticulous in the preparation,” Cameron said.
While incubating the idea for the Avatar sequel series, James Cameron and Jon Landau also produced another big-budget film project, Alita: Battle Angel (2019) with director Robert Rodriguez. Despite failing at the box office, Alita: Battle Angel was still mentioned by Cameron and Landau as a lesson learned for later Avatar series.
Director James Cameron with diving equipment called Deepsea Challenger that he contributed to build (Photo: NatGeo)
During the pre-production for Avatar, James Cameron and the studio 20thCentury Fox (now renamed 20th Century Studios after being acquired by Disney) had a heated argument over whether to cut or remove the sequence of Jake (Sam Worthington) and Jake. Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) wanders the night forest in the faint phosphorescence. The studio insisted on giving it up, but the filmmaker decided to keep it. As a result, this has become one of the most memorable scenes in the work.
Going to The Way of Water, although 90% of the film takes place in the coastal area, James Cameron still takes the time to bring the audience back to the Pandora forests at night, but in a new light. “We did not recreate the fanciful nightscape in the new film, because at this time the situation was extremely tense, the children were kidnapped, the two sides faced each other in the forest. We let it rain, one more a little bit of phosphorescence – an identity of this land. But we don’t want everything to be too fancy. We want to leave the audience amazed and overwhelmed when they begin to explore the new world,” Cameron said. To share.
The scene of saving the Sully children is the climax of Act I Avatar: The Way of Water (Image: Disney)
The director “clones” into the characters
Sharing with IndieWire, James Cameron said he built a large group of writers to work with him to come up with ideas for the Avatar sequels. This team worked with Cameron to build the plot for the three films based on 1,500 pages of notes compiled over the course of a year. From this plot, they took another four years to come up with a complete script before the first sequel film shot in 2017.
In Avatar: The Way of Water, Jake’s parenting method is somewhat militaristic and rigid. As a result, he was repeatedly put in a salt situation because of his children, his fatherly love also followed that more or less faded. In an interview, Cameron shared that he used his own experience as a father, including the sweet things and the regrettable mistakes, to write about this character’s fatherhood experience.
Jake Sully’s fatherhood journey was not easy (Image: 20th Century Studios)
However, Jake is not the only character that James Cameron sends a part of his personality. “I’m Kiri too, I’m in Lo’ak. I remember the memories of being a dreamer, a creative kid, and being understood by an autocratic father, with the mind of an engineer. wrong. I don’t mean to blame my father, he raised and protected us. He’s a great father, but still can’t fully understand his child,” the filmmaker confided. He said there is a part of himself in every character, noting that “Every writer has a life experience that matches the characters they write”.
James Cameron’s film career is associated with the “powerful” characters on the screen. In other words, his classic film franchises all revolved around resilient women, although at times this motif deviated from popular taste. With Avatar: The Way of Water, the way the script built the two mothers Neytiri and Ronal (Kate Winslet) received the audience’s love. They are hot-tempered, belligerent but always the mother of children.
Neytiri (above) and Ronal (below), two characters typical of James Cameron’s strong female character (Image: Disney)
The feat of James Cameron
Avatar: The Way of Water went into production in 2017, but it will take until 2022 to be able to hit theaters. This long wait led to a bittersweet situation when actress Edie Falco – playing the human general Ardmore – thought the film would quietly hit theaters without drums and fail. Her sharing with the media made Avatar fans burst into tears.
Before The Way of Water was released, the press regularly reported on the advanced underwater filming technologies used in the film. But the public was more impressed with the fact that the cast had to spend time learning how to hold their breath for underwater filming. Next, they had to act out action scenes while wearing bulky motion capture devices. Actress Kate Winslet even threatened a record that Tom Cruise once set when she held her breath underwater for 7 minutes and 15 seconds.
James Cameron directs acting on the set of Avatar 2 (Image: Disney)
The reason why audiences have to wait so long to see Avatar: The Way of Water in theaters is partly due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic worldwide. However, a larger part of the cause still comes from the meticulous, perfectionist director James Cameron. In the era of CGI and green screen, the filmmaker, his collaborators and the cast are still determined to work hard to create the most realistic footage for the audience even though the vast majority of the scenes are made by hand. computer technology.
“There are very few scenes that are 100% real on film. So every time we shoot scenes with human characters – like Jack Champion’s Spider or the Tulkun hunt – it has to be real shots; all However, we also used a lot of popular techniques like green screens to expand the scene and combine real people with digital characters. as realistic as the scenes of real people at the scene, “said James Cameron.
Talking about the underwater world in the film, the challenge for the director and the film crew is to create a realistic and lively space, giving the viewer the feeling that the viewer is really submerged under the ocean. . “There aren’t any automated tools or machines that can make that experience. It’s a job that requires the sensitivity of an artist, every artist, even though he has a hand in cutting-edge tools. still have to understand the flow of water, its stillness and meditation.It took us years and $10 million to build everything from scratch.But the investment was well worth it. “.
Viewers watching Avatar: The Way of Water expressed surprise when they learned that the 14-year-old Kiri character in the film was played by actress Sigourney Weaver when she was about to turn 70 (at the time of filming). This is something that can only happen with the help of motion capture technology. Motion capture technology has also made a huge contribution to bringing vivid Na’vi people to the screen.
Talking about the decision, James Cameron shared: “With this technology, you can think of the possibility that an actor can play a character of any age, any gender or any race, right? Sigourney, 69 years old, was able to play a character that is only 1/5 of his real age, which, he said, can help actresses when they reach a certain age.