James Cameron has revealed that his long-awaited “Avatar” sequel is rooted in his personal issues.
“I thought, ‘I’m going to work out a lot of my stuff, artistically, that I’ve gone through as a parent of five kids,’ ” Cameron, 68, told the Hollywood Reporter. “The overarching idea is, the family is the fortress. It’s our greatest weakness and our greatest strength. I thought, ‘I can write the hell out of this. I know what it is to be the a–hole dad.’ ”
Cameron’s wife, Suzy Amis Cameron, 60, is his fifth. The pair have three teen daughters, and they adopted a fourth in 2020 after she became tight with their girls and her parents were “increasingly unable to care” for her, court documents stated. Cameron also has a 29-year-old daughter with his ex-wife Linda Hamilton.
The “Titanic” and “Terminator” director hasn’t released a film since 2009, when the first “Avatar” came out. That film became the highest-grossing movie of all time, earning $2.92 billion worldwide, and it raked in nine Oscar nominations. The sequel cost more than $350 million to make.
Reflecting back on his career, which includes highly publicized clashes with studio execs, Cameron said, “A lot of things I did earlier, I wouldn’t do — career-wise and just risks that you take as a wild, testosterone-poisoned young man. I always think of [testosterone] as a toxin that you have to slowly work out of your system.”
The first “Avatar” movie followed Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a paralyzed former Marine who falls in love with a Na’vi woman, Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), in her lush world of Pandora, which humans are colonizing. The sequel follows Jake and Neytiri, now a family, as they fight to keep each other safe when an old threat returns.
One of their teen kids, Kiri, is played by Sigourney Weaver, 73, even though her scientist character, Grace, died in the first movie. Kate Winslet has also joined the cast.
“The idea for Kiri came from, ‘Well, is Grace really dead?’” Cameron explained. “I thought, ‘Hang on, there’s this avatar. What could I do with the idea of bringing Sigourney back, playing a kid?’ It was just a fun idea. I couldn’t get it out of my head.”
Cameron has already shot a third “Avatar” film, expected in 2024, and has planned two more, which together will be total more than $1 billion on production costs.
Since it’s been so long since the first movie came out, Cameron said he understands if audiences are hesitant.
“There’s skepticism in the marketplace around, ‘Oh, did it ever make any real cultural impact?’ ” he said. “‘Can anybody even remember the characters’ names?’ … When you have extraordinary success, you come back within the next three years. That’s just how the industry works.”
In the decade-plus between films, Cameron has been exploring his interests in environmentalism and ocean exploration.
“I started confronting this issue of, ‘Do I even want to make another movie, let alone another “Avatar” movie?’ ” Cameron said about his other pursuits. “Because I was having so much fun.”
He said he drives a 2013 Kia Rio rather than a fancy Tesla because, according to Cameron, a small used car has a lower carbon footprint than a new electric car.
The “Avatar” movies also have a strong environmentalist bent, since the villains in the first film were plundering Pandora’s natural resources.
“You can’t hit environmental messaging over the head,” Cameron said. “People are angsty enough. We’ll be injecting this film into a marketplace in a different time. And maybe things that were over the horizon in 2009 are upon us now. Maybe it’s not entertainment anymore.”
Cameron also revealed that during the height of the pandemic in 2020, he’d have chats on Zoom with Steven Spielberg and Guillermo del Toro. “I’d say, ‘We might be out of work, guys,’ ” he said. “Except we’re not. I got to a fatalistic but calm place. It’s like, ‘I’ll still have a job. I can still tell stories. I’ll still get to work with actors and shoot scenes. Might not be at the scale of an “Avatar” movie, but, I mean, they’re doing some pretty big stuff for streaming.’ ”
“Avatar: The Way of Water” comes out Dec. 16.
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