The stars of James Cameron’s 2009 sci-fi film Avatar recently shared their fondest memories of filming “the greatest Hollywood blockbuster of all time.”
During a recent virtual press conference, and based on production notes to promote the film’s theatrical return ahead of the sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water, the lead actress opened up about her on-set experience – climbing “floating mountains.” ”, to “Flying Banshees” to Infinite Imagination – about 12 years ago.
For Sam Worthington, the way Cameron’s set delivered a feel was unforgettable. He even described the avatar set as a big play pit.
In the film, he plays the role of a crippled Marine, Jake Scully, who is sent to a moon called Pandora on a special mission. He is reincarnated as an Avatar, a remote controlled body that allows him to blend into the local Na’vi community. Not part of the equation, however, is falling in love with Na’vi princess Neytiri and learning to call the “alien world” home.
“One of the strongest memories was just how we felt about the game. On a movie set you have problems to solve every day, but on this one the problem is how do I ride a banshee? How do I climb floating mountains? How do we do this kind of intergalactic stuff that we’re trying to do in a soundstage right in the middle of where we are? And it’s like you need that game sense to get through it,” he said.
“And, you know, you kept pinching yourself because I didn’t really think this was ever going to come out or become a movie. I just thought it would be a bunch of fun and I got to experience it. So that’s what I remember the most.”
He also shared that while her characters are “big and blue,” they are “like what we look like.”
“I think Jim (Cameron) always made us promise that even though you’re going to be big and blue, it’s you. It’s the technology and the measurement of performance. He once described it to me as the next level in makeup. And I was always a bit worried that whatever subtlety you could play with wouldn’t really translate.
“But I remember, you know, seeing Sigourney blue and Zoe blue and
i am blue And you know, it was us. Every pore, every detail. Whatever the volume of our performance was translated through all the computers, it preserved that essence. It was the truth. And that was the promise he made me and that’s what came out.
“This detail of our acting would not be overshadowed. It was just there. And that’s the essence I saw,” he remarked happily.
Sigourney Weaver, known as Dr. Grace Augustine, who runs the Avatar program, shared, “I just remember my first day at The Volume where we get the work done. We do the scenes. I was in my little fishing suit. And my first scene was actually shooting the avatar of Dr. to play Grace Augustine.
“And on the side is a screen where you can see a rough version of what it’s going to look like in the movie. In other words, I don’t look like me in a suit. I can see a rough version of Grace’s seven foot avatar wearing her tank top in this jungle world.”
The actress was thrilled to see her own avatar on screen. She said: “It gave me a thrill, a great sense of relief that maybe this was going to work. But also this idea that from this small space we could create this other world that was so fantastic. The only way to get into Pandora is to go to the theater and see it in 3D. This is the rocket ship. And I understood that.”
Zoe Saldaña, who plays the princess of the Navi community, said her most memorable part was when Cameron called her and said he wanted her to portray Neytiri.
She was also excited and grateful that she would be collaborating with her idol, Cameron, “like the creator of Sarah Connor (of Terminator) and Ellen Ripley (of the Alien film series).”
In addition, the themes of the film touched her personally, because until then she had not thought about having intensive conversations about the environment and Mother Earth. She noted that filming became her “initiation of that consciousness.”
“And I have to play like Sam says. I’ll tell you that my imagination has never been as endless as it was when I was there. The last time I remember it was when I was a kid. So it’s really repurposed me in that I’m super proud of what I do. I felt like if I take this seriously, if I use all of these tools, I can be a part of something really great and contribute something really meaningful,” Zoe said.
For Michelle Rodriguez, Avatar was an unforgettable movie experience because of the sets and attention to detail, the opportunity to work on a James Cameron film, and “the genius” that went into the film – from the engineers, the special effects guys, on the digital team.
“I am simply fascinated by the family structure. The fact that Jim is the captain always pushes people to get better at what they do,” said Michelle, who plays a helicopter pilot in the film who transports scientists to Pandora.
“If there’s one thing I can take away from filming an Avatar movie with Jim, it’s the openness of my horizons. My perspective has shifted. You know, no doesn’t mean no to me. No means I have to work harder to work around a problem. You know, the resilience, the example of leadership,” she continued of Cameron.
Stephen Slang, on the other hand, could say the same about working with Jim. In Avatar, he is the chief of security in a human battle fortress in Pandora.
“First, he (Cameron) encouraged me to be as free and improvisatory as I felt I needed. He gave me permission to take authority over this room. And that was important because it was a room full of people. And so he was the sitting authority for me … I was lucky enough to be able to do that,” he said.
Avatar opens in Philippine theaters today, September 21 for a limited run. The theatrical comeback is expected to spark interest in the sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water, which opens in cinemas in the Philippines on December 14.
It welcomes a return to the big screen with returning cast members, namely Worthington, Saldaña, Weaver and Lang, who shared the stage with producer Jon Landau during Disney fan event D23 Expo. The original stars were joined by new generation cast members Jamie Flatters (Neteyam), Jack Champion (Spider), Bailey Bass (Tsireya) and Trinity Jo-Li Bliss (Tuk).
According to the synopsis, Avatar: The Way of Water takes place more than a decade after the events of the first film. The Way of the Water begins by “telling the story of the Sully family, the troubles that follow them, the struggles they make to protect one another, the struggles they fight to stay alive, and the tragedies they must endure”.