James Cameron Opens Up About Writing The 3 ‘Avatar’ Sequels Simultaneously
Speaking this past weekend at the Hero Complex Film Festival, James Cameron opened up about the writing process on his three ‘Avatar’ sequels, which are shooting back-to-back, “We tried an experiment. We set ourselves a challenge of writing three films at the same time. And I could certainly write any one of them but to write three in some reasonable amount of time – we wanted to shoot them together so we couldn’t start one until all three scripts were done and approved. So I knew I was going to have to “parallel process” which meant I would have to work with other writers. And the best experience I had working with other writers was in television when I did Dark Angel. The television room is a highly collaborative, fun experience.’
He went on to explain (quotes /Film). “So we put together three teams, one for each script. The teams consist of me and another writer on each one of the three [films]. So I’m across all the films and then each one of them would have their own individual script they were responsible for. But what we did that was unique was we sat in the writing room for five months, eight hours a day, and we worked out every beat of the story across all three films so it all connects as one, sort of, three film saga. And I didn’t tell them which one was going to be their’s individually to write until the last day. So everyone was equally invested, story wise, in all three films.’
“So, for example, the guy that got movie three, which is middle one of this new trilogy, he now knows exactly what preceded and what follows out of what he’s writing at any given moment. We all consider that to be a really exciting, creative and groundbreaking experiment in screenwriting. I don’t know if that necessarily yields great scripts but it certainly worked for us as a process to get our minds around this kind of epic with all these new creatures, environments and characters and all that.’
“Cause the first thing I did was sat for a year and wrote 1500 pages of notes of the world and the cultures and the different clans and different animals and different biomes and so on. And had a lot of loose thematic stuff that ran through that but I didn’t a concrete story. I wanted to approach it more like, “Guys we’re going to adapt a novel or series of novels.” Because I felt that kind of detail, even if movies can’t ever be that detailed – it can be visually detailed, it can’t be that detailed in terms of character and culture. But you always get this tip of the iceberg kind of thing. You sense it’s there off camera or in the past of the moment that you’re seeing. So I felt that was the way to do it.”
To date, confirmed actors returning include Zoe Saldana, Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver and Stephen Lang. The release of the first ‘Avatar’ follow-up will be in December 2016, with the second to follow in December 2017, and the third a year later. Avatar 2, 3, and 4 will be produced by James Cameron and Jon Landau through their Lightstorm Entertainment banner. Writers Josh Friedman (War of the Worlds), Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver (Rise of the Planets of the Apes), and Shane Salerno (Savages) are all currently penning the individual sequels.
‘Avatar’ is the highest-grossing film of all time, and is also the top-selling Blu-ray disc of all time. The film won Golden Globe awards for Best Motion Picture and Best Director; and was nominated for nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, and won Oscars for art direction, visual effects and cinematography. ‘Avatar’ was written by Cameron from an idea he nurtured for over a decade, while working on the technology necessary to realize its imagined world.
The three ‘Avatar’ sequels will mark Cameron’s latest collaborations with 20th Century Fox, a relationship that spans nearly 30 years and marks one of the most successful filmmaker-studio alliances in motion picture history. Cameron and Fox first joined forces in 1985 for ‘Aliens,’ which became a sci-fi classic. Next came ‘The Abyss,’ which revolutionized visual effects technology; then came the blockbuster, ‘True Lies.’ In 1996, Fox greenlighted Cameron’s ‘Titanic,’ which became the most successful film in history, and won a record-breaking eleven Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
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