James Cameron has always said the hardest part of moviemaking for him is the solitary, unforgiving process of writing, which is precisely where he finds himself now on the “Avatar” sequels.
Cameron has devoted most of the last several months to his many, globe-spanning, non-“Avatar” projects — making a record-setting dive to the Mariana Trench, converting “Titanic” to 3-D and expanding his 3-D production company into China. Now the director said he’s about to sequester himself in his “top secret writing cave” to finish the next two “Avatar” scripts by the end of the year.
“It’s a little bit of a daunting writing task because it’s two scripts and they’ve both gotta be done at the same time,” Cameron said in an interview last week, while promoting the 3-D Blu-ray release of “Titanic.”
Cameron plans to shoot the “Avatar” sequels concurrently, with an eye toward releasing the first film in 2015, a strategy that adds a magnitude of complexity to an already massive project. The sequels to Cameron’s film about life on the alien moon of Pandora will introduce new environments, creatures and characters, and will build on the technology Cameron and his crew developed for the first movie.
“I’m writing it as separate stories that have an overall arc inclusive of the first film,” Cameron said. “I don’t want to suffer from the ‘Matrix 2’ problem, where it just ends, like, what the hell? It’s gotta end. There’s gotta be a sense of conclusion, but also a sense that the journey will continue, and that’s a fine line.”
Sketching creatures and characters as he writes, the director is also mindful of the logistical challenges he faced on the first film. On that production, he and his crew spent years trying out new cameras, software and performance-capture techniques. On the set, there was a sign that read, “It’s Avatar. Nothing works the first time,” and along the way the crew kept a list — which eventually became a thick binder — of technical problems they would need to address if they ever made another “Avatar” film.
“It was this kludgy prototype the first time,” Cameron said, borrowing an engineering term for clunky. “We always knew as we were going along, this isn’t really working, but we’ll fix it for the sequel. The first film just about killed us, and now we’re gonna try to do twice that much.”
Cameron said he expects to begin pre-production on the next two “Avatar” films in January.
— Rebecca Keegan
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