James Cameron’s alpha geek extracurricular hobby of deep-sea diving has always influenced his day job. The bioluminescent life on Pandora in “Avatar,” the story-framing voyage to the wreck in “Titanic” and the underwater traumas of “The Abyss” all emerged from how the director spends his downtime — way, way down in the ocean. Now Cameron’s recent record-setting solo dive to the Mariana Trench is providing further inspiration for the “Avatar” sequels, which will head to the oceans of Pandora.
The filmmaker said the seven-year preparation for his dive–a plunge of nearly seven miles to the deepest point in the world in a torpedo-shaped, one-man submersible called the Deepsea Challenger — sparked ideas for the “Avatar” followups by exposing him to the small island nations of the Western Pacific where he staged the project.
“The best inspiration I got for ‘Avatar’ 2 and 3 was dealing with the master navigator culture in Micronesia,” Cameron said by phone from Tokyo on Friday, where he attended the Japanese premiere of “Titanic 3D.”
The Micronesians, a seafaring culture who navigated the Pacific for centuries without the aid of compasses or charts, already have a lot in common with the blue Na’vi residents of Pandora — they’re an indigenous, matrilineal culture, colonized by outsiders. And the cerulean and aquamarine tones of “Avatar” and its inhabitants seem drawn from postcards from the watery Micronesian region.
“A lifetime of diving does feed into the visual palette,” Cameron conceded. But the director said his primary interest in the Deepsea Challenger project is scientific rather than cinematic. He embarked on the endeavor in partnership with National Geographic, and plans to resume diving as soon as he finishes promoting “Titanic 3D,” which opens in the U.S. on Wednesday.
“Everybody tries to connect these dots,” Cameron said. ” Everybody looks at the world through the lens of Hollywood. When I’m doing deep ocean exploration, I’m doing deep ocean exploration and when I’m making ‘Avatar,’ I’m making ‘Avatar.’ I object to this notion that my purpose in diving is to do research for a movie. My purpose in making a movie is to make enough money so I can dive.”
Cameron said he planned to head from Tokyo back to his Deepsea Challenger crew in Guam, where he’ll make at least two more dives. When he surfaces, Cameron will enter pre-production for “Avatar 2.”
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