“AVATAR” COUNTDOWN: 2 DAYS
Amy Kaufman, one of the newer members of the entertainment coverage team at the Los Angeles Times, braved the madness of the “Avatar” premiere at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on Wednesday. This is a longer version of her story, which will appear in today’s editions of the paper. She also shot the video.
Hundreds of fans crowded behind barricades along Hollywood Boulevard on Wednesday hoping for a glimpse of celebrities walking down a Pandora-blue carpet rolled out to celebrate the long-awaited arrival of James Cameron’s sci-fi epic “Avatar” at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.
The adventure film — hailed by some in Hollywood as “the game changer” for its special-effects wizardry and 3-D approach — is winning over critics and appears poised for a strong opening weekend. The film’s stars, including Sigourney Weaver and Sam Worthington, as well as interested celebrities such as Bill Paxton and Tom Arnold, came out to support the movie. Also among the interested observers: Fox co-Chairmen Jim Gianopulos and Tom Rothman, who have plenty riding on the most expensive film in Hollywood history with a budget somewhere north of $310 million.
The biggest star in the film never appears on the screen — “Avatar” is the first feature film by Cameron since “Titanic” broke box-office records in Hollywood with its theatrical run in 1997 and 1998. The director — who has been called a visionary, a crowd-pleaser or a tyrant (it depends on whom you ask) — stood clutching the hand of his wife, Suzy Amis, and talked to reporters nearly 30 minutes after the film was scheduled to screen. With a big grin, he said he found the early acclaim from critics especially exciting.
The 55-year-old director also said he hoped any success the film has will help the emerging technologies — though he also considers himself an innovative storyteller.
“I’m a techno geek and I love the innovative processes, but I never put that before telling a story,” Cameron said. “I spent a lot of time in the writing, I spent a lot of time thinking about the characters. I love working with the actors finding the characters. I love the casting process, finding the actors that will bring those characters to life.”
Zoe Saldana, who plays the blue-skinned alien princess Neytiri, said she hopes her role will encourage other actors to work with Cameron’s refined performance-capture technology.
“I think as actors, besides the fact that you want to play roles that are unique and are very different from the ones you’ve played before, you also want to continue challenging yourself,” she said. “And part of that is also challenging technology and working with it. And when technology works in your favor and gives a filmmaker or an artist an ability to continue growing and capturing his vision, as opposed to limiting it, that can only be a good thing in my eyes.”
Saldana blew kisses to fans while Michelle Rodriguez, who plays a tough military pilot, stopped to pose for photographs with those who called out her name. One reporter standing on the press line had painted his face dark blue and tousled his hair to resemble the Na’vi tribe members in the film.
Aussie actor Sam Worthington, “Avatar’s” hero Jake Sully, was accompanied by a petite brunette he introduced to others as “his girl.” Worthington, who stars next in “Clash of the Titans,” said he first met Cameron in the summer of 2006, long before he had any idea of the phenomenon the film would turn into.
“Like any actor, you fear unemployment, you get the opportunity to go for a job and you do the best you can. You know stepping into Jim Cameron’s world it’s gonna be quite monumental and that’s an understatement. But you do your best. That’s all you can really do.”
— Amy Kaufman
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— Amy Kaufman