James Cameron on ‘Avatar’: ‘It’s my most personal film’

Feb. 15, 2010 | 1:06 p.m.

Los Angeles Times reporter John Horn is one of the top journalists covering Hollywood and he recently sat down with five directors  — James Cameron, Kathryn Bigelow, Quentin TarantinoLee Daniels and Jason Reitman — and conducted a fascinating round table discussion. You can find video snippets of it at our sister blog 24 Frames — but here are two intriguing excerpts from “Avatar” writer and director Cameron, who may be the king of the world (again) on Oscar night.

James Camerron as Navi

Cameron on a beloved scene that just didn’t make the cut…

It was an epiphanal scene for me when I was writing the script, and when I wrote it, I actually kind of welled up myself. It’s a scene at the end where the warrior that Jake has had to prove himself to, Tsu’tey, the guy that’s … keeping him out of the clan and the whole Na’vi experience, is dying after the battle … Jake goes to him and he hands him the baton of leadership and says, “You have to lead the people,” as he’s dying. Very, very powerful, emotional scene and again, the rhythm — it just messed with the rhythm of the ending. It just felt like there was one dramatic beat too many…

 It had to come out completely, and that was the one scene that we finished all the way through the [special effects] Weta process because nobody could imagine the scene not being in the movie. Nobody. All the effects people came to me and said, “I can’t believe you’re cutting Tsu’tey’s death.” They were all invested in the scene. So, I actually had it out and I put it back in … Then it got right down to the end where the final decision had to be made and I said, “No, it’s coming out.”

Cameron on the fact that “Avatar” is a truly personal film…

It’s hard to visualize “Avatar” maybe from the outside as a personal film, but to me in a funny way from my perspective, it’s my most personal film because it so accurately reflects my childhood — as a kid who was both an avid reader of science fiction and fantasy and comic books and constantly conjuring all these images in my head before there were VCRs and I could just watch any movie any time I wanted …

There was very little imagery out there at the time. You had to make it up yourself, and as an artist I was always drawing all these things, so all the stuff in “Avatar” was stuff I had been drawing for years as a teenager … And then as a scuba diver sort of discovering the endless bounty of nature’s imagination underwater, which is really, ultimately, almost unfathomable. So “Avatar” is all of that, all sort of distilled down into one movie. The story was written 15 years ago, and certainly there was a strong environmental consciousness then … but it’s obviously on our minds a lot more now as this sense of a coming day of reckoning … that we really have to deal with this.

— John Horn


Avatar Oscar

GUEST ESSAY: “Avatar” may win Oscar for sci-fi

You don’t look so good: “Avatar’s” queasy feeling

Cameron on ‘Avatar’: Like ‘Matrix,’ it opens doorways

Don’t tell Stephen Lang he’s the villain in ‘Avatar’

REVIEW: ‘Avatar’ restores sense of wonder

‘Matrix,’ ‘Star Wars’  — coming soon in 3-D?

Sigourney: ‘Outer space has been good to me’

Meet the USC prof who created Na’vi language

‘Avatar’ designer on banshees and ‘Delgo’ comparisons

Cameron as cinema prophet ‘Moving a mountain is nothing’

ILLUSTRATION : Top, Cameron goes native, by Kevin Lingenfelser / For Hero Complex. Bottom, Neytiri of “Avatar”  receiving an Oscar, Alex Gross / For The Times


8 Responses to James Cameron on ‘Avatar’: ‘It’s my most personal film’

  1. vinoth says:

    The Best , first and last movie I have seen in my life. I don't think I can see a movie "Avatar" in my future.

  2. Blank says:

    The first thought when I came out the thearter after watching Avatar was like Sh-t! I have to buy a 3D TV soon. Considering I have had a flat LCD just for a year. I can see the days when I will turn on my 3D TV just to watch Avatar every Christmas or New Year as a network or cable channel's annual event programming.

  3. majid rasul says:

    To me James Cameron is a loving nature person, unlike others who wants to invade and occupy other people's territories what american forces are doing in the most parts of the world. the movie is most imaginary, while watching you feel that you are observing the heavens,,its like a dream…..

  4. steven says:

    nice, i very like this film,

  5. RAHUL says:

    hai, i am from india, avatar is a excellent movie in our planet; because i strongly belive our Nextbirth (Rebirth),is also in other planet&other Galaxy; in that planets Aliens Lifespan is 1,000years, or 10,000years; or 100,000years; God creates notonly our Dirty planet, he also created good worlds ,for who people did good things(karma) in their past LIfe;

  6. pepe says:

    He should say that about aliens return and make another one :-(

  7. Ajay says:

    Ya.. He's doing 2 more sequels… but have to wait 2 more years for avatar 2.. Surely its gonna rock..

  8. Brian says:

    Avatar being a "mirror story" film realy does touch on and "reflect" upon deep "human issues
    with our core humanity as a people.
    I can see the effort and research Cameron put into the films underlying story and how
    it "speaks" to ones inner understanding , the topical story is not that unique, but what lies underneath "Is" this deeply "reflects" on a part of our "Source" understanding held inside
    for generations, this is a non topical experence that people will not soon forget
    And I have much respect for all who worked so hard to bring this film to life..

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