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‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ Interview: James Cameron & The Cast Talk About Diving Into The Sequel

The much-awaited sequel for the highest-grossing film of all time is coming to Philippine cinemas this December 14!

After thirteen years since it premiered in cinemas and became the highest-grossing film of all time, James Cameron’s Avatar is finally heading back to theaters through its sequel Avatar: The Way of Water.

Tailored for the ultimate immersive experience just like the first one, the epic sci-fi adventure will arrive in theaters this December 14, just a few months after the remastered version of the first movie was re-released in cinemas. This time, the sequel will follow the Sully family and the new threats they must face in Pandora, while we get to see more of their world’s seascapes and underwater splendor.

But before we take a dive back into Pandora and see once more its mesmerizing world and inhabitants, we got to be part of a virtual press conference for the film. The press conference was joined by director James Cameron, producer Jon Landau, and the film’s main cast: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, and Stephen Lang, who talked about the creation of the much-anticipated sequel for the film that broke blockbuster records.

Check out the highlights of the press conference below:

What was the moment that you knew we were going to go back to Pandora?

James Cameron: Well, that’s an interesting question, because it seems obvious to everyone, ‘oh, you just made a bunch of money, do a sequel,’ right? Well, Stephen Spielberg didn’t do a sequel to ‘E.T.,’  highest grossing film in its time, right? It’s not a no-brainer. Do you want to call down the lightning strike again in the same spot? You know, it’s a lot to live up to. But we have this amazing cast… you know, the amazing cast that returned, and we figured out a way to bring [Sigourney] back, as well, even though her character from the first film dies, obviously.

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And we also had this amazing family of artists and troupe players, all the other actors. When you see a crowd scene in this movie of a hundred people, it’s the same ten actors just moved around, right?  (Laughter) so it’s a small group and we kind of love each other and enjoy the process.  And Kate got to join that, and feel that vibe as well. And that was a big incentive for me, to come back and do this all again.

Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios

How was that journey of working out where you wanted the story and these characters to go?

James Cameron: I think it’s important for a sequel to honor what the audience loved about the experience the first time. But also to get them off-balance, do things that they don’t expect. There are a lot of surprises in terms of where the story goes in this film, that we’re not putting into the trailers and the TV spots and all that. You kind of have to experience it. But it also goes a lot deeper, in terms of the heart and the emotions, I mean, wouldn’t you guys say? I mean, we were (sure), it was a much simpler story, and the characters were simpler the first time. And I was inspired by the fact that both Zoe and  Sam are parents, and I’m a parent of five, and so we wanted to get into the family dynamics, and the responsibilities of having kids. And also what that’s all like from the kid’s perspective right?

What’s exciting for you, about revisiting this world and these characters, and introducing us to new ones?

Jon Landau: Well, the excitement are the themes that Jim writes into his stories. You know, themes are what you leave the theatre with, and this movie has heart, has emotion, and it also has a message again about our world, not just the environment, but about people, about accepting people for their differences. In the movie, Jim wrote in the line, (Speaks Na’vi), ‘I  see you.’ And we want people to know that they’re seen, and that to see others that same way.

Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios

Can you talk about your characters Jake and Neytiri, where we find them in this sequel, and how did it feel getting back into these characters?

Sam Worthington: Well, to be honest, Jim gave me a script that was Avatar 1.5, that unto itself is amazing and detailed, and full of what they’ve kind of gone through over that gap. And I think it was part of, you know, Jim realized that story was about them being warriors, and taking on the battles of the clans and things like that. But it almost didn’t feel…  as [he] said, [he] wanted to explore what this family dynamic is, the natural extension of this love story. But it gave us a good jumping-off point to understand how to fill in that gap that’s missing, you know? To be honest, most people would’ve stuck on that one, but not this guy. It was pretty amazing.

Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios

Zoe Saldana: Terrifying. It’s so funny because when something is very similar to you, you can’t see it. It’s just so close to you that it’s not in front of you. And Neytiri and I, in a way,  we’ve lived parallel lives. There’s a  level of fearlessness and rebellion that I have, I guess as a person, that Neytiri had. And we were able to sort of find kindred in that.

But the leap of falling in love with something outside of you, that challenges you to see something that you’ve never seen before, that has always been her dilemma. To surrender to that, and then to bring forward, you know, fruits of that love… that presents the challenge for her. Because forcing her to grow, it’s forcing her to love something that she’s been taught to hate. And it’s hard, it’s really,  really hard.

Also fear. In my personal life, when I became a  parent, fear entered my realm. The fear of losing something that you love so much, you know? And you just spend a great deal of your time creating these hypothetical scenarios that are just unimaginable. When I read the second script, that was her, that was Neytiri. But I didn’t see it then. I see it now, because my job wasn’t to see it, my job was to be it.

Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios

Quaritch is back but in a different way. Stephen, how was that for you to play this character this way?

Stephen Lang: Oh it was very exciting to come back and I was just so honored to be able to deepen and expand on the vision that Jim had for this character. I think in the first film he’s very, very colorful, he’s got personality, he’s got some great qualities. But essentially he moves through like a mindless shark, in a way.  But in this iteration of it, first of all, there’s the absolute magnificent irony that Jim has written, of coming back as the very thing he has been trying to destroy. And having to make the adjustment to that, to adapt to that. And I think it’s just been a total pleasure for me to continue to massage this character and find the depth, and maybe some of the humanity that’s in him. He’s such a  warm character, and beloved by so many…  (Laughter) You should stop me.

Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios

Kate, what was it like for you coming on set, with your work history with James, but also coming on set to this world and to these characters?  

Kate Winslet: Well I have to say, with it being Jim, I expected the absolute best of everything. Because it’s precision, it’s thought through, it is thorough, it’s meticulous, and I think the thing that pulled me in most of all, above everything else, is the characters that he’s created. You know, Jim has always written for women, characters who are not just strong, but they are leaders, they lead with their heart, with integrity. They stand in their truth, they own their power. They have physical power that is admirable, and to be part of that, and included, it was just so flattering that Jim asked me, because Jim does not suffer fools, and I knew that he was asking me because he knew I was too damn foolish not to say, ‘oh, you see that in me? Well, guess what… I’m going to show you that I can do exactly that thing, and maybe that thing, and maybe that thing, and maybe that thing.

And of course, he expected no less. So I was just thrilled to be asked. And when I got there, welcomed into this world that was created by these guys and Zoe and Sam, what they did the first time around was to create that heartbeat. You know, it’s one thing for Jim to write it, it’s quite another to find it, and to give it a life and a pulse and real blood in those veins. And it’s really, really extraordinary to be around that. It’s not a performance. It’s not things they came up with on the day. It is a universe. It is a love, it is something that is palpable, and you feel it, you step into that space, it’s an empty space, but it is absolutely loaded with truths and dynamics and pulses that these guys built.  They built that, and they shared it, and it’s honestly very, very special to have been part of it.

Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios

Sigourney, how did it feel playing the character of Dr. Grace Augustine in the first film, and now the teenage character of Kiri?

Sigourney Weaver: Well, luckily there is a connection, and when we first talked about it, it was 2010, and we just had this idea, a girl who was more comfortable in the forest with the creatures and the flora and the fauna. But I think, you know, all power to Jim, he wanted to create a  complex character– wonderful things about her, but she also has some deficits. And so I loved that I had the opportunity to play someone I consider a real adolescent in most ways, and then she has these other bright spots that she’s learning about.

But I was very honored, too, and thrilled, excited, and terrified.  But luckily there was a long time to prepare, and I went to high school classes and a few other things, so I could hear the pitch of their voices, and there’s a big range of who an adolescent is between twelve and fifteen. And once I saw that I was like, okay, I can let Kiri come out. Whoever that is, combined with who I was at fourteen. It was sort of like a muddle. You know, I was this tall when I was eleven. So it gave me so much to work with, and by the time I got there,  I just so enjoyed leaving this shell behind and becoming this, sometimes, brat. (Laughter)

Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios

What can the fans expect from Jake in the sequel, now that he has found his new journey in love and fatherhood?

Sam Worthington: Well I think in the first one, he  says it in the voice-over, ‘open your eyes.’ I  think he’s opened his eyes to love, the love of culture, the love of the planet, and the love of Neytiri. I think in this one it is, as I said, it’s the natural extension of that. They have a  family, and to be honest, it’s about the protection of that love and that world and that culture, that, I always saw it as the simplest form, you know. And his partner in crime is a very fiery person. He just tries to be the earth, and we just happen to have a lot of water. It’s very elemental.

And I think Jake’s journey has always been taking these parallels of where does he fit into this world, and finding something worth fighting for? And in one, his teenage boys are going through that as well, you know? Teenage boys are displaced, and like most teenagers they’re trying to figure out where they are in the world, and unfortunately, Jake is the perfect person to help them, but maybe as a dad, [sometimes] you can’t find that empathy, or you’re learning to find that empathy, to actually help Lo’ak played by  Britain Dalton, and Jamie Flatters who plays Neteyam, and he’s trying to help these boys, and also Kiri, you know?

Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios

Avatar: The Way of Water arrives in cinemas nationwide this December 14. Book in advance and buy your tickets here.

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Avatar: The Way of Water
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