“Technology should never take precedence over emotions”

It is the most anticipated film of the year, even of the decade for some. In 2009, James Cameron revolutionized science fiction cinema with Avatarthe biggest hit of all time with $2.7 billion at the global box office, thus dethroned titanic (1997) and its 2.2 billion We need to add 200 million more to this staggering result thanks to its release last September in a remastered version that rose straight to the top spot, replacing the new ones. There is no doubt that the sequel, Avatar – The Way of the Watershould cause another tidal wave in cinemas next Wednesday, after thirteen years of excitement.

Recall of facts. In the year 2154, Jake Sully, a paraplegic Marine, replaces his deceased twin brother for a secret mission on an unknown planet, Pandora. As the army ventures into a lush and hostile jungle to seize a rare mineral, the soldier joins a team of scientists tasked with finding a diplomatic solution with the indigenous people, the Na’vis. We find him today as a happy and contented father of a family who helps the helpless to return of humans, decided to settle on Pandora while the Earth is dying. To protect his clan, Jake Sully is forced to leave the forest with his wife and children to settle by the sea. But the break is short-lived…

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In 3t12 we joyfully dive back into a universe (in 3D) with an intact power of fascination that always combines wonder and political awareness. By improving the technology, especially at the level of performance capture: the actors (Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Kate Winslet and Stephen Lang), with their faces and bodies covered in sensors, act out all the actions of their characters, which are subsequently applied to their virtual three-dimensional model. Making his way through Paris, where he had not been for six years, the director, screenwriter, producer and editor still shows as much passion, high standards and determination.

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So I asked myself about my desire to continue the story: what more did I have to say?

When did you realize you wanted to dedicate the rest of your life to Avatar ?
As I planned to be 150, this is just a short chapter in my story! [Rires.] Before ratifying this great decision, I naturally weighed the pros and cons. At first I wondered if I should give a follow-up Avatar, which existed just fine without it. There was no pressure, except maybe financial from the studies, but I didn’t care at all. So I asked myself about my desire to continue the story: what more did I have to say? In this case, I would like to talk about two topics that are particularly close to my heart: the sea and family. As an artist, I feed my work with my own journey. I was my father’s child and today I am the father of five children. The idea is universal whether you live in France or China. I thus anchor a fantasy universe in a reality that we all know, into which we immediately project ourselves. Then I thought about the possibility of shooting not one, but several films. We did a lot of work, so we had to amortize it and spread the cost. I had already made sequels, Aliens, return [1986] and Terminator 2 [1991]. This time I had to plan the different episodes with the model Lord of the Rings, by my friend Peter Jackson. All efforts in manufacturing would therefore not be in vain. I didn’t know the execution would take me so long though…

How many sequels are you planning?
Five. The third Avatar is completely rotated, the fourth partially. The scenario and artistic direction of the fifth is stopped. We didn’t film everything in a row for logistical reasons. My first idea dates back to 1994; I know exactly where the story is going, so I can ask the actors to favor one angle over another. The characters develop and go through all kinds of tribulations, trials and triumphs. If I am lucky enough to bring this project to fruition, I believe viewers will find the long-awaited conclusion to the saga powerful! The releases will be staggered every two years, in 2024, 2026 and 2028, if all goes well. I made sure that each pane has its own resolution so that it exists independently of the others. In the case of…

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Are you hoping to bring the public back to the cinema experience in droves?
That would be great, wouldn’t it? With the pandemic, habits have changed; people, anxious, want to stay at home. The market has pulled back dangerously so we haven’t found the numbers for 2019. I don’t know if I’m still beating my own record. Am I a dinosaur? A movie that Avatar – The Way of the Water can it exist economically? I’ll know in six weeks. At that time the success was withAvatarlike that of titanic, didn’t play the first weekend in theaters, but over time thanks to word of mouth and audiences returning multiple times. If we succeed in recreating this phenomenon, then I will be lucky. In any case, I work for the big screen to offer an immersion, an escape. I settled permanently in New Zealand; I remotely manage my production company Lightstorm Entertainment based in Los Angeles. I fell in love with this country in 1994 when I first lived there. I’m lucky that Peter Jackson founded an entire infrastructure for cinema in Wellington, from film sets to equipment to special effects and post-production: Weta. I use his tools when he’s not using them. On the other hand, diving, my other passion, is quite risky there, the water is cold and murky…

Like JRR Tolkien (Lord of the Rings), you have imagined a whole world, a fauna, a flora, a civilization, a culture, a language, a religion, traditions, rules… Satisfied?
Yes, by comparison, Peter Jackson did not trample: he had the books at his disposal! [Rires.] We started from scratch and did an encyclopedic job. But I’m not alone, I surround myself with the best artists to create the sets, the costumes, the creatures… They form a kind of hippie community for which I am the guru. [Rires.] I find it gratifying to see a vision take shape through the stages of painting, sculpting and modeling. I edited a Bible from my notes made in 2013. I remember when I assembled a team of co-writers to help me, I gave them 900 pages of scribbles to sort out. You would have seen their faces!

We cannot continue to pump all our planet’s resources with impunity! We must take care of the nature we are attached to

The political commentary ofAvatar has never been so relevant…
It is the metaphor for the society we live in, the reflection of our own history. By adopting the point of view of the population established in a region before the colonization of the white man. Indians in North and South America, Aborigines in Australia, Maori in New Zealand… We can see that all indigenous cultures have had the same terrible experience: Individuals landed, took their lands, massacred, signed treaties which they subsequently trampled on . There was never any benefit, only suffering. Avatar is an alien invasion movie, except the aggressors from another planet are humans. I place myself on the side of the victims. In New Zealand the Maori were not exterminated, they have a strong voice and are represented in the government. In the United States, it is the opposite: the Indians were plundered, marginalized, placed on reservations, annihilated. I also address the issue of migration crises due to war, famine and climate through the hero in forced exile.

Was it important to insist on preserving the environment?
We are its guardians, we must accept our responsibilities or we will not survive. We cannot continue to pump all our planet’s resources with impunity! We must take care of the nature with which we are connected: if we hurt it, it will come back to us like a boomerang. I pray soAvatar be a breathable experience that energizes and motivates my fellow citizens. I’m still haunted by visions of the apocalypse, but for the first time I see hope through the generations to come: Greta Thunberg has shown that you can stand up against a government and all the bullshit it delivers all day long. At his age, in the 1960s, I rebelled against the Vietnam War and fought for civil rights. The fact is that change requires education, the pet of authoritarian regimes! My wife, Suzy, founded a green school in California. I have a foundation that works for renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, marine and forest conservation. We are both vegans.

It’s true that you drew the nude portrait of Kate Winslet for titanic ?
Yes, but I specify that she was in a bikini when she posed! [Rires.] I would never have dared to ask her to undress. Since she has a hell of a character, she would take off her top and say: “They’re only breasts after all!” I no longer knew where to stand.

Everything we see on screen was filmed for real, there is no computer animation

Do you want to go into space?
I sat on NASA’s Board of Overseers for three years and even trained to stay aboard the International Space Station. I had drawn up a three-month mission plan with my 3D camera. Everything fell apart after the Columbia shuttle disaster. I would dream of seeing the cosmos, but I feel like my job is down here. I realized I couldn’t do everything. After Titanic, I stopped the cinema for eight years to explore the sea and devote myself to documentaries. After AvatarI designed a submarine that I piloted in 2012 to venture into the Mariana Trench, setting a solo world depth record [10 898 mètres].

Do you consider yourself a feminist?
I do my best to offer beautiful roles to actresses. I have to nurture a Freudian complex because my mother is my absolute reference, a strong temperament. Linda Hamilton is pregnant at the end of terminator [1984] and in Avatar – The Way of the Water, the character played by Kate Winslet goes to war with a six-month belly. Pregnancy, motherhood, the relationship between mother and child are proof of women’s omnipotence. We still have progress to make: I cannot find such a representation in any other film. So yes, you could say I’m a feminist.

After Gulf (1989) and titanic (1997), does working in water no longer scare you?
It’s easy ! [Rires.] I put my whole role into diving. I have practiced apnea for fifty years, I can no longer go as deep as before because my lungs are damaged. My record is five and a half minutes. Breath control is a form of meditation, it all depends on the mind. In the first, Kate Winslet ran out of oxygen after a minute. After six weeks of training, she lasted seven minutes and twenty seconds. And Sigourney Weaver, 73, reached six and a half minutes. While they remain static, of course. In action for a scene they did not exceed two to three minutes. I accompanied them during the preparation, but when the shooting started, I remained dry. Everything you see on the screen was filmed for real, there is no computer animation. Technology should never take precedence over emotions.

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