Fans of Avatar have been patiently waiting for thirteen years to dive back into the world of Pandora. Despite the elongated waiting period, the crew of Avatar: The Way of Water didn’t take a decade off – in fact, this film began development long ago. Cameron wanted to be confident with the integrity and exploration of this story and its characters before continuing.
Supanova was delighted to speak with leading man and fellow Aussie, Sam Worthington alongside New Zealand’s Cliff Curtis, who is new to the franchise.
Director Cameron and producer Jon Landau really put the focus on authenticity when approaching shooting this film. Even for the CGI scenes, it was all about performance capture.
While they wanted to have the most authentic shoots, the production was also waiting for technology to catch up. For example, in the first film, there was one standard-definition camera to capture facial expressions, and more recently there were two high-definition cameras, making the work even more accurate.
The cast were first approached with a new script back in 2014-2015 and initial shooting began in 2017.
Immersive experiences were planned to truly make the cast feel the story they were portraying. They were trained to free dive while shooting, they filmed on location in the rainforest and even bonded while night diving in Hawaii.
When asked what the most favourable memory was while filming, the duo tell Supanova:
Sam: “We went stingray diving – you were stuck there forever, [Cliff].”
Cliff: “Yeah, I was just tripping.”
Sam: “That’s how you found your character, I think.”
Cliff: “I was having a spiritual experience under there.”
Sam: “You’re night diving with stingrays floating around you. It’s pretty incredible.”
Cliff: “I actually have a traditional tattoo of a manta ray. New Zealand, or Aotearoa, as we call it, the North Island is actually considered to be a manta ray. It’s a fish. The top is a tail and the head of the fish is actually where Wellington is, and the harbour is the mouth of the stingray.”
Sam: “They were communicating with you?!”
Cliff: “I was like having this completely surreal experience.”
Landau has made strong points while addressing the Avatar franchise about how the universe supplies a source of escapism for the audience, but the characters truly are the heart of the story.
We asked Worthington and Curtis if they had any characters they hold close to their heart that helped develop their roles in the film.
Worthington happily chimed in, “I think the characters developed as we developed. In the first one, Jake was a young guy taken from Earth to this moon of Pandora to hang out with these crazy people. I was Sam, taken from Australia to Hollywood to hang out with these crazy people. There was some kind of, you know, symmetry there. And then Jake has a family, I have a family. I think you’re inspired by your life.
“I think that’s what Jim’s done – he’s taken the best bits of what we have and hold dear to us. He knows that Cliff has a great connection with his own culture, and the character that Cliff plays is very in tune with the culture of his tribe. I think that’s what Jim does best. He relates actors to the role in a way that we don’t want to admit, but in a way that we can embrace.”
The entire cast and crew of the film have become one big family, and that is one motif they really wanted to embrace. The idea of family, but from different perspectives. Yes, the view from a parental aspect but also the struggling teen perspective. It’s something relatable and what they’re hoping connects the audience to the characters even further.
Worthington warmly expanded on this when asked what he hoped audiences take away after viewing the film.
“These types of movies are a big spectacle, they’re an experience. I think especially with the 3D, it immerses you into this new water area of Pandora. Hopefully, at the heart of it, this is a movie about family and the love you can have for your family, and the things that you’d do for them, not just in the family that you have by blood, but also the family that you choose in life.
“Hopefully, that’s something that we can all relate to. We really push that, push that kind of quality as the stakes get raised of what’s worth fighting for in life. Maybe that will come into its own existence.”
When asked how they kept the mindset of these characters over such a long period of time, Curtis said: “Well, Jim sets it up really well. Firstly, the story… you’re part of something that’s greater than yourself, so, you don’t want to let the team down. You know, you’re a part of something that’s really amazing.
“But also, you get to contribute as well. So, while you’re part of something that’s greater, you just sort of express yourself as an individual, like you’re very welcome. Jim makes it very safe for you to come in there and be who you are. My character, I own the character, he created it and he’s allowed me to take that on and we get to play with that, that’s the ultimate experience creatively so I’d never been so excited to see how it’s gonna land on that screen.”
Every individual that worked on 2009’s Avatar truly is incredible for creating an environment that has kept people begging for more all this time. The world of Pandora is so unique and sacred. From the wildlife to the value the Na’vi themselves hold.
This is what Curtis said he admired the most and wished to see more of in our world: “Oh, I love the organic way that they live and are still connected to nature. Very naturally, there’s a symbiosis – there’s no disconnect between them and their environment. I love that.”
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