James Cameron and Zoe Saldana Interview
From Entertainment Weekly issue #1075
By Benjamen Svetkey | Transcribed by AMZ
Entertainment Weekly: Before we get to all the groundbreaking 3-D technology used to make Avatar -- this is basicially a love story, right? Titanic meets Aliens? Sam Worthington meets a big blue alien girl from another planet?
James Cameron: When we were sitting in the initial read-through - - Zoe, you'll remember this -- I said, "This has got a love story in it, but it's not primarily a love story.
It's about a guy finding his place in the world, and his sense of duty." But when we got into making it, we found all these little nuanced moments between the two characters. It became a more emotional film. Ultimately, it's a love story.
Zoe Saldana: But I haven't seen a love story like this one before. They're soul mates, but also soldiers.
EW: You spent two years making this movie. How much did it cost?
JC: A lot.
EW: You developed a special camera that showed you the CG effects as you were filming.
JC: That was the fun of it. When I'd point my camera at Zoe's character, I saw a 10-foot-tall blue alien hot chick with a tail raging through the forest. But when I'd look up from the camera, I'd see petite Zoe Saldana in her black leotard running around a slate floor.
ZS: Prosthetics can be distracting when you're trying to act. But this [performance capture process] allows your imagination to be completely limitless. It brings you back to childhood role-playing.
EW: What type of prep work did the actors do? How do you get ready for something like this?
JC: We did a sense-memory experiment in Hawaii. We trekked around the rain forest for three days, building campfires and cooking fish, trying to live tribally.
ZS: That experience helped us so much. Sigourney, Sam, and I were shooting the movie on a regular concrete floor on a sound-stage, but we needed to know what it was like to walk in a jungle world, what that felt like.
JC: One day Zoe was walking through the rain forest in Hawaii on this narrow trail, dressed in her tribal wardrobe and wearing her character's tail, being this mighty warrior huntress - and she comes upon a rat that's been killed and half-eaten. She got one leg up and was going, "Ewww!"
ZS: It didn't have a head on it.
EW: Wait, the whole cast went to Hawaii and lived in the jungle?
JC: No, we were at the Four Seasons. We just went during the day. C'mon, this is a movie production.
Group Interview with Sigourney Weaver, Zoe Saldana, and James Cameron
The staff over at More.com sent us this interview with James Cameron and Sigourney on the topic of Avatar. Thank you More.com gang, we certainly appreciate you sharing your article with the AMZ visitors!
Sigourney Weaver and director James Cameron first collaborated on 1986's Aliens, which earned Weaver her first Oscar nomination. Their new project is Avatar (opening December 18), a massive 3-D sci-fi thriller set about 100 years in the future that cost a reported $220 million to make and is Cameron's first narrative feature since Titanic.
For MORE's December/January cover story, on newsstands November 24, Weaver talked to Margy Rochlin about Avatar and much more; here, in a web exclusive, she and Cameron elaborate on the project that brought them together again.
Weaver plays Dr. Grace Augustine, a botanist who's studying the flora and fauna of the jungle moon Pandora, light years from Earth.
Sigourney Weaver: We started by going to Hawaii, to a rainforest in Kauai. We did some of the scenes there. I worked with a botanist and learned how to take samples; it was incredibly useful. I loved Grace because she reminded me of teachers I had in high school in New England; they had devoted their lives to giving girls a good education.
James Cameron: Sigourney came up with the idea [that Grace should be] a fair-complected woman with freckles—pale skin, red hair. A kind of Irish look, maybe. It seemed very fresh for her; she hadn’t done that.
I wanted a certain kind of warts-and-all quality, meaning that Grace didn’t really care that much about her human body. But at the same time I wanted Sigourney’s inner luminosity to come through. I think we hit exactly the right balance on that.
Grace becomes a mentor and mother figure to a paraplegic soldier named Jake, played by Sam Worthington (Terminator: Salvation). Grace and Jake each also have an "avatar," created for movement on Pandora's surface, where the air is toxic to humans, and for interaction with the native species, 10-foot-tall blue humanoid creatures called Na'vi.
The avatars are human-Na'vi hybrids into which Grace and Jake's consciousnesses are projected. Those scenes were filmed using the technique known as motion capture, in which the actors act out the movements and expressions, which are captured by hundreds of cameras and then translated into 3-D animated form.
Weaver: It was the most ambitious script by far that I’d ever read. And it was really about something very important, which is finding the hero within yourself and finding something worth fighting for.
Cameron: The audience knows from the work Sigourney has done before in science fiction that she’s not going to play it campy, she’s not going to be over the top. She doesn’t accept the limitations of the genre, in a sense.
She just plays it straight, like a person. Plus she’s very bright, very articulate. She’s good at taking concepts that can be a little cerebral and making them quite visceral. She took to it right away—she saw the possibilities.
Weaver: My avatar body can do anything. It was so cool. I remember reading the script and going, “How is Jim ever going to do this?” It didn't seem physically possible. . . . All this technology doesn’t really worry me. It’s just going to give us more fun stuff to do.
You’re never going to be able to replace the actor, because we’re the people who make the special effects work. Without Sam and Zoe [Saldana], they play the main love story—if they weren’t so good you wouldn’t care about being in that rainforest. To see their relationship flower in that world, that’s why you want to go there. It’s not because the colors are pretty.
Shooting on the floor with Jim had a kind of guerrilla feeling. He was operating on every shot—he'd invented these cameras and by god he was going to use them. He was unstoppable; it was fantastic. I think the filmmaker [in him] had been pent up for so long over those 12 years [since Titanic] that once he started shooting . . . you know, he’s probably still shooting a few things that we don’t know about.
Cameron: I think [Sigourney and I] have both kind of mellowed out [since making Aliens]. At that point we both were young, we had a lot to prove. We had a great working relationship on that movie but it was definitely adversarial in the sense that she would challenge me with ideas, and I would incorporate them—or I’d have to give her a damn good reason why not.
On this one, we were both more confident and it felt like a much easier give and take, an easier partnership. She’s very demanding on herself. As a director, you have to keep pace with that —she’s not going to settle for second best.
Interview: Sigourney Weaver, Zoe Saldana
and Stephen Lang on Avatar
Written by Christina Radish | Source:
While hints at plot and character are finally starting to leak out, there is still a lot of mystery and anticipation surrounding James Cameron's Avatar.
In the action-adventure, sci-fi/fantasy epic, an ex-Marine finds himself thrust into hostilities on an alien planet filled with exotic life forms, called the Na'vi, who have their own language and culture.
As an Avatar, a human mind in an alien body, he finds himself torn between two worlds, in a desperate fight for his own survival and that of the indigenous people.
While at the San Diego Comic-Con to promote the film, due in theaters on December 18th, co-stars Sigourney Weaver, Zoe Saldana and Stephen Lang talked about being a part of such a huge film endeavor.
Q: Sigourney, since you have some experience with James Cameron, can you compare and contrast this project with others that you've done with him?
He's a man in his element, whether it's 25 years ago or now. What I think was astonishing was that he operated, on almost every shot, which I'd never seen him do before. I'm not sure that He created every aspect of the world.
He was inspired by all his oceanographic work, and he's always loved actors. He really respects what we have to offer. He always says, "My script is a blueprint. Just use it as a jumping off point."
He'll try anything. He'll do as many takes as you want. Considering the pressure cooker of a $200 million film, you never sense that pressure with Jim at all. He's all about finding out the truth. It was very exciting. We had such a tiny group. We were very committed to this project. It just seemed like an awesome privilege, from the very beginning, to be a part of this.
Q: You're a legacy, in working on big movies like this, with the Alien films. Any advice for your castmates, on the fervor that they can expect?
Weaver: We haven't been exposed to too much fan fervor. We've been kept away from the actual fans, but the fans are particularly inspiring to me. They're so out there and they care so much. For the geek that I was growing up, I feel right at home.
Q: What did you geek out about, as a kid?
Weaver: I always had my nose in a book. I was this tall when I was 11, so no one wanted anything to do with me. I think that's why I was so happy and relaxed in performance capture. I was always acting things out and always doing plays at school. Make believe saved me. Most actors would probably say that.
Q: Zoe, were you intimidated by all this technology?
At first, it was because I had very little knowledge about anything. I barely knew how to turn on a computer. And, Jim would use these big, big words, trying to explain it to me. He gave me a very warm and slow introduction into how the process was going to be.
I was very apprehensive. I thought that I was going to lose half of the performance control over my character. He could've grabbed my eyes or my lips and put it on someone else.
He had to show me everything. He said, "These are the computers. This is what's going to happen." We would shoot something and then he'd later show it to me. He had to walk Sam and I through that, in order for us to gain a lot of comfort.
After we understood how it was done, it was almost, in some ways, like going back to shooting a regular movie because it really brought the child out. It made my imagination infinite, in terms of taking everything away that's around you and leaving you with just your mind to work.
This world was more alive than any book I've ever read or any movie I've ever seen. It was hard to part with it. As we grow older, part of growing older is limiting your imagination. That's why actors are always in constant training. You have to remain open. Motion capture films are a great tool for that.
Q: Does knowing the big hit that this movie is going to be, take off some of the pressure of being in it?
Saldana: It's going to be big because of Jim. Jim has been known to do big, amazing things, not just with storytelling and characters, but also with technology. I really hope that people are going to find out how special it is because the story resembles one of the issues that we're tackling right now as a human society. We don't get political or religious, but it just has a beautiful message that will inspire people.
Q: What is it like going into a film like this, knowing that there will be an audience for it?
It's true. There are a lot of small films being made, that I've certainly been a part of, that end up not finding a good distributor, which were very worth seeing.
With this, I have to say that part of the thrill is knowing that, on December 18th, everyone in the world is going to pile into these theaters and go to see Pandora. We're all going to go there together.
It's a hell of a ride, even at this point. It has momentum. People have been talking to me about Avatar for two years now and, of course, I haven't been able to tell them anything, so they hate me. There's this gathering momentum, and it is global. Since the context of the story is so much about a planet and the care of a planet, the timing is exquisite because that's something on everyone's mind.
Lang: Yes, I agree. It's very liberating to finally get to spill some of the beans, as it were. It's been confidential for a long time, so it's nice to be able to share it with people.
Q: Stephen, do you get involved with an Avatar, since you seem to be in human form in the film?
I did, but I play a human, so not to the extent of Sigourney and Zoe. But, I did my share of performance capture, as well. I enjoyed it very much. I really concur with everything that Zoe said about it.
It really requires an exercise in imagination, in creating that. I'd be in my dragon warship with green screens around me, and they'd force a couple of grips against the side of the ship, that was being attacked by some flying beast. It's all got to happen in your mind.
Q: Sigourney, did you work with Stephen at all?
We worked together. We're on opposite sides of this discussion about Pandora and what Pandora is there for, so we were actually enemies in the film, but in real life, we're friends from the theater in New York. We've done The Guys together, at my husband's theater.
And, we did The Flea together, at the Lincoln Center, on the anniversary. So, it was great to be reunited, but I have to say that Stephen's character is one of the all-time great villains. He has so much.
In the scenes with Sam, they are so complicated that you find yourself being moved by him, even though I knew, having read the script, what he's capable of. It's certainly multi-dimensional. I hate to say anything good about his character, but he's kind of tragic figure as well.
Q: How long have you guys, as actors, been working on this?
Lang: I've been on it for two years.
Weaver: Yeah, I guess it's about two and a half years for me. Zoe has been on it the longest because she had to train. We all went to Hawaii, at the beginning of 2007, for a few days and roamed through that rainforest. I studied with a botanist. I took samples, and we started to form an ensemble. I think Jim is very wise to know how important that little kernel is because it took us through the times when we weren't working while he was editing. Then, we'd come back together and continue the story. So, there was a lot of stuff stopping and starting, except for Jim, who was on all the time. That early time really made a difference.
Q: Stephen, what do you do to stay in shape, since you look like you can beat everybody's ass in the room?
Lang: Except for Sigourney. Believe me, she'd kick my ass. She beats me, at every turn. Part of the mandate of doing this role was just to be a stud. An old stud, but a stud.
Weaver: A silver back, not an old stud.
Lang: When Jim and I met on this, I was in tolerable, good shape. But, knowing what I wanted to embody in this role, so that I could be the toughest guy on the block, on a planet that is very full of tough characters, just required training, so I've trained a lot. I''e been a gym rat, anyway. That's my addiction, which is better than some of the old addictions I had. I lift a lot of weights. I run a lot. But, there are a lot of big guys out there, so it keeps me humble and it keeps me working on it, every day.
Weaver: One of the fun things about my character is that she's so unhealthy. She's so driven. She never sleeps. She chain smokes. She doesn't eat. When she's on Pandora, she has this light, young body, and she can jump from tree to tree. She's free. She has no aches or pains. One of the things that I worked on was the impact of coming back into your human body, when it's not in great shape. That's something that Jim and I discussed, coming out of the link, having been such a free and physical spirit, and then going back to your body, which is falling apart. That was very humbling, each time. Grace was very aware that she was running out of time.
Q: Sigourney, can you talk about being a part of films that still resonate, especially with the fans at something like Comic-Con?
Weaver: I think it's very special. People are so passionate about a film like Galaxy Quest or Ghostbusters. I think it's the most fun part of the business, but you need a really good script, so that the FX people really have something to hang on and express. It's a great adventure, to do those films. I wouldn't want to do nothing, but that. But, it is pretty awesome that these things live in our culture now, for such a long time. It's actually very encouraging that these things don't fade away.
Saldana: And, I think it's cool to get a doll.
Weaver: I want a little Neytiri doll that has an arrow and everything.
Q: Sigourney, the character that you play in this film is over ten feet tall. Did you do anything in your physical performance to play that up, or were you just natural?
I did try to move in a completely different way for Grace earthbound and Grace free. I was much more relaxed. That was part of what was fun with the performance capture.
There was a different physical rigor in the performance capture than with what we had to do. But, for my character, she's free and happy on this planet, where she can concentrate on the plants. She's never happier than when she's on Pandora.
Q: Any word on Ghostbusters III at all?
Weaver: I think that Bill Murray is involved in that. It's gotten everyone's blessing, but as far as I know, he's the only actively involved. I'm hoping that they put Dana's son, Oscar, in there.
Group Interview: Avatar Press Conference
Posted by Michael Leader /
Avatar is out this week, so we're stoking your anticipatory flames with material from last week's London-based press junket. Held in the ballroom of Claridges, it was all fittingly opulent for such a big, expensive film release. In attendance at the press conference were writer-director James Cameron, producer Jon Landau and cast members Sigourney Weaver, Zoe Saldana, Sam Worthington and Stephen Lang.
Unsurprisingly, the majority of the questions were directed at Cameron - or Jim, as most overly-chummy journos were calling him - about his design inspirations for Avatar, his experiences working with Weaver again after 20 years, the implications of the VFX technology used on the film, and even giving some tantalising comments on the possibility of an Avatar sequel, or trilogy!
Jim, it's finally out there. How do you feel?
James Cameron: So relieved. We can hold our head high that we've got the picture done on time by the skin of our teeth. You know, it's been a four and a half year process, so tonight we'll pull the cover back and show the word, so to speak, here in London. It's fun that we've chosen London to do this world premiere. And it's really just a huge relief to actually let people see it, and quit talking about it. There's a huge buzz around this thing, so the rumours can be put to bed by dealing with the movie itself.
Sam, Sigourney and Zoe, what was it like seeing the Avatar versions of yourself?
Zoe Saldana: It blew my mind. Jim would always incorporate us in the process of the results that he would get from WETA, and all the other companies he was working with, and we just couldn't find words to express how it made us feel. It was something so new. They're so beautiful, and look so much like us. It was kind of unimaginable.
Sigourney Weaver: We all had renderings of our Avatars as we were doing the performance capture. And for me, Grace had such a haunted face, and I think because her human life is so guarded and armoured. The rendering was a big inspiration to me, so I was very surprised when I finally saw the movie, and saw that he hadn't done it like the rendering, that Grace looked just like Sigourney, only I was ten foot tall and blue, which is a much improved version of myself.
Sam Worthington: My biggest fear was, I try to be a subtle actor, and I was worried that the nuance of the performance wouldn't translate once you go through the bits and bytes of a computer. I believe that, hopefully, successfully, in my opinion, that is 100% my performance. Every glimmer in my eye, every smirk, every goofy walk. That has encapsulated my spirit. You sit there and watch the film, but after 20 or 30 minutes, you don't see blue people, you see the spirit of us.
Jim, was it always your intention to work with Sigourney again after Aliens. And, Sigourney, what did you think of the concept when you first heard about it?
JC: Interestingly, Sigourney and I had become good friends on Aliens, and carried that throughout. And since then. I even presented her with her star on the Walk of Fame and so on.
SW: ...and I get to present him with his next week!
JC: That wasn't meant as a segue! [laughs] But I hadn't necessarily written Grace for Sigourney when I first conceived the script in '95, but as we got to the casting process, it just suddenly struck me that she would be perfect. And I can prove that I thought of her, because the name of the character was Grace Shipley, and when Sigourney and I started talking about her doing the part, we said, 'well, I think we'd better change the name, what do you think?'.
But once it popped into my head that Sigourney would be perfect for it, then you suddenly have this moment where you send them the script and you hope and pray that the actor is going to respond to it. And Sigourney responded to the script immediately, and really quite effusively, not just to her character, but to the intentions of the film overall, and signed up pretty much right away.
SW: Yes. We had stayed in touch, and I was always a great admirer of the challenges that Jim had took on. So I have to say I was absolutely thrilled when Jim called, and, really very sweetly - because even though he's so capable, he's actually a very humble person - he said very sweetly 'would you mind taking a look at this? I've been working on this, I'd love for you to take a look at it', it was so sweet.
So I spent the next three days reading the script, which I have to say, is so ambitious on every level, and I'd get to these parts that were, I'd think, 'gosh, that's so amazing, to ride on that banshee, but I just don't see how you could do it'. But I certainly wanted to be part of the adventure of going for it. And I always know with Jim, you know, you're never in better hands. There's no one who's going to fight harder, and stay longer, and work harder to give the audience a hell of an experience.
And also the character of Grace, this woman who is a sort of a dichotomy between this very driven, dry, frustrated woman in the human world, and this free spirit who has lost her heart to the Na'Vi people. The combination of all these factors just made me jump at the chance to go on this adventure with Jim.
I wondered how taking the technology forward connected with your message of connecting with the environment, and how you connected with your cast when you're directing them in virtual reality...
JC: Actually the interesting thing about working with performance capture is that it's probably the best director-actor relationship and working process that I've ever been involved in.
Because, normally, on a photographic set - and we shot for four months photographically in Wellington, you can see parts of the film were done photographically, and parts were done virtually - in the virtual working process, I'm not distracted by the lighting, the time of day, if the sun's setting and you're going to have to get the shot by 6:15, and where's the dolly track going to go, and the thousand questions that pull the director's mind away from the process of working with the actors - we're really just there to do the acting.
They're there to act, and I'm there to work with them, to try to get the best possible performances. So we spend all our time, just looking for some moment of truth - emotional truth or truth to the character - and then we'll go over and huddle around the hi-def playback, so we can look at their faces. I won't see them as their Na'Vi or their Avatar characters for months, even years sometimes, after they're original capture, because the process takes so long, but as long as I know, in that moment, that we've gotten it, then I don't have to worry about it downstream, it's going to be a long, very patient process.
But what we get to at the end, is exactly what we started out with in that moment. So, we, I think wisely, didn't make the assumption that we could modify it or change it or improve it later, we fought hard in the moment to get exactly what we wanted to say. No one's harder on Sam or Zoe or Sigourney than themselves, and Slang's the same way, but he wasn't involved as much in the virtual process. I found it a very stimulating process, and I think we all bonded around the making of this film, and attempted to strive for excellence in the performances.
Pandora has a look of the ocean about it; how much was the vision of this film influenced by your own aquatic explorations. Also, I wonder what your feelings were about the death of Carl Spencer, the British diver who died earlier this year.
JC: In terms of design, I just swept in every design influence I've had in my life. I've always had the deepest respect for nature, and a lot of my youth was spent out in the woods, hiking around and being a total science geek and collecting samples, and looking at them under microscope. But then as an adult, I spent over two thousand, five hundred hours under water, and a lot of that in submersibles. And I've seen some things that are absolutely astonishing at the bottom of the ocean, which really is like an alien planet.
And that's something that I always feel has been a gift in my life, to have been able to live out science fiction fantasy adventure for real, in the diving work, which is something I get to do as an art form, as a filmmaker, but for real in those deep ocean expeditions. So yes there's a lot of the deep ocean, even the shallow ocean as a guide and inspiration for the creatures. And sometimes even just in the textures. The Banshee wings are based on the colouration of a tropical fish, for example, and Brazilian tree frogs and things like that.
We were a little concerned that these large creatures might not scale properly, or they might not look real with these incredibly vivid colour palates, but it was something that we fought hard to do. And just to the last point. Carl was a friend, we had planned a number of things to do together, including some additional diving at the Britannic, where we were going to put together some of the robotics, and some of the subs that I had with the deep technical diving that he did.
And, of course, his tragic death at the Britannic last year was something that rocked the whole technical diving community, because he was such a great guy. Whenever something like that happens, and it does happen periodically when people are pushing the envelope and going beyond, stepping out to the extreme edge of human experience, we mourn and we go on - because we're going to keep doing it, we're going to keep exploring, we're not going to pull back just because it's risky. Carl wasn't somebody who took risks, or at least he took risks understanding it. So thanks for mentioning that, I appreciate that.
James, can you tell us a little about the politics of the film. The characters talk about martyrdom, about shock and awe, about terror. The collapse of the tree and the ash evokes 9/11, and I'm particularly interested in the fact that the heroes seem to be the ones not with the big mechanised military force on their side. Please can you tell us about the message you're putting forward here?
JC: Well, I think that obviously there's a connection to recent events, and there's a conscious attempt to evoke even Vietnam era imagery, with the way the guys jump off the helicopters and so on. It's a way of connecting a thread through history. I take that thread farther back, and I sure like to have a little historical memory that goes back farther than that to the 17th, 16th centuries and how the Europeans pretty much took over South, Central and North America and displaced and marginalised the indigenous peoples there.
And I think there's this long wonderful history of the human race written in blood, going back as far as we can remember. And the Roman Empire, and even farther back. We had a tendency to just take what we want without asking, as Jake says. I see that as a broader metaphor, not as intensely politicised as some people would make it. Broader in the sense that that is how we treat the natural world. There's a sense of entitlement - we're here, we're big, we've got the guns, we've got the technology, we've got the brains, therefore we're entitled to every damn thing on this planet.
And that's not how it works, and we're going to find out the hard way if we don't wise up and start seeking a life that's in balance with the natural cycles of life on Earth. And this is the challenge that's before us. And I think that, certainly, the film espouses this love-hate relationship with technology. Obviously, we used technology to tell the story that's a celebration of nature, which is an irony in and of itself, but I think that it's not that technology is bad, it's not that a technological civilisation is bad, it's that we have to be in control of our technical process.
We're not going to be able to rip our clothes off and go back into the wilderness. First of all there's not a whole lot of it left, secondly that's not going to work for 8 billion people. So we're going to have to think our way out of this, and we're going to have to do it using technology, using science, but we're also going to have to be very, very human about it, and get in touch with our emotions and our understanding of each other.
One of the themes of the film, I think, is symbolised by the fact that it begins and ends with the character's eyes opening. It's about a change of perception, and about choices that are made once our perceptions change.
Sigourney, how would you contrast your work with Mr. Cameron on Avatar, with your work with him on Aliens, with the new technologies involved?
SW: Well there have been several revolutions, and I think this one, leading us to Avatar, is the biggest.
When I did the first Alien, here at Shepperton, we had this awesome special effects crew who with a few - literally, a few - hoses and things like that made those special effects, we had no green screen or anything. With Aliens we used green screen. I think green screen is harder for actors, sure for directors.
In Avatar, when we were in our little suits, with our ears and our tails, on this empty Volume, we could see the world in Jim's magic camera, I don't know what he calls it - I call it the magic camera! We could see what we looked like in this landscape, but we were completely free to just be with each other as actors, with each other as characters, and as Jim said, his focus was on us. I think that the green screen was the most awkward and as an audience member I was uncomfortable, I always thought they put the characters too close together, or it was just unbelievable to me.
And I'm so grateful, as an audience member and as an actor, now that we have a new technology where we can get to the essence of the moment and of the scenes, and then leave it up to the geniuses at WETA to spend 50 hours per frame building on our true - I had an acting teacher a long time ago who said 'as long as you have it inside you, it's going to work, you don't have to show anything' - well, we had it inside of us, and WETA just let that lead them, they just bring it out into 3D. And I, as an actor, am very grateful.
Another one for James, a lot has been said of 3D, with some saying it is as important as the Talkies, or Technicolor. What's your take on that, and do you think that your film is an industry changer?
JC: Well, we'll see. We'll see Avatar's ultimate role - little or large - in the 3D revolution that's already in progress and has been put in progress by a number of other films, going back to, let's say, Polar Express, which was also a performance capture film, but was the first film that really demonstrated that 3D could be really, really profitable, and then followed by Chicken Little and a number of releases. Up through just in the last year, you know, Up and Monsters Vs. Aliens and Fox's own Ice Age 3D.
All have shown an enhanced profitability in the 3D that outstrip the additional cost of the 3D. So all of a sudden, the studios are looking at this as a source of additional revenue, the theatrical exhibition community are looking at it as a way of bringing people back to the cinema, to make the cinema exciting again, during an economic downturn. Of course, cinema has done very well compared to most businesses recently, so that's a thing in and of itself, but, of course, there's an erosion of revenues because of file sharing, downloading, piracy, all of these things, and the DVD business tapering down.
This has so far been balanced by the increase in international markets like Russia and China, and India, so we've balanced so far, but we need something that maybe kick-starts public enthusiasm for the cinema as an experience, as people seem to be going down to smaller and smaller devices, and are watching movies on iPhones, then you do something to reverse this trend, or at least to balance it. So, I've set as my goal, making the movie theatre back to the sacred experience that it's always been for my life, and the 3D has been a part of that.
And it has to be used in balance with all of the other techniques of film. And I would say that if one would see Avatar without the 3D, it would still be beautifully-acted, beautifully-designed, beautifully-photographed, it's not like you're suddenly left with 50% of the experience. But if you do still want to see it with that extra turbocharger of experience, and you want to pay a little extra to do so, then 3D is the way to go.
James, you say you're relieved that people will be seeing the film tonight - is there an Avatar 2 planned? Or even a trilogy?
JC: Well, I always said during the making of the film, that I dreaded the movie making money, because we'd have to do it all again. But, in fact, when I pitched it to Fox, I said, look, we're going to spend a lot of money creating all these assets - we call them assets - all these CG mountains and planets and trees and flowers and bugs and creatures, everything you saw up there on the screen had to be made by someone at a work stations over a period of years. And so they have value.
So the pitch was, you're going to spend more money on the first one, but on the second one we'll be able to advertise that, and we can focus on the story and all that - and they bought that! [room erupts in laughter] But of course, that will only happen if we make money on the first one, so we'll see. It's still a throw of the dice at this point. I have a story worked out for the second film, and the third film. But my lips are sealed.