Cameron Talks “Avatar” Sequels Shoot, Dates

Filmmaker James Cameron used last week’s CinemaCon to announce that his plans for the “Avatar” sequels have changed – four will be produced instead of three, with the release dates now set.

It’s a huge gamble, and one that 20th Century Fox is going to have to go all in for as the Oscar-winning director today confirmed to Famous Monsters of Filmland that all four films will be shot as one giant production, not back-to-back as previously rumored:

“It’s not back-to-back. It’s really all one big production. It’s more the way you would shoot a miniseries. So we’ll be shooting across all [Avatar scripts] simultaneously. So Monday I might be doing a scene from Movie Four, and Tuesday I’m doing a scene from Movie One. … We’re working across, essentially, eight hours of story. It’s going to be a big challenge to keep it all fixed in our minds, exactly where we are, across that story arc at any given point. It’s going to be probably the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. I’m sure the actors will be challenged by that as well. It’s like, ‘No, no, no, no, this person hasn’t died yet, so you’re still in this phase of your life.’ It’s a saga. It’s like doing all three Godfather films at the same time.”

“Avatar 2” was originally targeting a December 2017 release, but with the change of plans Cameron knew he wouldn’t make that date. That resulted in Rian Johnson’s “Star Wars: Episode VIII” taking over the slot. After that point though, the “Star Wars” films switch to May releases – something Cameron is well aware off which is why his schedule was built around Lucasfilm’s slate:

“My original plan was to release them a year apart, but we’re opening that up. If for no other reason than that I don’t want to land on the same date as one of the Star Wars sequels. That wouldn’t be fair to them. [Laughs.] No, that’s just good business. I don’t want to go head-to-head with Star Wars. That would be stupid. And hopefully they won’t want to go head to head with us.”

Cameron is also adamant about plans to use more real-world references and photographic elements in the various CG creations on screen to try and make them as “texturally real” as if they were practical.

“Avatar 2” will open Christmas 2018, the subsequent films opening 2020, 2022 and 2023.