Monday, February 28, 2011

James Cameron's 'Avatar' Borrows From His Past Epics

Cameron completists might recognize themes, characters and plot points.

If you were setting out to make the biggest film in the history of movies, you'd be wise to take a close look at the brilliant work of the best filmmakers who'd come before you. It's no surprise, then, that many key elements of "Avatar" have James Cameron paying tribute to one of the most important directors of all time: himself.

From characters to plot points to several overarching themes, the world's #1 movie is leaving audiences with both a sense of awe and one of déjà vu. Not that there's anything wrong with that. After "Aliens," "The Abyss," "True Lies," "Titanic" and the "Terminator" films, he's certainly earned the right to stick with what works. Keeping that in mind, here are five recurring Cameron themes we've loved before and are loving again:

The Spineless Company Man
In "Avatar," Giovanni Ribisi's Parker Selfridge heads up the RDA mining operation, barking out orders with an iron fist and a thirst for wealth. In "Aliens," Carter Burke (Paul Reiser) is a rep for the Weyland-Yutari corporation who not only helps mastermind Ripley's ill-fated mission, but has secret plans to bring alien specimens to the company for research and profit. Both characters come from the passive-aggressive school of those who'd sell out their own mother for a buck. Company men through and through, it isn't that they don't have a sense of morality; it's that their morals are up for sale to the highest bidder.

Robotic Retrofits
It'd be really boring if someone made a movie about humans encountering an alien race with the strength of children, who we could smack around as if we were King Kong. It makes sense, then, that Cameron's winning formula has twice relied on mankind overcoming our girly-man physical limitations with the help of hardware. As far as memorable Cameron moments go, Sigourney Weaver's toe-to-toe battle with the "Aliens" queen is tough to top. After slipping into a cargo-loading exo-suit, Ripley lays the smack down. "Avatar" Chief of Security Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang), meanwhile, is quite fond of his AMP (Amplified Mobility Platform) suit. Imagined as a descendent of 21st-century military exoskeletons, the AMP suit amplifies (get it?) the strength and mobility of Quaritch and other soldiers. Suffice it to say that if Cameron could have any toy from his movies, he'd probably be walking around his mansion in a giant robo-suit.

Mankind vs. Technology
Afraid that your toaster will rise up against you? That our iPods and Kindles will eventually destroy what's left of our world's simplistic beauty? Then you've probably seen a lot of James Cameron movies. "Avatar" features a none-too-subtle message about the dangers of civilized man attempting to take down the pure of heart and sensitive to nature. The "Terminator" films similarly envision a world where mankind's desire for absolute supremacy becomes its ultimate downfall. Heck, even "Titanic" is about the dangers of technological advancement and the hubris of declaring mankind's supremacy. Whether it's primitive cultures, robots or water, Cameron seems eager to remind humans that we aren't as powerful as we sometimes think.

The No-Nonsense Female Sidekick
In "Aliens," Private Vasquez (Jenette Goldstein) is a tough Latina Marine who fights bravely and has more masculine qualities than many of the men around her. In "Avatar," Trudy Chacon (Michelle Rodriguez) is a tough Latina Marine similarly endearing, macho and ultimately ill-fated. Although much has been made over the years of Cameron's love for female action heroes (Ripley, Sarah Connor, Max Guevera from "Dark Angel"), his secondary female characters are just as proud a tradition.

Risk-Taking Realm Immersion
Watch "Avatar," and you're amazed at the lengths Jake Sully must go to set foot on Pandora. As he takes the less-literal dive, it's reminiscent of Cameron's "The Abyss," perhaps his most underrated film. In that movie, a diving team encounters an alien species, ultimately leading Virgil "Bud" Brigman (Ed Harris) to use a liquid breathing apparatus that allows him to dive deeper than humanly possible but risks death if his oxygen runs out. Pandora similarly poses fears of oxygen absence, total immersion and a peek at beauties never before seen by man — for those brave enough to take the leap and for moviegoers, who may similarly be watching a Cameron movie holding their breath.

'Avatar' Star Joel David Moore Confirms Cast Conversations About Sequel

'A lot of things can happen,' he says of potential story lines for a second 'Avatar' film.

Even before "Avatar" came out and collected, oh, only slightly less money than the United States does in annual income taxes, director James Cameron told MTV News he had specific ideas in mind for a potential sequel. Specifically — spoiler alert for the three people in the world who still haven't seen the movie! — that the second film would pick up after the events of the first, with Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) having fully transferred his consciousness to his alien body.

Now we have confirmation that Cameron has shared some of those plans with his cast following the film's record-breaking box-office haul. "There have been conversations about certain ways to go," Joel David Moore, who plays human scientist Norm Spellman, told MTV News. "Of course nothing's set in stone. I love all the ideas.

"There are a lot of places for it go and all of those decisions lie in one man's brain," he added about Cameron. "And that is a giant brain. It is hard to feel smart around him."

At the end of the first movie, Spellman is allowed to stay on Pandora following the native Na'vi defeat of the human colonizers. And now we know Cameron expects to have Moore stay around for the sequel.

"Yes, I will be a part of whatever they want me to do," he said. "How can you not? I would love to go back to that world."

But what will his role on Pandora be now? During the final battle against the humans, Spellman's Na'vi avatar was fatally wounded. Will the character be avatar-less in the "Avatar" sequel?

"Anything can happen in a sequel and anything can happen on another planet," said Moore. "Understand that these things are grown from DNA from the Na'vi and us. A lot of things can happen."

James Cameron Discusses 'Avatar' Spirituality, Cliches On 'Oprah'

'There's a fine line between cliché and archetype that touches something universal,' the director argues.

As "Avatar" gets set for a fifth straight week as the #1 film in America, director James Cameron stopped by "The Oprah Winfrey Show" to talk about the film's gender-line-exploding appeal, accusations of recycled storytelling and the franchise's spiritual and environmental roots.

After exchanging a greeting in the language of the native Na'vi population, Oprah asked Cameron if he's a spiritual person. After all, the Na'vi greeting "I see you" is a phrase with a deeper meaning more akin to "I understand who you are."

"I guess I must be, because this film represents a lot of ideas and feelings I have as an artist," he said, going on to highlight his movie's "environmental message and the idea that we are all connected to each other as human beings."

Obsessed with what he termed "nature's imagination," Cameron said "Avatar" was his "attempt to bottle that."

Oprah declared herself a huge fan. Though not having gone to the theater since the '90s — maybe since "Dances With Wolves" — the host said not only did she take in a theatrical viewing of "Avatar," but called all her friends and told them they had to check it out. Cameron explained that while opening-night crowds were dominated by male viewers, positive word of mouth has resulted in an even male/female split in the film's audience.

"Avatar" continues to reel in bundles of cash — $1.4 billion worldwide and counting — but Oprah asked Cameron to respond to charges from critics and viewers that the story is derivative or clichéd. "I think the story is communicating with people," Cameron said. "There's a fine line between cliché and archetype that touches something universal."

The Na'vi's blue color, while not necessarily universal, has become prominent in pop culture — so much so that Lady Gaga has had to abandon plans to coat herself in the hue. Appearing on "Oprah" after Cameron, the pop superstar admitted, "I've been talking about how I want to paint myself blue for a performance for the longest time."

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Comparing The 'Avatar' And 'Titanic' Couples With James Cameron

Robotic body suits, evil corporations, do-not-mess-with-me female sidekicks — these are just some of the recurring motifs in the films of James Cameron, present from 1984's "Terminator" up through current box-office and awards-season pet "Avatar."

But it's not just these whiz-bang action-flick factors that connect "Avatar" to the director's earlier work. The forbidden love story between ex-Marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and silky blue alien Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) calls to mind another set of star-crossed paramours: Jack and Rose from "Titanic," otherwise known as Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. Both couples come from radically different cultures that are contemptuous of their relationship and are forced to choose sides between the competing communities. (Earlier this week, we explored whether Worthington and Saldana will follow DiCaprio's and Winslet's post-Cameron career paths.)

Zoe Saldana Reveals The Secrets Behind Her 'Avatar' Alien

James Cameron digs love stories between people from different cultures thrust together in strange territory. That's true of his star-crossed "Titanic" twosome and the alien/human pair he's been putting together for more than a decade in "Avatar."

What does it take to create a convincing romance between two species from different planets? In MTV's live-stream chat with Cameron and the "Avatar" cast, star Zoe Saldana gave us insight into how they created the character of Neytiri, the big blue alien who initially resists an amorous connection to the alien avatar controlled by human Jake Sully (Sam Worthington).

"She's like a big kid," Saldana said. "That's the one thing we realized."

The Na'vi, as this race of aliens is called, live at one with nature on the lush planet of Pandora. "If they're going to be completely different from human beings and they're so in tune with their environments and so in tune with themselves, then what don't they have that the humans have too much of?" Saldana said. "And there were so many flaws and we were like, 'What if they were never exposed to this?' Once we started shaving everything down, we were brought to a very childlike form of what these people are, where they're very innocent but at the same time so intuitive."

Saldana compared Neytiri to the heroine of Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew," a woman who resists love lest a relationship impinge on her freedom. Neytiri still wants to be in the jungle with her animals, chasing after guys. While Sully falls in love at first sight, Neytiri resists him. Or, at least, that's how it appears.

"I really think it was [love at first sight] for Neytiri too," she said. "She just had to conceal it because you can't give all your goods away so quickly."

Saturday, February 26, 2011

'Avatar' Star Stephen Lang Talks Unseen Pandora

In September, Fox launched a rather underwhelming viral Web site for "Avatar" containing nothing much beyond some concept art, a laughably low-budget video game and a grainy video from the film's scar-faced baddie Colonel Quaritch (Stephen Lang) about the dangers of the alien planet Pandora.

As we would learn a few months later, Quaritch's dialogue — "Out beyond the fence, every living thing that crawls, flies or squats in the mud wants to kill you and eat your eyes for Jujubees" — was pulled directly from the finished film. But in an interview with MTV News Lang revealed that he actually shot a string of videos that have not yet been seen by the public.

"Back in early '08, I was doing some recruitment stuff for Pandora," he explained. "Jon Landau, our very creative producer, had said, 'How about doing a couple recruitment things for Pandora?' And I said, 'OK.' "

As director James Cameron and his team began to build the world of "Avatar," creating new species, plant life, native peoples and their history, they constructed a sort of bible about their universe: the definitive word on all things Pandora. At the start of 2008, the book was not yet complete, but Lang got his hands on it.

"As an aid to that, [Landau] said, 'I'm going to send you something. It's the beginning of our book. This is the book on Pandora. Don't share it. Nobody else has it,' " the actor explained. "So I have this thing, so I knew quite a bit about Pandora."

Within the "Avatar" world, the videos were intended as recruitment tools for humans to take the six-year journey to Pandora to work with the natural-resource plundering Resources Development Administration. Quaritch is the company's security chief. While it seems these videos were meant to be used for Fox's viral marketing campaign in the real world, it's not entirely clear from Lang's description if Cameron and Landau in fact intended to use them in the film itself. In either case, "Avatar" fans can hold out hope that the unseen footage will pop up on the forthcoming DVD. Elements of the bible, meanwhile, can be had now as part of a so-called "Activist Survival Guide."

"[The bible] actually was very helpful to me too, because it freed me in some of the stuff I was talking about in these videos that supposedly get broadcast back to Earth," Lang said.

Friday, February 25, 2011

James Cameron Says 'Avatar' Sequel Isn't A 'Foregone Conclusion'

'There are some things that need to be worked out,' director tells MTV News at the Oscars.

Even though "Avatar" failed to secure the top honors at the 82nd annual Academy Awards, director James Cameron's 3-D science-fiction film seems all but guaranteed to have a sequel given the movie's unprecedented commercial success. But according to Cameron himself, a sequel is not quite a certainty.

"We'll see," the filmmaker told MTV News on the red carpet of the Oscars when asked about an "Avatar" sequel. "There are no foregone conclusions. There are some things that need to be worked out with 20th Century Fox. If we get all of that squared away, then it's all good."

This isn't the first time Cameron has expressed some uneasiness about working on "Avatar 2." In February, the celebrated filmmaker reiterated his position that a sequel isn't guaranteed just yet.

"I've got some deal hurdles I got to get over with the studio before I want to emotionally embrace that," Cameron told MTV News at the time. "[Sequel details have] never properly been worked out, let me put it that way, but everyone's highly motivated. Rupert Murdoch told us we were doing it, so now they have to make a deal."

Assuming that all the potential hurdles are cleared, Cameron has previously stated that an "Avatar" sequel could explore Pandora's neighboring moons. Additionally, there's a strong likelihood that the humans defeated at the end of "Avatar" could return in a sequel. But for now, Cameron can only guarantee one future activity: sleep.

"I'm going to sleep all day tomorrow," the filmmaker said before the Oscars began. "I intend to party all night and sleep all day."

Thursday, February 24, 2011

James Cameron Previews 10 Minutes Of Deleted 'Avatar' Scenes For DVD

By "Titanic" standards, James Cameron's 160-minute-long "Avatar" is but a mere sprint compared to that marathon of a maritime disaster flick. Still, the director had to make some tough choices about what to include in the finished film and what needed to be left on the cutting-room floor.

And what was left behind was 10 to 12 minutes of motion-captured goodness, as Cameron revealed exclusively to MTV News. Much of the footage focused on the native Na'vi people of Pandora, those sinewy blue aliens that live at one with nature until the resource-plundering humans decide the spot most in need of digging is the place the natives call home.

"It's all wonderful stuff, but it was sort of bogging down the middle section of the movie," Cameron said. "So there's plenty for a value-added DVD experience on this film. Of course, we'll have to go punch it all up and get it all mixed and stuff like that."

An important chunk of those 10-plus minutes is devoted to a trial that Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), who joins the Na'vi through his mind-controlled alien avatar, must pass to truly become one of the clan. It involves a hunt for a Sturmbeest, a sort of colorful, overgrown rhino.

"That was kind of cool," Worthington said. "It was intricately designed."

"It's a creature you no longer see in the movie," Cameron said of the Sturmbeest. "[Sully] has to learn how to hunt through the air and do this incredibly brave thing, and then after the hunt they have this big festival and they dance and there's a drunk scene with [Na'vi member] Tsu'tey, which is Laz Alonso's character, which is actually pretty damn funny."

The deleted scenes also include the introduction of the heads of other Na'vi clans. Speaking with MTV News, Zoe Saldana, who plays Na'vi princess Neytiri, discussed another aspect of the production that she missed seeing in the finished version: the interactions between scientist Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) and the Na'vi people.

"It's the connection that Grace has to the people and how this came to be," the actress said. "That was all in the script. Grace had taught them. She's the reason they speak English. There's a school that she had there. She'd go every single day and she fell in love with these children."

James Cameron Compares His 'Avatar' And 'Titanic' Couples

The director notes the similarities between Sully and Neytiri, and Jack and Rose.

Robotic body suits, evil corporations, do-not-mess-with-me female sidekicks — these are just some of the recurring motifs in the films of James Cameron, present from 1984's "Terminator" up through current box-office and awards-season pet "Avatar."

But it's not just these whiz-bang action-flick factors that connect "Avatar" to the director's earlier work. The forbidden love story between ex-Marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and silky blue alien Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) calls to mind another set of star-crossed paramours: Jack and Rose from "Titanic," otherwise known as Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. Both couples come from radically different cultures that are contemptuous of their relationship and are forced to choose sides between the competing communities. (Earlier this week, we explored whether Worthington and Saldana will follow DiCaprio's and Winslet's post-Cameron career paths.)

It's a storytelling similarity that even Cameron acknowledges. "They both fall in love with each other, but they need to fight side-by-side, and so there's that kind of requirement to let the other person go in order to do what you need to do, which is kind of interesting," he explained.

The director also sees a few differences between his futuristic couple and his pre-World War I pair. "They don't fall for each other right away, though, in this film," Cameron said of Sully and Neytiri. "There are some challenges in between."

Neither, it should be noted, do Jack and Rose. There is hardly an intimation of enduring romance when the artsy drifter interrupts the high-society teen's mid-sea suicide attempt. Their romance certainly sparks quicker than Sully and Neytiri's, but then the Titanic meets its doom far sooner than the aliens' Hometree. Time constraints require a hasty oceanic courtship.

Worthington and Saldana themselves argued that Sully and Neytiri do in fact fall in love at first sight, despite Cameron's sentiment to the contrary. During MTV's "Avatar" live-stream chat back in December, Worthington argued that Sully immediately falls under his alien cohort's spell.

"I really think it was [love at first sight] for Neytiri too," Saldana added. "She just had to conceal it because you can't give all your goods away so quickly."

Cameron sees one more commonality between his stars — with which surely everyone involved can concur: "They had a great chemistry right from the get-go, and it was always fun on set," he said.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

'Avatar' Junkies Are Proud Of Their True-Blue Fandom

'I was starting to recite the lines just before they were happening,' one fan says of his 15 screenings.

"Kaltxì! Oeru lu fpom, slä oel tspìyang ngati fa swizaw oeyä! Ngaru tut?" In case you're not yet fluent in the language of the future, I just said, "Hello! I am well, but I am about to kill you with my arrow. And you?" in Na'vi.

Eight weeks into its release, and extreme fandom for "Avatar" is still feverish. But not all "Avatar" fans are created equal. One growing group of superfans is trying to perfect "lucid dreaming" in an effort to transport themselves to Pandora. And while we all wish we had a little distance from our parents, when moms and dads express a deep desire to live on Pandora, that's a whole new set of family issues.

So what's the checklist for extreme fandom? Well, seeing the movie 15 times (or 40 hours' worth), poring over a 600-page version of the script, reading "Avatar: An Activist Survival Guide" and taking a crack at learning Na'vi are all on the list. You will need a flexible schedule, a forgiving and sympathetic boss/teacher and little need for sleep.

But that's exactly the case with Jason Beojekian, a 19-year-old New Yorker whose life now revolves around "Avatar." How does he explain his impressive level of devotion?

"I have a lot of free time," he deadpans.

Though Beojekian can be categorized as an avid fan in anyone's book, he knows how to self-regulate. After 15 screenings, he knew it was time to quit. "I was starting to recite the lines just before they were happening, and that's no way to watch a movie, in my opinion."

Thank goodness for sites like, the brainchild of Justin Kloth. The 33-year-old from San Jose has been enjoying his moment in the sun — cultivating a solid fanbase for his site and garnering 33,000 daily page views — and instead of enduring the typical digital dissonance from readers, he sees only harmony. (Hmm, remind you of some faraway neon land much?) Twenty-four percent of members on his site lump themselves as "obsessed beyond belief" — meaning they've seen the film more than nine times, an estimate that doesn't surprise Kloth.

"There's a large contingent of fans that have seen it in the double-digit range," he said. One of his most active members defies the stereotype of a "typical Avatard": She's 57, a moderator on the site, and is believed to have read all "Avatar"-related literature known to man and Na'vi alike and even creates her own fan fiction. Kloth sent along a sampling of "Avatar"-inspired creative expression.

Not all obsessive fandom breeds the same inspirations. While the above example works to dig into and expand on James Cameron's universe, others are simply content with multiple viewings. Lots of them. Matthew Welich plans to see the movie 100 times in his lifetime "at the very least," said the 23-year-old fan from Maple Heights, Ohio.

While most fans have fun with it, what's not funny is when emotional highs and lows run so extreme that withdrawal symptoms are palpable. Some fans say "Avatar" is all they can think about or talk about, and just knowing that there are other equally invested fans out there make them feel less isolated.

Vickie Puckett is a wife and mother of three. She's of sound mind, and she also happens to want to live on Pandora, have an avatar body and fly a dragon. Puckett, like many in the devoted "Avatar" fanbase, said she fell in love with the planet and its people and culture and wishes we humanoids could capture and emulate the Na'vi sense of spirituality and serenity here on Earth. Like many, the Spearfish, South Dakota, mom considers Pandora to be a perfect reality.

Jonathon Dobbs, 27, feels a special kinship to the film. As an administrator for James Cameron's "Avatar" Wikia site, which boasts nearly 2 million registered members, Dobbs hails from Dobbs Rockingham, Western Australia, the same place where star Sam Worthington was born, cementing Dobbs' special attachment to the film.

The ripple effects of "Avatar" are felt in the most unlikely of places; even fashionistas have caught "blue fever," as a recent Valentino runway show nodded unquestionably to our Na'vi counterparts as style icons, to the delight and horror of the fashion community. Reviews blared " 'Avatar' was the theme yet again."

And as with most things in life, once something hits the fashion world, the common folk just can't seem to get enough of it.

Friday, February 18, 2011

What? Matt Damon Almost Starred in 'Avatar'

The good folks over at Popeater have brought my extremely limited attention to a case of cinematic what-if involving erstwhile Will Hunting and the biggest movie of all time. Apparently, Matt Damon was at one point in talks with James Cameron to star in Avatar as wheelchair-bound war veteran Jake Sully, a role that eventually went to then-unknown Australian actor Sam Worthington.

"I talked to Cameron and I read the script and I knew the movie was gonna be a big hit," Damon tells WENN. "I really wanted to do 'Avatar' and work with Jim Cameron and watch him direct and learn a lot." So why didn't we see the Matty Damon as a nine foot-tall blue alien roaming the jungles of Pandora? Scheduling issues involving his last outing as amnesiac ass-kicker Jason Bourne. Damon explains, "We were finishing The Bourne Ultimatum, and I couldn't leave. It was a scheduling issue."

Just think, we could be living in a world where Sam Worthington wasn't consistently apologizing for mediocre blockbusters like Terminator: Salvation and Clash of the Titans. That rosy alternate universe aside, I think it might have been too weird to see an actor as recognizable as Damon playing a Na'vi. Do you wish that schedules had worked out and Damon were the messianic white man for the beleagured natives of Pandora?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sam Worthington Says 'Avatar' Is 'In The Hands Of The Gods'

'We have to stand by what we've done,' actor says during MTV's live-stream Q&A.

A lot of ink has been spilled discussing the immense pressure James Cameron must have felt after "Titanic" became the all-time box-office champ and then he didn't release any proper feature films. Now, just a few short weeks before Cameron's "Avatar" hits theaters, the filmmaker and his stars sat down with MTV for an exclusive live-stream Q&A. As they took questions from the fans, Sam Worthington gave thanks that all that attention on the director took the expectations off people like him.

"No," Worthington answered when asked whether he and co-star Zoe Saldana felt the weight of helping Cameron rise again. "None whatsoever."

He would know pressure. The 33-year-old Australian actor has spent the past year going from unknown to omnipotent thanks to blockbusters like "Terminator Salvation," "Avatar" and the recently wrapped remake of "Clash of the Titans." But to hear him tell it, Cameron's high-profile movie put the least amount of weight on him.

"The thing about Jim is that he's very protective of everyone involved on 'Avatar,' particularly me and Zoe," said Worthington, who plays space-traveling Marine Jake Sully in the film, tasked with colonizing a planet full of aliens. "So when you're making it, it's like you're in the eye of the hurricane — which is the calmest part, to a certain extent."

During the unending months of top-secret shooting all over the world, Worthington, Saldana and the other stars were shielded by Cameron; but now that the time has finally come to unveil the film and do interviews about it, the star jokingly admitted that they're finally starting to feel that pressure. "Now we're getting a bit of windburn as we stick our heads out," Worthington smiled, completing his hurricane analogy.

"But we stand by our product," he added, insisting the stars are proud of the December 18 flick. "We stand by the movie we've made.

"I was saying to Jim, you work on a movie so long, it's weird to hand it over. You make a movie to get seen; that's the whole point of making it, to tell these great stories. But we have to stand by what we've done. It's locked off," Worthington reasoned. "Now it's in the hands of the gods."

'Titanic' voted most romantic film of all times

'Titanic', the doomed love story of shipmates Jack and Rose, has come out on top of a list of the most romantic movies ever made.

The blockbuster movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet grabbed the number one spot in the poll, beating off competition from 'Pretty Woman' and 'Dirty Dancing', reported Ace Showbiz online.

'Titanic' was also recently voted most romantic movie moment of all time, for the scene where Jack hugs Rose from behind at front of ship. It beat out the other romantic scenes from popular nine films including 'Love Actually', 'Ghost', 'The Notebook' and six more.

While the James Cameron epic, which spent a decade as the most successful film ever made, was named the best in the poll conducted by, 'Sex and the City 2' was voted the Worst Chick Flick, ahead of 'All About Steve' and 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding'.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Is 'Avatar' Star Sam Worthington The New Leonardo DiCaprio?

James Cameron made both into billion-dollar movie stars, but can Worthington follow 'Titanic' heavyweight Leo?

At first glance, the pair would seem to be miles apart. Leonardo DiCaprio is arguably the biggest movie star in the world, a three-time Oscar nominee in the prime of his career, a fiercely private all-American actor whose name can get any script the green light. Sam Worthington is an endearingly outspoken British/Australian veteran roughly the same age, positioned as "the next big thing" for some time and only now breaking through with a series of high-profile flicks.

To some, however, history may be repeating itself. A little more than a decade after DiCaprio became a household name with "Titanic," a billion dollars' worth of moviegoers have now seen Worthington's face in "Avatar." With that in mind, here are three reasons why King of the World James Cameron might be once again playing kingmaker — and three others why Sam will never reach Leo's heights:

What They Have in Common

The Breakthrough: When you star in one of the most popular movies of all time, it tends to make you a household name — hell, 12 years after "Titanic," Billy Zane is still getting work. After Leo flipped upside-down on that boat, a world full of women found themselves suddenly in love with him. Similarly, Worthington's name is now on the lips of millions — and even if he pulls a Zane and makes nothing worthwhile for the next decade, he'll always be a star.

The Eye-Candy Factor: Even if Leo had been cursed with the acting chops and range of Rip Taylor, he would've gone far with those DiCaprio leading-man looks and the highest-grossing movie of all time on his résumé. Similarly, women like that Worthington fellow. Spend a few minutes online and you'll find tons of sites devoted to his manly bod, sexy smirk and ever-present five o'clock shadow. In the eyes of many, he is every bit as desirable now as a batch of Unobtanium.

The Desirability: A smart actor finds himself great directors to work under. For proof, look no further than DiCaprio, who has spent his post-"Titanic" years working alongside names like Spielberg, Scorsese and Scott. Although his Hollywood career is only just beginning, Worthington has already attracted the attention of Cameron; Louis Leterrier ("The Incredible Hulk"), who is directing him in March's "Clash of the Titans" remake; and McG (the "Charlie's Angels" films) who directed him in "Terminator Salvation" this past summer. True, those two filmmakers are no Scorsese and Spielberg, but Worthington seems to be climbing the ladder.

What They Don't Have in Common

The Backstory: When he broke through with "Titanic," Leo was a 23-year-old former child actor whose decade in Hollywood already had him well into the public eye. Sure, his work on the silly sitcom "Growing Pains" may have been working against him, but what few remember is that films like "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" and "Romeo + Juliet" had positioned him much like Joseph Gordon-Levitt is today. Meanwhile, the 33-year-old Worthington seems more like a Russell Crowe or Mel Gibson type, both of whom broke through on these shores in their early 30s and have at times been pigeonholed as action-film stars. Does Worthington have a "Braveheart" or "The Insider" to establish him as something more? Only time will tell.

The Script Sense: With the exception of "The Beach" and maybe "Body of Lies," DiCaprio hasn't made many missteps in his 12 years atop Hollywood's A-list, and each film couldn't be more different: "Catch Me If You Can," "Blood Diamond," "The Aviator," etc. But, while DiCaprio may be the best selector of scripts currently in the business, Worthington still has much to prove. His Hollywood output thus far has been quite weak, including clunkers like "The Great Raid," "Rogue" and the "Terminator" dud that may have killed the franchise. Now that he's in a position to say "yes" rather than "yes please," it will be interesting to see whether newly minted star Worthington signs on to everything (à la Gerard Butler) or everything good (like Leo).

The Chameleon-esque Factor: As good-looking as DiCaprio might be, watch a film like "Gilbert Grape" or "Aviator" and you'll see a supremely talented thespian who can immerse himself in a wide array of personalities. Can Worthington do the same? The jury is still out at this point — but in many ways the most entertaining thing about the "Avatar" actor might be watching where he goes from here.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Is 'Avatar' Star Zoe Saldana The New Kate Winslet?

We compare James Cameron's newest leading lady to the 'Titanic' beauty.

These days, the one word on every moviegoer's lips is "Avatar." With the box-office receipts soaring, the love story and special effects fueling repeat views, and Oscar-buzz building, it's unlike anything we've seen since ... well, the last James Cameron feature film, 1997's "Titanic."

In the 12 years following that movie's release, stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet have made good on their promise, racking up instant classics and awards nods with equal aplomb. On Monday, we took a hard look at whether "Avatar" star Sam Worthington could use his momentum to launch a Leo-like career. Now, it's time to compare Cameron's leading ladies and look at why Zoe Saldana could become the next Winslet — or why such comparisons could leave the actress feeling as blue as her "Avatar" character.

What They Have in Common

The Breakthrough: Although Saldana seems like a fresh face, the 31-year-old actress is the latest example of Hollywood's "work for years to become an overnight success" reality. Her real breakthrough came in the 2000 dance film "Center Stage," a minor hit that led to solid work in everything from "Guess Who" to "The Terminal" to the infamous Britney Spears flick "Crossroads." Similarly, Winslet had a substantial back catalog before she became a household name — having raised eyebrows in Ang Lee's "Sense and Sensibility," Kenneth Branagh's "Hamlet" and, most notably, Peter Jackson's excellent "Heavenly Creatures."

Unlikely Beauties: Think of the words "Hollywood starlet," and you're unlikely to picture either Saldana or Winslet. Both have a unique beauty, which perhaps makes them more memorable. In "Titanic" and during the years since, Winslet has never been shy about showing her body — and defending its ample curves and fluctuating weight. Zoe Yadira Zaldaña Nazario, meanwhile, was born in New Jersey to a Dominican father and a Puerto Rican mother and grew up in the Dominican Republic. Much like Jessica Alba and Vin Diesel, she has an exotic, intriguing and almost indefinable look.

Nice Girls Finish First: If you've seen enough of their interviews, you may have figured out the same thing as those of us who've been lucky enough to meet both ladies: In real life, they're exceedingly gracious, polite and eager to please. True, the stereotype in Hollywood may be that nice guys finish last, but there's a reason why directors and co-stars line up to work opposite these two.

What They Don't Have in Common

A Blockbuster Mentality: Saldana is an unabashed geek who found her back-to-back roles in "Avatar" and "Star Trek" to be a dream come true. Coupled with work in big films like "Pirates of the Caribbean," don't be surprised if her career path looks increasingly more like Rosario Dawson's or Kate Beckinsale's — respectable, fun and with a healthy dose of genre films. Winslet, meanwhile, has avoided action flicks, superhero films and geek-friendly franchises so effectively that the decision must be intentional. Instead, she prefers original scripts (does it get any more outside-the-box than "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind?") and conflicted housewives ("Little Children," "Revolutionary Road") whose feet are firmly planted in tragic realities.

The Franchise Factor: While it could be argued that nothing Winslet has ever made is sequel-ready, the fact is that she also stays far away from repeating herself. The same is unlikely to be said for Saldana, whose immediate future is likely to be booked up with "Trek" and "Avatar" sequels. It will be interesting to see whether Zoe can define herself outside her franchise commitments — à la Keira Knightley — or become a female Mark Hamill, whose side projects never quite soar.

Oscar Awesomeness: Often called the best actress of her generation, Winslet has been nominated for six Oscars and finally took home the little gold guy last year for "The Reader." But while "Titanic" earned her one of those nominations, it wasn't the first time she displayed impressive acting skills; "Sensibility" earned Oscar and Golden Globe noms and a BAFTA win, and her "Creatures" performance blew critics away. Will Saldana — who has never received a major award nomination — prove herself to be as prolific a thespian? Only time will tell.

James Cameron Takes MTV 'Behind The Screen' On 'Avatar'

Show also looks at 'Sherlock Holmes,' 'Dinner for Schmucks' and 'The Other Guys.'

How did he do it? Seriously. How in the world did James Cameron take an actor in a skintight suit with wires strapped to his body and motion-sensing dots stuck to his face and — presto! — turn him into a highly realistic blue alien bouncing around a lush planet in "Avatar"? We've seen motion-capture films before, but nothing that looks half as impressive as this.

So it really does seem like a sort of wand-waving magic, and to help unlock the mystery behind this enchanted, CGI form of moviemaking, we enlisted the man himself. During MTV's "Behind the Screen" show on Wednesday afternoon (December 16), Cameron sat down at his Hollywood mixing stage to walk us through the creation of one killer action sequence.

"I think that's how I've managed to stay successful as a filmmaker, by basically giving people the stuff I would have wanted when I was 14 or 15 years old," the director said.

But the inside scoop on "Avatar" was only one part of a packed half-hour of exclusive looks into some of the most anticipated movies of 2009 and 2010. We debuted a brand-new clip from Robert Downey Jr.'s "Sherlock Holmes," featuring the wily detective in a brutal battle against a ginormous foe. We also journeyed to the sets of two upcoming comedies for the first-ever looks at these productions. First, we brought you Steve Carell and Paul Rudd's "Dinner for Schmucks." This is the first time these two funnymen have appeared together since 2005's "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," and they were pumped about it.

"Paul has the ability to be very handsome and yet be ridiculous at the same time," Carell said.

From there, we made a stop on the set of the action comedy, "The Other Guys," starring Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson and Samuel L. Jackson. As Ferrell gave us a tour and joked that the entire set was in fact a green-screen concoction, Jackson joked, "We use more lead than anyone in the history of the LAPD! Our gun fights are legendary!"

As "Behind the Screen" moved from comedies to action flicks and back again, we kept returning to Cameron's "Avatar." Comparing the challenge of the film to a Rubik's cube, the director explained how he takes the motion-captured footage of his stars and sends it to the venerable New Zealand visual-effects house Weta Digital for a sort of photorealistic, computer-generated casing to be swathed over the actors' forms. Months and thousands of man hours later, the images begin to look like the breathtakingly beautiful scenes that have garnered so much early praise from critics.

"He's not a dictator, he's a collaborator," said star Sam Worthington. "He's not a leader who stands on a hill with a bullhorn. He gets in the trench with you and fights alongside you every step of the way."

That journey has led them all to make a movie quite possibly unlike any other ever made. Even the former Terminator and current governor of California himself, who has worked with Cameron on three films, was blown away.

"When Arnold Schwarzenegger saw the film," revealed Cameron, "he said, 'It's an emotional spectacle.' "

James Cameron Explains Why 'Avatar' Aliens Are Blue

'Green had been taken by all those Martian movies with the little green men,' the director jokes.

Moviegoers got a sneak peek at one of the year's most anticipated films on Thursday, straight from legendary director Jim Cameron himself. Unsurprisingly, when the "Avatar" director held court for an exclusive MTV Q&A online, one of the most eye-opening questions came from a fan.

"Jim, what inspired you to make the Na'vi blue?" asked Sarah T., one of the many moviegoers who logged on to to watch the chat.

"Well," the director of such classics as "Titanic" and "Aliens" began. "We wanted to say that there was an otherness, an alien-ness to them. But we wanted to keep them human enough that we could understand their emotions. So, they were going to have two eyes, and they were going to have a mouth."

Cameron made a point to say that he took particular pride in creating the wholly original world of "Avatar" at a time when so much of Hollywood is spinning their wheels with sequels, remakes and adaptations of old material. And, like his best films, he made sure that a romantic subplot was in the mix — which placed added requirements on the Na'vi character Neytiri, played by Zoe Saldana.

"At a certain point, we realized this is going to be a love story," he explained of Neytiri's relationship with Jake Sully, a human-in-Na'vi-form portrayed by Sam Worthington. "So, Zoe's character had to be beautiful and accessible and relatable emotionally."

Looking over at his fellow Q&A participants — the Dominican/ Puerto Rican Saldana and Western Australian Worthington — the Canadian-born Cameron said that the Na'vi's blue skin also allowed him to comment on race. "[I was thinking], 'What are the differences that we can deal with, without it becoming a barrier?' Skin color is great, and it's also great thematically, because skin color is obviously such a big issue on our planet," he explained with a grin, looking at his actors and teasing Worthington. "All the warm tones — from pallid Canadian pink, to beautiful warm browns and, well, pallid Australian pink — were all taken.

"So, we were down to blue and green basically — and green had been taken by all those Martian movies with the little green men," he remembered of his reasoning. "So, we have big blue women, not little green men."

'Avatar' Director James Cameron Says Fan Pressure Inspires Him

'It makes you a better filmmaker when you know you've got a lot of fans to please and that their expectations are high,' he says during MTV's live-stream chat.

In 1997, James Cameron achieved an unprecedented triple crown, launching "Titanic" to Best Picture and Best Director Oscars and the title for all-time box-office champ, grossing an astounding $1.8 billion worldwide. In 1999, the Albert Brooks comedy "The Muse" featured a cameo from the filmmaker, depicting him as someone unsure of what to do next. Now, 12 years later, he is finally ready to unveil his follow-up.

On Thursday afternoon (December 3), the legendary director sat down with MTV for a live-stream Q&A, taking questions from fans and unveiling new footage from his December 18 sci-fi flick "Avatar." One of the first things he said was that he held no ill will toward all those who have fed the pressure he's spent the past 12 years preparing to overcome.

"I think there is obviously a lot of expectation whenever a filmmaker that people know — through films like 'Titanic' or 'Aliens' or 'Terminator' or whatever — there's always an expectation," he admitted while discussing his revolutionary flick about an alien planet and the space-traveling humans who seek to colonize it. "There's a lot of expectation around this film, and I guess I knew that would happen unless I made a romantic comedy or something."

Undeniably, the pressure is high these days as word of an enormous budget has further fueled the fire, but "Titanic" once had the same fears of not recouping its investment pre-release. And, when you're a filmmaker who has brought fans "The Terminator," "T2," "True Lies" and on and on, it's only natural that the fan anticipation will grow with each flick. To hear Cameron tell it, he wouldn't have things any other way.

"I think it makes you a better filmmaker when you know you've got a lot of fans to please and that their expectations are high," he insisted. "So you try pretty hard and you get the best people in the movie."

Now, the question is whether "Avatar" — released with the same sort of buzz, nearly 12 years to the day since "Titanic" — can re-create that film's success and become the new all-time box-office champ. "I don't think it's realistic to try and topple 'Titanic' off its perch," Cameron reasoned. "Some pretty good movies have come out in the last few years, and 'Titanic' just struck some sort of chord. Obviously, we're hoping that 'Avatar' is successful at some level."

Saturday, February 12, 2011

'Avatar' Director James Cameron Discusses Re-Release, Future Of 3-D

'We actually think that the home experience and the theatrical experience can co-exist,' he says.

It wasn't too long ago that James Cameron was looked upon by Hollywood like everyone's crazy uncle — the one that shows up during the holidays and starts rambling about all the great things he's going to do once he gets around to it. Someday, he promised, he'd make another movie; just wait, he told us all, because 3-D was going to revolutionize the industry and force theater owners to convert their screens.

As it turns out, the dude was actually the Nostradamus of the industry. And now, in this post-"Avatar" reality, he has quickly become the wise sage sitting on top of the mountain. Recently, we caught up with the King of the World and had to ask: Oh wise one, where do we go from here?

"Well, here's what's in discussion and it's not locked in yet," the writer/director revealed. "After the DVD release [of 'Avatar'], we're going to do a theatrical re-release toward the end of the summer, into September. Because there were a lot of people who still wanted to see the movie in IMAX 3-D that didn't get a chance to do it.

"We were still playing very strongly in 3-D theaters until a lot of our 3-D theaters went by contractual agreement to 'Alice in Wonderland,' " Cameron said of the unexpectedly still-massive momentum behind his highest-grossing film of all time. "So, we know people still want to have that theatrical experience. We actually think that the home experience and the theatrical experience can co-exist."

Read that last sentence again, and make sure you take a moment to process it. Over the last few years, a battle has been waged between studios, retailers and filmmakers like Steven Soderbergh over the rapidly diminishing window between theatrical and home-video release. Now, as "Avatar" comes to Blu-ray, Cameron is eager to use his clout to test the theory that people won't go see a movie in theaters if they can watch it on their home-entertainment systems.

"The colors are incredibly vivid; the strengths of the movie are still there: the composition, the camera work, the acting, the lighting, the action, the energy, the music," Cameron said of what makes a film like this perfect for viewing on any screen. "All of those things are the same; the only thing you don't have is the stereoscopic illusion. But what you get in place of that is when you're not looking through the glasses, everything is clearer, brighter and therefore more vivid in some ways. It's a trade space; you're trading one thing for another thing."

According to Cameron, future filmmakers could similarly embrace the differences between home and theatrical viewing, giving the audience two different-yet-similar experiences that they'd pay for more than once. Eventually, of course, 3-D will be in all our homes as well — another innovation Cameron is looking forward to. With filmmakers everywhere seeking out Cameron's advice, it seems like the future of filmmaking is as wondrous and unlimited as Pandora itself.

Will 'Avatar' Sequels Shoot Back-To-Back? James Cameron Weighs In

Director also talks about getting 'inside the characters' heads' for his 'Avatar' novel.

It's not enough that "Avatar" is now the biggest movie of all time, winning three Oscars and grossing unprecedented box-office dollars. To better serve the film-going public, the powers that be at Fox will be re-releasing the film in 3-D and 3-D IMAX on August 27. MTV News was lucky enough to steal a few moments of maestro James Cameron's time to talk about the reported "Avatar" novel and whether he'll shoot the proposed two sequels back-to-back.

"We're still working on deals [for 'Avatar 2']," Cameron told MTV News. "We don't start the movie until we get the deals worked out."

Fair enough. But what about the rumored sequel "scriptment"? "I'm making notes. I'm not sitting idle," Cameron said. "But really, what I'm working on primarily is the novel. I never had a chance to get the novel done while we were making the movie, and I always intended to. I didn't want to do a cheesy novelization, where some hack comes in and kind of makes sh-- up. I wanted to do something that was a legitimate novel that was inside the characters' heads and didn't have the wrong culture stuff, the wrong language stuff, all that."

Cameron went on to say that the novel will serve as a "bible" for other writers to come in and riff on for their own "Avatar"-based stories.

"I don't mind opening the universe, but I just don't want that to happen until I've got more meat on the bones," he said, adding that he'd like to fill in some of the specific details about the company, what's happening on Earth and Grace and Jake's backstories. "That all needs to be filled in before other writers can come in and run with it."

Regarding his plans and discussions about two proposed sequels, we asked if he'll shoot them back-to-back. "We're actually talking about that. That's not a decision yet," Cameron revealed. "That is something that makes a lot of sense, given the nature of these productions, because we can bank all the [motion] capture and then go back and do cameras over a period of time."

He added that the nature of their filmmaking process lends itself more naturally to a back-to-back shooting schedule, versus that of other live-action productions.

"The way these back-to-back productions fall apart is that you're trying to do two live-action films back to back, and you're working on it for a year and a half, shooting. Everyone is dead. It's not humanly possible," Cameron said of live-action shoots. "This type of film, it absolutely would work."

James Cameron Locks In Deal For Two More 'Avatar' Movies

Cameron will work on two sequels to the 2009 blockbuster.

If you want to go back to Pandora again and again, then today is your lucky day. reports that James Cameron has finalized a deal with 20th Century Fox for two sequels to 2009's "Avatar." Fox Filmed Entertainment chairmen Jim Gianopulos and Tom Rothman have confirmed the news.

The projects are reportedly slated as Cameron's next projects. The tentatively titled "Avatar 2" is aiming for a December 2014 release and its follow-up "Avatar 3" for a December 2015 release. They will be produced by Cameron and his partner Jon Landau for Cameron's Lightstorm Entertainment.

"In the second and third films, which will be self-contained stories that also fulfill a greater story arc, we will not back off the throttle of 'Avatar' 's visual and emotional horsepower, and will continue to explore its themes and characters, which touched the hearts of audiences in all cultures around the world," Cameron said. "I'm looking forward to returning to Pandora, a world where our imaginations can run wild."

Cameron will begin work on scripts early next year and wants to begin production later in 2011. The decision on whether he will shoot the sequels back-to-back will be made when he finishes writing the films.

"It is a rare and remarkable opportunity when a filmmaker gets to build a fantasy world, and watch it grow, with the resources and partnership of a global media company," Cameron said. "With two new films on the drawing boards, my company and I are embarking on an epic journey with our partners at 20th Century Fox."

"Avatar" star Sigourney Weaver recently opened up to MTV News about what she'd like to see in the sequels, whether or not she makes it back. "I think that the challenges to Pandora will continue," she said. "I do think that humans will be back. I also think that maybe we'll get more of a chance to live a Na'vi life. I think we want to be in that world and I, for one, would love to be a Thanator in that world! I just think we have a big appetite for going back there, and I know that Jim will do everything he can to satisfy us and take it to even more parts of Pandora that we don't even know exist yet."

'Avatar': The Early Reviews Are In!

"Avatar" won't come out for another week, but advance screenings have already taken place on both sides of the Atlantic and early reviews are streaming in. The consensus is staggering, from near-universal praise from bloggers on Twitter to a 100 percent approval rating on the movie aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes as of Friday morning (December 11).

Yup, the Web has a lot of love for James Cameron's big blue alien love story. Taking place about 140 years in the future, the film follows crippled ex-Marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) as he lands in a mining colony on the planet of Pandora, populated by a race of aliens called the Na'vi. Given the opportunity to scout the land via a mind-controlled Na'vi avatar, Sully ends up falling for a native named Neytiri (Zoe Saldana).

Here's what early critics are saying.

The Brave New World of Pandora Cameron invented a new type of motion-capture technology called e-motion capture for the film, and the results have everyone blown away.

" 'Avatar' employs technology necessary to render its largely computer-generated, 3D world that will give directors, including but not limited to Cameron, one heck of a sandbox to play in over the next few years," writes Chris Hewitt of Empire. " 'Avatar' is an astonishing feast for the eyes and ears, with shots and sequences that boggle the mind, from the epic — a floating mountain range in the sky, waterfalls cascading into nothingness — to the tiny details, such as a paraplegic sinking his new, blue and fully operational toes into the sand. The level of immersive detail here is simply amazing."

Three Dimensions of Alien Adventure Cameron also revolutionized the use of digital 3D technology for "Avatar," and the critics are impressed. "[T]he 3D is agreeably unemphatic, drawing the viewer into the action without calling attention to itself," says Variety's Todd McCarthy. "The third dimension functions as an enhancement, not a raison d'être, so the film will look perfectly fine without it. (When it opens domestically on Dec. 15, approximately 2,100 screens will feature 3D, with another 1,200 in 2D.)"

And ... Action! Sure, the movie can look beautiful, but who cares if that beauty isn't put to good, adrenaline-pumping use? Early reviews confirm Cameron has delivered a seriously entertaining action flick. /Film's Brendon Connelly calls the action sequences as "inventive as those in 'True Lies' and as well executed as any Cameron has created before.

"Best of all, 'Avatar' sees James Cameron's world-beating skills with action staging and editing expanded through the use of the virtual camera," he continues. "And, yes, the action sequences benefit from the 3D but, no, not in a dullard stunt-stereo fashion."

Capture Performers in Performance-Capture Worthington, Saldana and the rest of the cast spent month after month on a soundstage with wires strapped to them, jumping around a barren set that would eventually be transformed into the lush CG environment of Pandora. How did that affect their performances? Is the acting any good? Yes, argues TotalFilm's Andy Lowe.

"[T]he success of the human/ Na'vi love-story thread is mostly down to Saldana," he writes. "Her subtle, spiky performance is a delicious foil to Worthington's wide-eyed neophyte. She might have played it haughty and aloof — and annoying. Instead, she makes Neytiri untamable and irresistible, brimming with spirit and soul — and making her, and the other CG characters, feel more weighted and real."

How Long Can You Spend on Pandora? And Will You Return? No getting around it: The movie is long. And to make serious box-office cash, "Avatar" is going to have to bring moviegoers back to the theater again and again. It might just be able to pull off that feat.

"The movie is 161 minutes and flies by in a rush," says Kirk Honeycutt from The Hollywood Reporter. "Repeat business? You bet. 'Titanic'-level business? That level may never be reached again, but Fox will see more than enough grosses worldwide to cover its bet on Cameron."

Friday, February 11, 2011

James Cameron Says 'Everyone's Highly Motivated' For 'Avatar' Sequel

Director says he expects deal to be signed with studio despite some 'hurdles.'

In early February, just as "Avatar" became the highest-grossing movie in U.S. box-office history, News Corp. top dog Rupert Murdoch announced that Fox had held "very early talks about" a sequel to James Cameron's sci-fi love story. More than two weeks later, Cameron tells MTV News he's still waiting to sort out those contractual details before committing to a return to the motion-captured world of Pandora.

"I've got some deal hurdles I got to get over with the studio before I want to emotionally embrace that," the writer/director said.

Declining to elaborate about the specific obstacles — not compensation-related, he assured us — Cameron nonetheless said all parties involved expect a deal to be signed at some point down the road.

"[Sequel details have] never properly been worked out, let me put it that way," he said. "But everyone's highly motivated. Rupert Murdoch told us we were doing it, so now they have to make a deal."

During the Wednesday interview, Cameron also confirmed what he's been telling us since December: that the sequel will pick up after the events of the first film — spoiler alert! — when Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) permanently transfers his consciousness to his Na'vi avatar and begins a new life with Princess Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) after they defeat the human colonizers.

"It would be a continuation of their story and I expect that those nasty humans didn't go away forever: 'Oh, well that didn't work!' " he said.

For now, though, Cameron adamantly refuses to say whether a second "Avatar" will be his next feature film project as a director. He's got his hands in a number of other creative ventures and will soon jet off to Australia for work on "Sanctum," a 3-D underwater cave-diving tale that he's producing.

"I'm sort of reacquainting with a bunch of projects that are non-theatrical film projects, like space stuff and ocean stuff," Cameron said. "But yeah, I'm thinking about what the next feature will be and another 'Avatar' film is a strong possibility."

Sam Worthington - Hollywood titan who's muscling in on the big money

Surrey-born Sam Worthington found fame with mega hit Avatar. He tells Kaleem Aftab that he can't wait for the two sequels

The secret to earning the big bucks in the movie business is to be part of a successful franchise. Vanity Fair's annual list of Hollywood's highest-earning actors is filled with names of actors partaking in sequels and prequels. Top of the list of actors is Johnny Depp (Pirates of the Caribbean), the stars of Twilight, Taylor Lautner, Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart, all earned salaries to make football players green with envy and Iron Man's Robert Downey Jr earned a cool $31.5m. By all accounts, Sam Worthington is about to become a very rich man indeed.

The Australian actor is set to star in the two sequels to Avatar, which the director James Cameron is gong to make, and is about to start production on the sequel to Clash of the Titans, provisionally titled Wrath of the Titans, which is likely to guarantee more zeros on the bank account.

Worthington is considered to be Australian despite having been born in England. Born in Godalming in 1976, his father, a power-plant employee, and his mother moved to Australia when he was just two months old. Not that there would be any debate that he belongs to the Antipodeans, as soon as he opens his mouth the Aussie accent is thick.

Worthington likes to banter. When I meet him, the actor is telling his publicist how he just cut short the previous journalist's question about what films he likes to do, by answering I do what I like to do otherwise I wouldn't be doing it. Even his publicist calls him a "smart ass".

His muscular frame is befitting of an action star. It's a throwback to the Eighties in the days when beefcakes destroyed cars before the emasculation of the action hero that took place in the early part of the last decade. That process reached its worrying conclusion when Adrien Brody was asked to fill Arnold Schwarzenegger's combat fatigues in the Predator reboot. Worthington's chest squeezes against his T-shirt and his biceps pop out of the sleeves.

The talk of Avatar sequels is always likely to create a buzz and the actor as yet admits that he doesn't know what direction his character, a former marine who takes on the shape of a blue Avatar when visiting the planet Pandora, is likely to take: "Jim is writing the book at the moment. The Avatar novel, or the Avatar encyclopaedia, whatever it is, and once he's finished that, then he'll have a structure to proceed with the two films as then he'll know what he wants to do."

Cameron is writing a prequel that goes into depth on the previous lives of the characters, although the back story will likely only feed into the new films that the director has stated will go deeper into the world of Pandora.

The 34-year-old says that his life has changed "100 per cent since the release of Avatar". He has lost all anonymity and is recognised in the streets. More in jest than to be provocative he adds, "You end up having to do stupid shit like this in order to promote a movie and your work load increases."

However, he soon veers from the usual cliché about actors not wanting to do interviews by adding, "But that is something you want. You want to be able to sit down and promote the film. I come from a world where we don't have the opportunity to do stupid shit like this and for 10 years I was making films in Australia where I never got a chance to do this. So I'm in a lucky position."

He takes it all with a pinch of salt and wants to stick to talking about movies, "because if people care whether I like sausages of what my view of the world is, I'm not a fan of that."

There is a realism to this response as he knows that being part of the most successful movie of all time ensures that audiences will be interested in everything that he does and that he has chosen a career that means he's open to public scrutiny. His way of dealing with it is to play the game but to try and do it on his own terms while amusing himself.

As I sit chatting to Worthington, there is a shaft of sunlight coming through the curtain straight into my eyes, and squinting I ask if I can close the curtain. Worthington asks, "Is it burning your eyes?" and then starts laughing and saying, "It worked." The spotlight has momentarily been turned.

Before the franchise movies hit our screens, the actor will this year be seen in more adult-orientated fare. He's the star of John Madden's film The Debt, where in the sequences set in 1965 he plays a young Mossad agent who is sent to East Berlin to capture a Nazi war criminal. His character, David, is in love with his fellow agent, played by rising star Jessica Chastain, but it's unrequited as she is dating the third agent played by Marton Csokas. The film is based on the 2007 Israeli movie directed by Assaf Bernstein.

Worthington also plays Keira Knightley's husband in Last Night. Their marriage is tested when Worthington's character, Michael Reed, has to go away on an overnight business trip with his colleague Laura, played by Eva Mendes. Back in New York, Knightley bumps into an old flame played by the charming Guillaume Canet and decides to go out to dinner with him. Massy Tadjedin's then delivers a will-they-or-won't-they-cheat narrative.

In both films, Worthington's romantic state is pivotal. He says, "In Last Night, my character is complacent, he eats food and he watches sport while his beautiful wife is getting dressed, he doesn't even say that she is beautiful until at least four scenes into the movie. While in The Debt, he's trying to fill a whole that is in his life because his parents are dead, his family is wiped out and he believes that this girl can fill this void, but it's all a bit too soon and so they are totally different sides to unrequited love. One is unrequited love and the other is that he doesn't give a shit."

He wanted to do Last Night because,"I have been every one of these four main characters. I have been the guy that has looked at the Robert Frost 'what if' in a relationship, I've been the complacent guy, I've been the predator, been the guy that has cheated and the one that has been cheated on. So I could identify with each of them."

Asking what role he prefers to be out of those he describes, he responds, "I prefer none of them to be honest. I prefer to have a relationship that is loving and good. If anyone says that they prefer to be in any one of these people's skins, they are a ridiculous idiot, because each one is going through something that you hope people will identify with but not too closely, otherwise their partner will find out and kill them."

Worthington was believed to have been in a strong relationship with Natalie Marks, a fashion stylist who he met at the offices of his management agency over three years ago. At the end of January it was reported that they had broken up.

In regards to his attitude to getting complacent in relationships, he tells me, "You work at it, and if you are bored at working at it, then get out of the relationship. Also with complacency, if you have been heartbroken, shouldn't you work harder in your next relationship? I think that if it is getting stale then you should get out. I think you should be able to be on the other side of the world for eight months and the relationship should hold. I'm a romantic at heart."

Also coming soon is Man on a Ledge, the first fiction film to be directed by Danish documentarian Asger Leth. In an ostentatious manner the Australian describes the film as about "a man on a ledge".

When pushed for details, he adds, "The guy is on a ledge. I'm not going to give too much away. You can go on the net and Google it. Why am I doing your job?"

When I remind him about the amount of information one finds online he adds, "You have to wade through it all, wade through it and it's described on the net."

It's about a suicidal man who attempts to commit suicide while his brother commits a heist, starring Elizabeth Banks, Jamie Bell and Ed Harris.

What is a surprise given the critical drubbing is that Worthington is so up for doing a sequel to Titans. He states, "The thing is the first film we got criticised a lot for, but now the good thing about the sequel is that we are not beholden to an original story and we can learn from the mistakes of the first and hopefully improve on it. I mean there is a surprise that we are making a sequel because of the critical drubbing but no surprise when you consider that Clash of the Titans made half-a- billion dollars."

And it's money that talks loudest in Hollywood.

Never-seen footage of the aliens in James Cameron’s The Abyss

A new DVD collection from visual effects legend Steve Johnson looks back at the making of James Cameron's The Abyss, featuring never-before-seen footage.

Before Avatar, before Titanic, before even Terminator 2: Judgment Day, James Cameron wowed moviegoers with his undersea alien epic, The Abyss. The 1989 sci-fi film was noted at the time for its groundbreaking visual effects, which were created in large part by Hollywood veteran Steve Johnson, whose resume also includes classics like Big Trouble in Little China, Fright Night, Ghostbusters and Videodrome. Johnson has been working to preserve his decades of experience on DVD with Eon Entertainment, and their latest effort is the two-disc collection Back Into The Abyss, which takes another look at the Cameron classic.

The pair of discs serve up more than 250 behind the scenes photographs along with unseen footage and new interviews with Johnson. He also narrates the material, as you can see in the below video. One of the clips featured on the coming DVD is up over at io9. The never-before-seen footage highlights the film’s aliens without the smoke & mirrors of the finished film. It’s an enlightening look into the old school visual effects process, when computers and computer animation were a luxury.

In his commentary, Johnson praises Cameron and producer Gale Anne Hurd for putting their faith in a “23-year-old” moron like him. The entire film hinged on his creations looking like otherworldly beings, and his hindsight observation is the filmmakers were crazy to place that trust in him. As anyone who has seen and enjoyed The Abyss can attest to however, Johnson did a magnificent job with the tools he had available to him. The Na’vi of Avatar may be more elaborate constructions from a build time perspective, but practical, physical effects are an irreplaceable element in filmmaking and we should be thankful that guys like Johnson are around to remind us of that.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

James Cameron Discusses Sending 3-D Cameras (And People) To Mars

'I want to make films about this and get people excited about [space] exploration,' the 'Avatar' director says.

For Oscar-winning director James Cameron, whose box-office clout at this point seems unmatchable, making mega-blockbusters like "Avatar" and "Titanic" might not be enough. So next year, Cameron is taking his filmmaking expertise to the final frontier.

In April, it was announced that Cameron had partnered with NASA to help build a 3-D camera mounted atop the Mars rover Curiosity for a mission planned for launch next year. When MTV News caught up with the filmmaker, we asked if, in addition to sending 3-D cameras to Mars, he's thinking about how to send humans there.

"Oh, yeah, I've been thinking about the issues of sending human beings to Mars for a long time," he admitted during a press day for the re-release of "Avatar." "I started 11 years ago working on a Mars project that led me to doing a lot of research, meeting a lot of people at NASA, getting involved with people, and then at a certain point, a couple years ago, they said, 'Wait a minute, this guy knows a lot about Mars, he knows a lot about 3-D cameras, zoom lenses, motion photography, all the things we're incorporating into this new camera system. Why don't we bring him in?' "

Cameron said one thing led to another, and suddenly, a partnership was born. "I'm actually on the team developing the new camera for the Mars Science Laboratory, which launches next year," he said, adding that if all goes well, we could see 3-D photos of the red planet in the very near future.

"Theoretically, we will have a motion-image stereoscopic camera on the surface of Mars in 2011, and it will be making the first 3-D movie on Mars — well, it's not a movie, but we'll be taking 3-D shots."

As for humans making the trip, Cameron added that it will require a couple of things — namely, a shift in our national interest.

"The public has to want it — that's number one — because it has to be paid for. I think commercial, new, lean enterprises like [PayPal co-founder] Elon Musk's company SpaceX, which is going to be creating human transportation to the space station. They're a good candidate to build the systems that could get us to Mars, for example," he said. "But it still requires the national will, and right now, that national will, quite frankly, isn't up to the task. People don't care about it enough, which is why I want to make films about this and get people excited about exploration."

Cameron ended his thoughts with a question for the public: "Frankly, what would you rather spend your money on: pointless wars in the Middle East to support our oil addiction or going to another planet?"

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

James Cameron Says Tom Cruise Is Still Up For 'Mountains Of Madness'

Ever since the news broke last summer that Guillermo del Toro will be directing his long-delayed passion project, the big screen adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's "At the Mountains of Madness," with fellow fanboy James Cameron producing, no less, Del Toro fans have been chomping at the bit for more news about the film.

One big burning question still left to answer revolves around casting, and even more specifically, whether rumored lead actor contender Tom Cruise has officially signed onto the project yet. Del Toro flat out deflected the question when MTV News asked him about Cruise's interest back in September, but we had a bit more luck when we bugged Cameron about it recently, during the press day for "Sanctum."

"Tom does want to do the picture," Cameron said of Cruise's continued interest. "I don't think we have a deal with him yet, but we're hoping to get that closed soon. Guillermo is madly working on a new draft of the script," he added. "Hopefully we'll be shooting by June or July."

For those unfamiliar with the project, check out our very thorough and detailed breakdown of why you should be excited about it here. It has been a labor of love for del Toro and his writing partner Matthew Robbins. The lovable "Hellboy" director told us at San Diego Comic-Con that they're focused on tweaking their screenplay.

“We are rewriting slightly the screenplay we’ve had for 12 years,” del Toro said. “There [are] movies that have come out that have done things that are similar to some of the stuff we were trying," he said.

"Matthew [Robbins] and I believe that a screenplay like that you have to tackle again every so often. We tackled it last about two years ago, [when] Matt and I felt like we needed to rewrite some stuff. Matt is my greatest writing partner because we keep updating anything we haven’t shot, we keep saying, ‘Let’s do another rewrite,’ ...Thirteen years ago it was a big challenge, but right now what we’re doing is keeping it alive,” he said.

James Cameron STILL doing Battle Angel ... in 5 years

If you, like us, have been (im)patiently waiting for the eagerly anticipated Battle Angel movie, you'll have to wait a bit longer—quite a bit more, in fact—because James Cameron has made it pretty clear that it'll take at least five years before work starts on the highly popular manga Battle Angel Alita adaptation.

Seems like director/producer Cameron has kept this project close to his chest for FOREVER, and many have even felt that perhaps he should have given up the rights to the film (though no one could ever doubt that the project was always in VERY capable hands with the Oscar winner) and let someone else take a shot at the beloved story.

But no. No way. Cameron says:

"I'm obviously going to be pretty busy for the next five years [with Avatar 2 and 3]. And so I had to consider, do I hand this project off to another director? And then I thought, 'No, I love it too much.'"

Of course we kinda knew this was going to happen. After all, we recently told you that Cameron was actively working on Avatar 2 and 3, and that both films wouldn't be released until Christmas 2014 and Christmas 2015, respectively—though the two sequels are being filmed together (it's the massive amount of work needed in post-production that'll take the time).

As for what we can expect about the story, Cameron confirmed in the same breath that it will take elements from different books:

"It's such a rich world. What I'm going to do is take the spine story and use elements from the first four books. So, the Motorball from books three and four, and parts of the story of one and two will all be in the movie."

James Cameron uses Twitter to woo fans

James Cameron has fielded a request on his new Twitter account for a big screen part from budding actress Kim Kardashian.

Since making his Twitter debut on January 28, the Oscar-winning filmmaker has already nabbed more than 41,600 followers including celebrities like the reality TV star and Jessica Alba.

Kim used the opportunity to request a big-screen role: "I'm ready for my leading role in 3D! LOL," to which James replied: "Kim, you're already in 3D! See you on Sanctum 2."

But James, who is listed under Jim Cameron, did try to woo Jessica, whom he previously worked with on post-apocalyptic sci-fi TV series Dark Angel.

"Jess, we have to do another kick butt project together soon!" he wrote after she posted: "Yo tweeples follow my dear friend and mentor @JimCameron!!!"

The Avatar and Titanic director, who is promoting his new film Sanctum, claimed he was never tempted to join up to the social networking site because of the 140-character limit.

"I never tweeted before because I'm a long winded blowhard, and they don't allow enough characters," he posted.

But he later joked: "It's easy. Short smartass answers have always been a specialty of mine."

James Cameron Taps Shawn Levy To Direct 'Fantastic Voyage'

Levy is best known for directing 'Night at the Museum' films.

Perhaps James Cameron got a sneak peek at "Real Steel" and really liked what he saw, because he's tapped Shawn Levy — the director behind that upcoming Hugh Jackman action flick, as well as the "Night at the Museum" films — to helm the 3-D adaptation of "Fantastic Voyage."

Deadline New York reports that Cameron, who is producing the reworking of the 1966 sci-fi flick, has hired Levy after considering a slew of directors with either more action-oriented experience or greater critical acclaim. We already knew Paul Greengrass and Louis Leterrier had been approached for the gig, but the new report adds Darren Aronofsky ("Black Swan"), Timur Bekmambetov ("Wanted") and Jonathan Mostow ("Surrogates") to the list of directors formerly being considered.

The new "Fantastic Voyage," which follows a team of scientists miniaturized and sent into a colleague's body to save his life, will be an almost entirely computer-generated creation. That makes Levy a rather unconventional choice for the high-profile Fox project. He's best known for his comedic fare, from work with Ben Stiller on two "Night at the Museum" films to last year's Tina Fey/ Steve Carrel laugher "Date Night." But Levy has branched out with "Real Steel," a futuristic action flick making liberal use of CG technology, and has always had a steady hand with broadly commercial productions. What's more, Levy has already reteamed with Jackman for a second action flick, this one to be scripted by "Lost" vet Carlton Cuse.

Last summer, Jon Landau, Cameron's longtime producing partner, explained to MTV News what they're looking for in a "Fantastic Voyage" director. "It's somebody to elevate the property," he said. "Why Jim's movies work — the ones that he directs — they have themes that are bigger than their genre. We want to do 'Fantastic Voyage' where it's about something and it's not just putting effects up on the screen."

Monday, February 7, 2011

Avatar Bolsters News Corp.’s Earnings

Buoyed by the success of “Avatar,” the science fiction blockbuster that has become the highest-grossing movie to date, the News Corporation reported a quarterly profit on Tuesday that surpassed the expectations of Wall Street analysts.

“Avatar,” made by James Cameron and released by News Corporation’s 20th Century Fox film studio, has generated nearly $600 million at the North American box office, and more than $2 billion worldwide, making it the highest grossing movie to date in dollars not adjusted for inflation.

It surpassed “Titanic,” another film from Mr. Cameron, that had topped the list of moneymakers. Because of the success of “Avatar,” several Wall Street analysts raised their earnings estimates for the News Corporation in recent days.

At the company’s newspaper unit, which is central to the company and close to Mr. Murdoch’s heart, operating income increased from $200 million to $259 million. Revenue increased from $1.5 billion to $1.65 billion. The company attributed the profit gain to “increased advertising revenues at The Wall Street Journal and lower operating expenses throughout the newspaper businesses from prior year restructuring efforts,” according to a company statement.

What's Subversive About Avatar?

James Cameron was on "The View" Wednesday morning and he was quite frank about the premise and purpose of his film, "Avatar." He plainly explained it was anti-corporate and that his goal was to wrap that "subversive" message in an entertaining vehicle that America, or the world, would swallow whole:

JAMES CAMERON, DIRECTOR, 'AVATAR': Well, look — here's, here's — I think the film is definitely anti-corporate, you know, and I think that the corporations and the corporate lobbies are doing a huge damage to the country and the environment.

This is meant to wake folks up. Sure, sure, clearly. To me it's a very personal film in the sense that when I was a kid, you know, in high school it was the start of the environmental movement and I made a film in high school about pollution.

James Cameron on 'Avatar': 'It's my most personal film'

Los Angeles Times reporter John Horn is one of the top journalists covering Hollywood and he recently sat down with five directors --- James Cameron, Kathryn Bigelow, Quentin Tarantino, Lee Daniels and Jason Reitman -- and conducted a fascinating round table discussion. You can find video snippets of it at our sister blog 24 Frames -- but here are two intriguing excerpts from "Avatar" writer and director Cameron, who may be the king of the world (again) on Oscar night.

Cameron on a beloved scene that just didn't make the cut...

It was an epiphanal scene for me when I was writing the script, and when I wrote it, I actually kind of welled up myself. It’s a scene at the end where the warrior that Jake has had to prove himself to, Tsu’tey, the guy that’s ... keeping him out of the clan and the whole Na’vi experience, is dying after the battle ... Jake goes to him and he hands him the baton of leadership and says, “You have to lead the people,” as he’s dying. Very, very powerful, emotional scene and again, the rhythm — it just messed with the rhythm of the ending. It just felt like there was one dramatic beat too many...

It had to come out completely, and that was the one scene that we finished all the way through the [special effects] Weta process because nobody could imagine the scene not being in the movie. Nobody. All the effects people came to me and said, “I can’t believe you’re cutting Tsu’tey’s death.” They were all invested in the scene. So, I actually had it out and I put it back in ... Then it got right down to the end where the final decision had to be made and I said, "No, it’s coming out."