In a new interview with Vanity Fair, Cameron highlights just how involved production was for The Way Of Water by sharing the “hideously difficult” process of filming scenes between Na’vi and humans. The crux of the complication: Spider (Jack Champion), a young human who grew up on Pandora and learned to live the Na’vi way (despite his notably smaller stature and inability to breathe their air without a mask.)
During most of his screen time, Spider gallivants through Pandora alongside his closest friends, Jake Sully’s half-Na’vi brood. Faced with the task of capturing these scenes, Cameron says an extended filming period became a necessary evil. Per Cameron, all of Spider’s scenes had to be filmed two times— once to give his costars playing Na’vi (like Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver, and Zoë Saldaña) a reference, and once to actually capture his live-action performance.
“The beauty was, we got to do it twice,” Cameron tells VF’s Katey Rich of filming Champion in the role. “So [cinematographer] Russ [Carpenter] would light the scene, so everything that we did with Jack photographically, we did previously with him in terms of capture.”
Not only did Cameron film the scene twice, but he also filmed Champion’s performance two years apart. “Jack did his entire performance twice, once for all the other actors like Sigourney and Britain [Dalton] and Sam, so that he was there kind of off camera. And he was like 13 at the time,” Cameron explains. “And then later when we shot, he was 15, so he changed in size and vocal range a bit, but we capped him and then we had these capture scenes.”
The next Avatar installment is already in the works, and will reportedly arrive in theaters in December 2024. Per Cameron, the third film in the series will explore “different cultures” among the Na’vi, and show them in a slightly more morally ambiguous light.