James Cameron is packing up and heading back to the faraway world of Pandora for the foreseeable future, as he is getting ready to film Avatar 2, 3, and 4 back-to-back-to-back. After the 2009 original raked in a record-setting $2.8 billion, Fox is certainly optimistic that, with the three sequels at the center of their upcoming roster, they’ll be able to start printing their own money. Shooting a trio of movies consecutively necessitates having three finished scripts at the ready. Cameron brought in teams to work on each individual screenplay, but until now, we didn’t know who wrote what.
While Cameron handled the script for Avatar himself, like he has with many of his films, but realized that this was a herculean undertaking, and brought in teams of outside writers to work with on the follow ups. A while back, he talked about the process of writing three scripts simultaneously. Cameron basically collaborated with one writer, or team, on each story, bouncing back and forth, tweaking continuity and narrative to create a coherent trilogy of films. He compared the experience to working in the writer’s room on his short-lived TV series Dark Angel.
Up to this point we’ve known who was working on the films, but now the New York Times has revealed who worked on which movie. Avatar 2 will be first out of the gates in December of 2016, and Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, the team behind both Rise of the Planet of the Apes and the upcoming Dawn of the Planet of the Apes took care of the script. War of the Worlds scribe Josh Friedman, who also worked on Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, got the nod for Avatar 3, which is slated for release in 2017. Avatar 4 fell to Shane Salerno, writer of films like Armageddon and Savages, and director of the recent documentary Salinger. That film should open in 2018.
The bulk of the screenplays reportedly went down when everyone got together at Manhattan Beach, California. Earlier, Cameron said they “sat in the writing room for five months, eight hours a day, and we worked out every beat of the story across all three films so it all connects as one, sort of, three film saga. And I didn’t tell them which one was going to be there’s individually to write until the last day. So everyone was equally invested, story wise, in all three films.” Not just an orchestrator, Cameron also showed up with 1500 pages worth of notes that detailed every last element of the film, from characters and cultures to the flora and fauna on Pandora.
Fox originally wanted Avatar 2 to film in 2011 and hit theaters this year, but Cameron held out, wanting to take his time. It’s not hard to imagine that they’ll be rewarded for their patience. And they must have a great deal of confidence in him, considering these movies will likely be going to be up against the new slate of Star Wars movies in a bare-knuckle battle for box office supremacy.
Avatar 2, 3, and 4 will follow the continuing adventures of returning characters Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), and whoever or whatever the hell Sigourney Weaver winds up playing.