We’ve only been to the far away world of Pandora the one time, but if James Cameron has his druthers—and he’s James Cameron, for crying out loud, and James Cameron gets what James Cameron wants—we’re going back, a lot. The visionary director has plans for three sequels to his 2009 hit Avatar. You may have heard of it, it’s the highest grossing movie of all time. Though he’s been talking about the follow up trips since even before the first film opened, Cameron now says the scripts for episodes two, three, and four will all be done in short order.
During a Reddit AMA, Cameron talked about the process involved in bringing the new films to life. He explains, “They’re essentially all in preproduction now, because we are designing creatures, settings, and characters that span all three films. And we should be finished with all three scripts within the next, I would say, six weeks.”
It is important that all of the scripts be finished at the same time, because as he says, “The second, third and fourth films all go into production simultaneously.” Given the scope and scale of the first film, and Cameron’s penchant for going big at every given opportunity, shooting three of these at the same time, or even concurrently, is going to be one hell of a massive undertaking. Just logistically that is going to be complicated, especially when one film is being edited and is in post production, but the other is only getting started.
That’s a great deal of pressure, something Cameron definitely feels. He says, “There’s always pressure, whether it’s a new film or whether it’s a sequel, to entertain and amaze an audience. The biggest pressure I feel right now is cutting out things I love to get the film down to a length that is affordable.”
Cameron wrote the script for Avatar on his own, but he enlisted a slew of big name screenwriters to collaborate on the sequels. His team includes Josh Friedman (War of the Worlds, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles), Shane Salerno (Savages), and Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, the duo behind Rise of the Planet of the Apes. This is good move on Cameron’s part. Not only is writing three movies a ton of work for one person, but while Avatar is a phenomenal looking film, the story leaves something to be desired—it’s essentially the same story as Dances With Wolves, but in space, with blue people, who look like cats.
Right now stars Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, and Stephen Lang are all on board to come back—for a while at least, we’ll see if everyone makes it through multiple movies. There have even been rumblings that Cameron’s frequent collaborator Arnold Schwarzenegger—they’ve worked together on the two Terminator films, as well as True Lies—could join the party. That sounds like a fan pipe dream, and Cameron pretty well squashes any hope of that. He says, “I don’t see a role as the scripts are coming together that would be appropriate for him, so I would say probably not.”
If the Avatar sequels stick to their schedule, the first sequel will open in December 2016, with another a year later, and the last a year after that.