Avatar is coming back to theaters for a two-week limited-time engagement on September 23rd, and in celebration of this, the cast recalls their favorite memories from making the film. Avatar was initially released in theaters in 2009, and the long-awaited sequel comes out this December.
Sam Worthington plays Jake Sully, and he didn’t have to think twice about his favorite Avatar memory. He remembers that the floating mountains made no sense to him when he first read the script. He thought to himself “I have no idea what this man’s talking about. And least of all, how we’re gonna do this.” But being on set and having that sense of play, is his fondest memory.
Sam laughs, remembering that Director James Cameron would build something that would eventually translate into a floating mountain, and need him to jump off it — pretty much every day. “For me, that was part of the fun. I was like a five-year-old kid in a big play pit. You kept pinching yourself ’cause I didn’t really think this was ever gonna come out or be a movie. I just thought it was like a bunch of fun and I was allowed to experience it.”
Sigourney Weaver, who plays Dr. Grace Augustine in Avatar, fondly recalls being in the Volume, which is where they do the work and make the scenes, in her capture suit. “My first scene was actually to play Dr. Grace Augustine’s avatar. And there is a screen over on the side where you can see a roughed-out version of what it will look like in the movie. In other words, so I don’t look like me in a suit. I can see a roughed-out version of Grace’s seven-foot-tall avatar with her tank top on in this jungle world.”
This not only gave her a real thrill, but also a great sense of relief that maybe this would actually work. She says she remembers thinking that from this little room she was in, they were going to be able to create another world that was so fantastic. “The only way you can go to Pandora is by going to the theater and seeing it in 3D. That’s the rocket ship. And I got that on that first day, just from my little part of it.”
As for Zoe Saldana, who plays Neytiri, she says that she cannot forget getting the phone call from James Cameron saying, “I want you to play Neytiri.” She remembers exactly where she was and what she was doing at the time. “I was changing my niece’s dirty diaper at that time, and I’m telling you, I’ve never enjoyed a dirty diaper the that I enjoyed changing that one when I was on the phone with Jim.” She says she felt excitement and gratitude because she was getting to work with her idol. “Like, the creator of Sarah Connor and Ellen Ripley.” But shortly after that she realized she needed to get to work.
Neytiri has an arrow and she knows martial arts and she climbs trees… Zoe recalls that excitement of wanting to go to school, and then not knowing where all this was gonna fall into place. “But every time I would come into this big, sterile, gray Volume that was freezing all the time, and I’m wearing a onesie, there he was with a camera chasing me around. I got to play, like Sam is saying. And I’m telling you that my imagination was never as infinite as when I was there. And the last time I remember that was when I was a child. So it really repurposed me in terms of being super-proud about what I do.” She felt like she was part of something truly magnificent and then the reception of Avatar far exceeded their expectations. She says its was a very magical journey for her.
Michelle Rodriguez, who portrays Trudy Chacon, vividly remembers the attention to detail. “If there’s anything I could take away from shooting an Avatar movie with Jim, is the openness of my horizon. My perspective shifted.”
She remembers how he would work hard to get around problems. He is resilient and a prime example of leadership. “Just being on a set and watching how he would inspire everyone in their field, whether it’s engineers, whether it’s people in the art department, to do their best. It was just a fantastic experience. And to see that when things aren’t where they need to be, that everything in the power of the dynamic of this team is gonna fix it and do everything possible to make sure that everything goes right.” Michelle says there wasn’t a day where she wasn’t impressed by something new that she was learning. “I realized I was part of something that’s extraordinary that’s never been done before. And every day felt that way.”
Finally, Stephen Lang, who plays Miles Quaritch, says that for him it would have to be the that first commissary scene — that “You’re not in Kansas anymore” scene, which is the first scene he shot in the movie.
“Things happened in that, which actually rippled out for the rest of the shoot for me, and indeed, ripple out into the sequels as well, and to the way that I work with Jim. He encouraged me to be as free and as improvisatory as I felt I needed to be. He was telling me that he was giving me permission to take authority over this room. And that was important because it was a room filled with people. And so he was seating authority to me. He was directing the film, he’s the boss, but he really gave me authority over that room. That was a very generous thing to do, and it was a very smart thing to do, I think. And I was fortunate to be able to do that.” Giving him that authority showed the faith that he had in Stephen, and that now extends throughout their entire working relationship.
Avatar is coming back to theaters on September 23rd for a two week limited engagement so that newer fans can experience it in theaters. It has had a complete remastering and Director / Writer / Producer James Cameron says it is looking better than ever. This will also help prepare viewers for the long awaited sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water, which hits theaters on December 16th.
Tessa Smith AKA Mama's Geeky, is a journalist that covers geek and Disney culture on her own website, as well as freelances for other sites such as What's On Disney Plus and Screen Rant. She graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in Marketing and loves all things geeky. She is a Disney Vacation Club member and a Founders Circle Member of Disney+. She is also an approved critic for Rotten Tomatoes and a member of the Critics Choice Association. Tessa lives in Upstate New York with her husband, two daughters, and two dogs named Sansa and Khaleesi.