James Cameron had produced a half dozen films which were the most expensive ever made at the time. He has pioneered the CGI effects of the modern era, taken his entire cast underwater (and almost drowned them), perfectly recreated areas of the Titanic and secured his place at the top of the global box office.
So when this filmmaker says he's taking on the biggest challenge of his life, you really have to listen.
Cameron has recently returned to the Avatar bandwagon, saying that the sequels are definitely on the way and dropping the little bit of extra information that there are now a further four films in the works, with release dates up to 2023. That already sounds crazy enough, but he's going one better by shooting all of those films at the same time.
That's not the same as back to back, where one production rolls into the next and each story is handed linearly. No he's actually going to be capturing bits and pieces of each of the four films in the saga every day - a shot from film one here, an emotional goodbye from film four there, and stitching it all together in post.
Here's what the director had to say to Famous Monsters of Finland:
"It’s not back-to-back. It’s really all one big production. It’s more the way you would shoot a miniseries. So we’ll be shooting across all [AVATAR scripts] simultaneously. So Monday I might be doing a scene from Movie Four, and Tuesday I’m doing a scene from Movie One. … We’re working across, essentially, eight hours of story.
It’s going to be a big challenge to keep it all fixed in our minds, exactly where we are, across that story arc at any given point. It’s going to be probably the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. I’m sure the actors will be challenged by that as well. It’s like, ‘No, no, no, no, this person hasn’t died yet, so you’re still in this phase of your life.’
It’s a saga. It’s like doing all three GODFATHERfilms at the same time."
That sounds like utter insanity, an even more complicated process than Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings or Hobbit films and something which will take years of production and post to get right. But it also sounds just like Cameron, who would have to come back to filmmaking after a seven year gap in the biggest way possible.
Still the first film is said to be aiming for a Christmas 2018 release date and it doesn't seem as though anything is ready to go yet. He'll have to get started right away in case it slips still further. And we'd really like to see him work on another franchise at some point in the future!
Avatar movies are so far planned for 2018, 2020, 2022 and 2023. We'll see how that pans out.