Avatar: The Way of Water took a great deal of work to bring to the big screen, which even included one actor having to complete his work more than once.
To say that it was a trek for Avatar 2 to hit theaters is an understatement, hitting theaters a whopping 13 years after its predecessor as 2022 came to an end. Much of this was due to director James Cameron's intense style of making movies, serving as a powerful force on set while expecting the best out of both himself and the actors that bring his characters to life.
Reports have noted that Avatar 2 took the better part of five years to film, even though Cameron and crew already have massive plans for three other movies after this one finishes its theatrical run.
Now, as the movie continues to break records at the box office, fans learned that one actor, in particular, had to put in a crazy amount of work to make the sequel happen with Cameron.
Avatar 2's Jack Champion Filmed His Role Twice
Speaking on the Little Gold Men podcast presented by Vanity Fair, Avatar: The Way of Water director James Cameron and cinematographer Russell Carpenterspoke about Jack Champion's role as Spider in the sequel.
When asked how difficult it was to film Champion in this movie's various environments, both filmmakers explained that it was "hideously difficult," specifically due to the fact that he was used in "so many scenes and so many different environments:"
Vanity Fair: “So I wanted to ask about Spider too, ’cause, to my mind, there’s a lot more interaction between Na’vi and human in this one, and particularly in environments, like in the jungle and Spider is a major character, but all throughout. So, what was the challenge this time of making those fit together in terms of cinematography? Or is it much easier than I’m imagining because of the way the motion capture works?”
Cameron: “Hideously, hideously difficult, wouldn’t you say, Russ?”
Carpenter: “No, I would say painstakingly difficult. Because he was in so many scenes and so many different environments. You really had to nail down exactly when, and where, and how the light is and maybe where shafts of sunlight are hitting. If any of those cues are off, the audience is gonna think something’s out of whack. And so, we worked really, really hard.”
James Cameron also explained that Champion "did his entire performance twice" for Avatar 2, one time for all of his other co-stars and the other to get the lighting right for his human character.
"The beauty was, we got to do it twice. Everything that we did with Jack [Champion] photographically, we did previously with him in terms of capture. So Jack did his entire performance twice. Once for all the other actors like Sigourney [Weaver], and Britain [Dalton], and Sam [Worthington], so that he was there kind of off-camera. And then we had these capture scenes, and then Russ would light the capture scenes, and we’d say, ‘Okay, you know, there’s a bit of purple light coming from the tank over there, the Amnio Tank, and there’s a cyan, slightly cyan, fluorescent light, and then there’s screen light,’ or whatever. Russ would just fool around with that. I think when you first lit the bio-lab for me, I thought, ‘Boom, that’s it. That’s the whole color palette for this.’”
Carpenter explained how Cameron "was very specific" with the lighting for this movie, particularly with how the blue skin of the Na'vi heroes looked in "the light that comes off the plants" and the other environments:
"Jim was very specific... 'This is a movie that’s going to have a wide bandwidth of colours.’ So, he talked extensively about the color palettes that you would find in the jungle and you might have a slightly warm top light and then the canopy is very cool in between. But also, spotting the landscape of the jungle with the light that comes off the plants when sunlight hits it. And it was really a beautiful way of actually lighting the Na’vi characters, because their blue skin took the screen in a very, very beautiful way.”
Cameron specifically pointed out the "much warmer, pink, orange, brown skin color" from Champion and having to blend that color with the scene and the other actors:
“Spider was a bit of a challenge, because he had a much warmer, pink, orange, brown skin color and he had to blend in and be a part of the scene with the others. And Russ… you sent me that picture a couple days ago of one of those early camera tests with that very strong cyan, blue-green LUT (Lookup Table) on it, which was… I mean, we just applied that throughout, all the way through.”
Spider's Extensive Work on Avatar Sequel
With Jack Champion playing one of the only human characters that spent this much time around the Na'vi in the Avatar movies, it only makes sense that Cameron needed to put in more work with his material than other heroes.
Growing into something of an adopted son of the Na'vi while also working with Stephen Lang's General Quaritch and his army, his appearance on screen had to work with a number of different humans and aliens, making it essential that Champion's appearance on screen work color-wise and visually.
Cameron is known for doing everything in his power to make the best movie he can make, especially from a visual perspective, although Champion certainly put his best effort into making sure Cameron had everything he needed from Spider.
Whether anybody will have to film their material twice for future sequels is unknown, although the dedication to push this franchise to new heights will unquestionably be there in years to come.
Avatar: The Way of Water is now playing in theaters worldwide.