With Avatar 2 finally out in the world one of the screenwriters on the film revealed what it was like to work with director James Cameron in the writer's room.
Avatar: The Way of Water was a monumental effort 13 years in the making. The wait turned out to be worth it after the Pandoran sequel collected nominations at almost every major awards show and climbed its way to the top of the box office once again.
Cameron, who has earned a bit of a reputation on set, also served as a screenwriter on Avatar 2. However, for the second movie, and its multiple sequels, Cameron enlisted a writer's room to help him plot out the story.
Avatar 2 Writers Had Arguments With James Cameron
Rick Jaffa, who served in the Avatar: The Way of Water writer's room along with his wife Amanda Silver, as well as Josh Friedman and Shane Salerno, recently detailed his experience working with James Cameron when he appeared as a guest on the Really? No, Really? podcast.
Jaffa admitted that the writers were "a little nervous and intimidated" by Cameron and his wealth of experience:
"We were all a little nervous and intimidated, I think. But the thing about Jim, in terms of the writer's room, is that you have to remember he's a writer also. I mean, you think of him as a director or just technological genius and this bigger-than-life character. But in a writer's room, he's just one of the writers. One of the guys, as it were."
Jaffa continued, saying that Cameron made an effort to make make the writers "really comfortable" so that they'd feel safe revealing "a lot of personal stories:"
"He wanted us all to be really comfortable, also. Because, I go back to the family saga of it all, you know, obviously Amanda and I have two kids, Josh [Friedman] has a son, Shane [Salerno] was the only one in the room without kids. But when we got into the room it required being open and telling a lot of personal stories, and opening up not just about our kids but, my relationship with my brother, you know who had passed away a year before we'd gotten into the room."
"I think Jim realized if we'd felt so intimidated, like, am I really going to talk about my brother? Am I really going to suggest this dynamic because it was the way it was for me growing up? Or things like that."
Addressing whether the writers experienced any of James Cameron's more notorious behaviors, Jaffa said they were "fortunate we never saw it:"
"So it felt like a very safe room. So we never saw any of those kinds of behavioral [issues]. I'm sure they're true, by the way. I'm sure they are, but we were fortunate we never saw it."
However, the writer did admit there were times they'd "start to argue" with Cameron:
"There did get a couple of times where we'd start to argue. There was one time he and I were arguing a story point and Shane at the end of the table, just leans down the table and says, 'Stay down Luke, stay down.'"
Jaffa explained that it was difficult to change Cameron's mind in an argument but that often they would "plant the seed" of an idea that the director would eventually accept:
"Usually you can't change his mind in the moment. A lot of times, though, the right idea finds its way and it will become his idea. But that's human nature though. That's a big part of our job, me and Amanda, is to a lot of times introduce things that then can become... planting the seed."
"It wasn't always apples to apples, sometimes you'd suggest something and it would become, you know, Jim's banana."
Avatar: The Way of the Writer's Room
Much has been said about James Cameron as a director. Avatar 2 actors like Sigourney Weaver and Zoe Saldaña have alluded to his tough love approach on-set and Cameron himself has even admitted he could be "less autocratic".
It's interesting then, to see how Cameron's style translates from the set to the writer's room. It seems that the filmmaker attempted to foster a safe environment for the other writers on Avatar 2 but it appears there was still a healthy level of debate.
While initially, it may seem like a narcissistic tendency for Cameron to take credit for the other writer's ideas, Jaffa admitted that it was part of their job to allow for that to happen and that oftentimes Cameron would build on these ideas to make them his own.
Cameron revealed earlier this year that both Avatar 4 and 5 scripts had been written, meaning the Avatar writer's room has likely all but wrapped up for now unless Disney should choose to greenlight any more sequels.
Avatar: The Way of Water is playing in cinemas now and is available for purchase on all major digital platforms.