During the production of Avatar: The Way of Water, director James Cameron allowed one actor, in particular, to take a shot at his job.
Cameron set a new standard as a filmmaker in Hollywood, becoming the only director to lead two movies that grossed more than $2 billion at the global box office, including Avatar 2. He galvanized his troops together to make a film that earned impressive reviews across the board, particularly thanks to performances from stars like Zoe Saldaña, Stephen Lang, and Sigourney Weaver.
Weaver specifically faced some new challenges, providing the voice and motion capture for the young Na'vi Kiri, Jake Sully and Neytiri's adopted daughter and one of the emotional cores of the story.
But now, Cameron revealed that Weaver provided more than just her acting talents to her role in Avatar 2.
James Cameron Gave Directing Duties to Sigourney Weaver
Speaking at a Q&A session with producers and stars from Avatar: The Way of Water, director James Cameron revealed that he let Kiri/Grace Augustine star Sigourney Weaver direct key scenes involving her character. The Q&A session was shared by YouTube user Vicky Marx.
Cameron looked back to the days when both Weaver and her double, Alicia Vela-Bailey, had to work together to play Kiri as Weaver "quickly (switched) back and forth" between playing Grace and her new Na'vi hero. Vela-Bailey was in charge of doing all of the physical work for Weaver as the young star brought the feeling of a teenager to Kiri:
“I think about the day where [Kiri] was in the spirit world, and she was meeting her mother, and [Sigourney Weaver] was going to have to quickly switch back and forth between Grace, who’s… She’s a very competent, scientific person, but also quite loving. And then switched to the the daughter, who just needed some emotional support and playing the scene to herself. So, we had a very trusted double, Alicia Vela-Bailey, that Sigourney worked with. We did an interesting thing, which was… Alicia would do some of the things that Sig couldn’t physically do, like leap up onto the tank like a… 15 year old, happy, gazelle girl."
With that work, Cameron entrusted Weaver to direct that material with herself and her young double, telling them to "go off and create a relationship of trust" as he had the long-time action star work on her role in a more hands-on fashion. He even noted that Weaver "did about 90% of her own stuff," praising the work she put in with her double to bring Kiri to life:
"And I said, ‘Okay, I don’t want to direct Alicia, I want you, [Sigourney], to direct Alicia.’ I wanted you guys to sort of go off and create a relationship of trust, where the things you couldn’t physically do, you could tell Alicia how to do it for you. That was my memory of it and so I basically said, ‘Okay, that director role, I assign to you,’ so that Alicia would do, how you saw Kiri, acting, and moving, and so on. And Sigourney did about 90% of her own stuff, including everything underwater and all that sort of thing. But there are a few things."
Weaver then spoke about the process herself, heaping praise upon Vela-Bailey for being "such a brilliant movement person" and remembering how much she enjoyed building bonds with her as actors:
"It was wonderful to reach out to Alicia, who’s such a brilliant movement person. And just… [to] talk to her about her 14 year old, and just how you move, and how you feel, and what you’re covering, and what you’re hiding. And so it was really… it was, it was like a sisterhood for us to do it that way."
She also looked back to her first time seeing their combined work in the movie, sharing her amazement at realizing how good their scene turned out when "Kiri sees Grace and they have that embrace" with one another:
"That scene, when I saw it in the movie I couldn’t believe it, the scene where Kiri sees Grace and they have that embrace. I know when we shot it, it was sort of disjointed and I couldn’t really imagine. It was like a vision. I couldn’t really imagine what it would be like to see it. And I think it was very nice."
Weaver Boasts Directing Chops for Avatar 2 Work
Although Sigourney Weaver has never officially directed a movie or TV show, her 50 years of Hollywood experience have given her more than enough insight into how to bring a character to life. And with Cameron and Weaver having vouched for one another so passionately after their work together on the original Avatar, it's no surprise to see that the director trusted her so deeply with her new role.
Allowing Weaver and Vela-Bailey to basically do their own thing with Kiri worked like a charm, as the newcomer became one of the highlights of Avatar 2 amongst fans and critics.
Where Kiri goes in Avatar 3 is still largely a mystery, although the story is confirmed to feature her adoptive brother, Lo'ak, as the narrator in a change of pace from Jake Sully.
Should Sigourney Weaver return to play one or both of her roles, this experience will only push her forward to new heights as James Cameron and his team look to push the Pandoran adventure to new heights.
Avatar: The Way of Water is still playing in theaters worldwide.