Wellington Scoop

Avatar sequels will spend $US400million in New Zealand – NY Times

The New York Times reported yesterday that James Cameron is likely to spend an estimated $US400million filming much of the live action for his three new Avatar films in New Zealand. The spend is likely to be centred on Peter Jackson’s state of the art facilities in Miramar.

An article by Michael Cieply also reports that scripts for the three sequels “will soon pop to the surface, probably within weeks.”

Impatience has sometimes been noticeable at 20th Century Fox [which released “Avatar” to about $US2.8billion in worldwide ticket sales almost five years ago.] During a conference call in early 2010, Rupert Murdoch, whose media conglomerate owns 20th Century Fox, warned eager investors not to expect a promised follow-up from Mr. Cameron anytime soon. “Being Jim Cameron, I wouldn’t hold your breath for an early one,” Mr. Murdoch said. At Lionsgate and its Summit unit, in fact, five “Twilight” films came and went in less time than it has taken Mr. Cameron to create a sequel to his interplanetary blockbuster about lovers reaching across the universe to save life, limb and an endangered world. Asked about the slow pacing, Jon Landau [Mr Cameron’s business partner] said it had been born of the same methodical preparedness ethic that guides Mr. Cameron’s deep-sea explorations. “He tries to do things as safely as possible,” Mr. Landau said. Fox executives at one point believed they might shoot an “Avatar” sequel in 2011, for release this year.

The New York Times also reports on James Cameron’s ultra-deep sea dives, and his activities in the Wairarapa.

There were also extensive land purchases in New Zealand, where Mr. Cameron’s interests include a hemp farm and a search for alternatives to methane-generating sheep herds, as well as a largely concluded battle to defeat a half-dozen legal challenges to his authorship of “Avatar.” Then came his own belief that he needed not one but three films, to be shot simultaneously, along with a growing round of related enterprises, in which Fox participates, to realize his vision.

And there are also details about the prolonged writing process.

The first sequel, Mr. Landau confirmed, will be written by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, a husband-and-wife team known for their work on “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” The second, he said, will come from Josh Friedman, who worked with Lightstorm on the television series “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.” The third is being written by Shane Salerno, who also worked previously with Mr. Cameron, and who was already blocking out his “Avatar” script while promoting the release of his documentary “Salinger” last year. Those writers, said Mr. Landau, did much of their brainstorming last year with both Mr. Cameron and Mr. Gould in a room at the MBS Media Campus, a Manhattan Beach, Calif., studio where Mr. Cameron expects to shoot effects sequences, while filming much of the live action — and spending an estimated $400 million — in New Zealand. Technologically, said Mr. Landau, the new films will step beyond the first, though he stopped short of promising radical changes to the 3-D and performance-capture techniques that gave a startlingly immersive feel to those who viewed “Avatar.”