It has already been confirmed that stars of James Cameron’s original Avatar, Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana and Stephen Lang, will be returning for the sequels, but today comes some strange news indeed.
Cameron and 20th Century Fox have confirmed that Sigourney Weaver, who played scientist Grace Augustine in the first film, will be back. Now, before you start asking “eh? didn’t she die in the first film?” let me explain. Weaver will indeed be back, but while it has already been confirmed that Stephen Lang will return as Colonel Quaritch (who also died in the first film), Weaver is back to play a different role altogether.
“Sigourney and I have a long creative history, dating back to 1985 when we made Aliens. We’re good friends who’ve always worked well together, so it just feels right that she’s coming back for the Avatar sequels. Her character of Grace Augustine, as fans know, died in the first movie, so she’s playing a different and in many ways more challenging character in the upcoming films. We’re both looking forward to this new creative challenge, the latest chapter in our long and continuing collaboration.”
Here’s what we know about the three Avatar sequels so far:
At a press conference last year in Wellington, N.Z., with the New Zealand’s prime minister John Key, James Cameron announced that he will make all three Avatar sequels for 20th Century Fox, in New Zealand.
The announcement also confirmed that the films were expected to have cinema releases in December 2016, December 2017 and December 2018.
Variety reports that the three films will spend at least $412 million (500 million in New Zealand dollars) in that nation as a condition of an agreement between Fox, Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment and the government of New Zealand. In return, the films will receive a film industry tax rebate of 25% — a figure which was recently increased from 15%.
“The ‘Avatar’ sequels will provide hundreds of jobs and thousands of hours of work directly in the screen sector as well as jobs right across the economy,” Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said in a statement.
“Avatar” producer Jon Landau and Paul Hanneman, Fox’s co-presidents of worldwide theatrical marketing and distribution, were also on hand for the announcement. “New Zealand offers unparalleled support to films of this scale,” Hanneman said.
Cameron also said at the press conference that filming on all three sequels should last for a period of about nine months. He also said that the budget for all three sequels put together should come in under $1 billion, and considering the first Avatar film cost $500 million, this will be quite an achievement.
The first Avatar film achieved a worldwide box office phenomenon of $2.78 billion, making it the biggest film in history.
Peter Jackson shot his Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films in New Zealand, and his own Weta company are already working on the Avatar sequels.
The deal for the three films receiving the 25% rebate was outlined in a memorandum of understanding between the New Zealand government, Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. It specified that at least $412 million would be spent on production in New Zealand, including most live action filming and visual effects.
The memorandum of understanding also spells out that 90% of live action crew are expected to be New Zealanders; an internship program will be supported; New Zealand will host at least one official red carpet premiere; and a featurette on New Zealand will be included in DVDs and Blu Rays.
The memorandum also states that Cameron and Landau have offered to serve as founding members of a new screen advisory board to provide advice and guidance to New Zealand filmmakers looking to succeed internationally.
The three pictures will be filmed simultaneously with production beginning next year. The release of the first sequel will be in December 2016, with the second to follow in December 2017, and the third a year later. AVATAR 2, 3, and 4 will be produced by Cameron and Jon Landau through their Lightstorm Entertainment banner. Like the original film, Lightstorm will work with Joe Letteri and his team at WETA Digital to realize the worlds of the sequels.
Commented Cameron: “Building upon the world we created with AVATAR has been a rare and incredibly rewarding experience. In writing the new films, I’ve come to realize that AVATAR’s world, story and characters have become even richer than I anticipated, and it became apparent that two films would not be enough to capture everything I wanted to put on screen. And to help me continue to expand this universe, I’m pleased to bring aboard Amanda, Rick, Shane and Josh — all writers I’ve long admired - to join me in completing the films screenplays.”
Commented 20th Century Fox chairman and CEO, Jim Gianopulos: “We at the studio have no higher priority, and can feel no greater joy, than enabling Jim to continue and expand his vision of the world of AVATAR. The growing breadth and scale of Jim Cameron’s plans for his magnificent fantasy worlds continue to amaze us all.”