Director Cameron to shoot again
March 1998: Titanic wins 11 Oscars, including Camerons for best director. Cameron declares himself King of the World and divorces his 4th wife. (Kirk McKoy / LAT)
March 1999: Rumors that Cameron was going to work on the Planet of the Apes remake are proved wrong and the project is offered to Michael Bay instead, before the film ultimately is directed by Tim Burton.
August 1999: Filming begins on Camerons first project since Titanic, the sci-fi television series Dark Angel starring Jessica Alba.
October 2000: Dark Angel premiers and Cameron tells the media he is producing and co-writing two fictional films about Mars. One is a 3-D film for IMAX, the other a five-part mini-series that would air on Fox. (Greg Corp / Fox)
May 2001: Cameron gets another flurry of media attention when his production company Lightstorm Entertainment signs a five-year first-look deal with 20th Century Fox. Mentioned in the deal are plans to produce a 3-D Imax film about Mars (never happened) as well as Solaris, left, (did happen), Ramses of the Damned and a sequel to True Lies (never happened). (Bob Marshak / Twentieth Century Fox)
May 2002: Cameron declares he is ending his five-year hiatus from feature filmmaking and says he will make four films in the next five years.
April 2003: Titanic 3D: Ghosts of the Abyss, a documentary film about the wreckage of the Titanic, opens in theaters. (Walt Disney Pictures)
November 2004: While promoting another underwater 3-D documentary, Aliens of the Deep, Cameron tells reporters his next film will be a science fiction film called Battle Angel, and that he will start shooting in June of 05.
December 2004: Entertainment Weekly reports that Cameron will direct a film called The Dive. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images)
2005-06: Cameron plays himself on HBOs Entourage, where he casts the series star in a big screen version of Aquaman.
July 2006: The director tells the Hollywood Reporter he is targeting a summer 2008 release for his next project which he had referred to covertly as Project 880 but publicly acknowledges is Avatar, a film he started writing 11 years ago. It is about a paraplegic war veteran who is brought to another planet inhabited by a humanoid race at odds with Earths citizens. (Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images)
Nearly 10 years after James Cameron made “Titanic,” the record-breaking filmmaker said Monday that he’s finally ready to step behind the cameras again.
Cameron’s “Avatar,” a science-fiction adventure set 150 years in the future, will start production this spring, with a scheduled summer 2009 release by 20th Century Fox. For now, Cameron’s other contemplated feature, “Battle Angel,” is on hold.
Cameron actually outlined “Avatar” before he made “Titanic” but didn’t have the filmmaking tools to make it. “It was just too ambitious,” Cameron said. “But now the technology has caught up.”
After flip-flopping between “Avatar” and “Battle Angel,” Cameron said he decided to proceed with the former film after completing a five-day camera test a year ago. “I could vividly picture how we would shoot the film,” the writer-director said.
The movie, which combines live action and animation, will be made with some of the same performance-capture animation techniques used in movies such as “Monster House” and “The Polar Express.” Cameron says his process will offer numerous refinements, especially in its depiction of facial expressions and physical action. The movie will be filmed with digital cameras and shown in 3-D theaters.
“The fundamental difference between the way we’re doing [performance capture] and the way it’s been done is that it’s really director-centric now,” Cameron said. Rather than wait for months of post-production to see how a final shot turns out, Cameron will be able to see in nearly real time how an actor and the environment combine.
Since he made 1997’s “Titanic,” the highest-grossing movie in Hollywood history and the winner of the best picture Oscar, Cameron has made several documentaries. In both “Ghosts of the Abyss” and “Aliens of the Deep,” Cameron experimented with 3-D camera systems, new versions of which will be employed on “Avatar.”
Cameron said 95% of the film unfolds on Pandora, a moon of a giant gas planet. Pandora features a lush tropical forest rich in striking plant and animal species, and its inhabitants have been targeted for exploitation.
While much of the acting will be recorded in 31 days of performance-capture photography on a high-tech Playa Vista stage, “Avatar” also will feature live action, which will be cut together with the animation. “Ideally, the audience won’t know where one ends and the next starts,” Cameron said.
When Cameron made “Titanic,” he cast at its center two actors without much name recognition at the time: - Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. Both, of course, went on to be huge stars. For “Avatar,” Cameron has cast two more under-the-radar performers: 30-year-old Aussie actor Sam Worthington (“The Great Raid,” “Hart’s War”) will play the film’s hero, Jake, and 28-year-old Zoe Saldana (“Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” “Drumline”) his love interest.
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