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James Cameron is doing the press rounds this week to begin promoting the theatrical re-release of Avatar, which on August 27th will come complete with nine minutes of new footage. (Not eight, as previously reported.) In conversations with a couple of news outlets, Cameron talks about what’s in that footage, and gives some spare details about his plans for Avatar sequels and the novelization of the first film, which Cameron is writing.

MTV and MarketSaw both have phone interviews with the director.

I’m going to break down some of Cameron’s comments by bullet points, because there’s a lot of stuff out there.

On producing At the Mountains of Madness for Guillermo del Toro:

Cameron and del Toro have been friends for a while, and Cameron asked if GdT was still thinking of doing Mountains. When del Toro displayed enthusiasm for the project, Cameron asked, “why don’t we make it? That conversation led to…let’s go talk to Universal. So we went over there, pitched it with me producing on a fast track, so hopefully we’ll be going second quarter next year. And in 3D!”

(Guillermo del Toro has previously said he hoped to be shooting by May. 2011.)

On Avatar 2 and 3:

There are ideas and notes for the script, but that’s all so far. Cameron told MarketSaw;

I have an overall narrative arc for 2 and 3, and there are some modifications to that based on my experiences in the last few months from having gone down to the Amazon and actually hung out with various indigenous groups who are actually living this type of story for real…but it’s not changing the overall pattern. I haven’t gotten the script done yet; that’s going to be a ways out.

To MTV, Cameron said he was waiting on getting the deals for Avatar 2 worked out, and that once all the proper deals were in place he would write the film.

On the novelization of Avatar, which will likely be released late this year or in early 2011:

Cameron told Marketsaw, “right now I’m focusing on the novel, and that’s going to take me the next couple months. The novel that corresponds with the first film.”

To MTV, he said:

I never had a chance to get the novel done while we were making the movie, and I always intended to. I didn’t want to do a cheesy novelization where some hack comes in and makes shit up. I wanted to do something that was kind of a legitimate novel that was inside the characters’ heads. Ideally that becomes a bible for any other writers that want to come along and riff off with other Avatar-based stories. I don’t mind opening up the universe; I just don’t want that to happen until I’ve got more meat on the bones.

So the novel sounds like something that’s half ancillary vanity project, and half shrewd marketing prep. Will Avatar spawn the legions of spin-off stories that Star Wars has? Probably not, (Star Wars has a serious head start) but not for lack of hope on Fox and perhaps Cameron’s part. (My favorite part about the novelization talk, however, is the total disinterest in Jim Dorey’s voice when the subject comes up in the MarketSaw interview.)

Finally, Cameron told MarketSaw what to expect in the new footage that is part of the Avatar re-release:

It’s actually nine! [Extra minutes.] I added some since that press release. It’s all CG. None of it is kinda boring shots of people sitting around in offices at the base, drinking coffee. It’s all out in the rainforest, some of it is at night. There is a big hunt sequence that’s got a lot of flying, a lot of banshee stuff, riding direhorses, very high-energy, high-impact action. There’s a very powerful emotional scene towards the end that has been added back.

There’s some stuff where the Na’vi sort of counterattack after the bulldozers destroy the willowblade, that’s a night attack scene. And the aftermath of that, how the humans react to that and the steps leading to the war. There’s some stuff with Grace in the school in the jungle, there’s a creature called a stingbat which is brought back in [that one was in the video game] as well as the sternbeast, which is the animal that they hunt. We see hundreds of those…There are some little bits that have been put back into the end battle. Little action beats, and a little bit added to the love scene, and some other night stuff. It’s all top-quality stuff, it’s all on par with the rest of the film.

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