James Cameron Took His Avatar 2 Cast To The Rainforest To Train

If you've ever wondered how the performers in James Cameron's "Avatar" sequels might prepare for their unusual roles as Na'vi, we have the answer. In an interview with fellow director Denis Villeneuve ("Dune") for Variety, Cameron explained that he decided to give his performers some very hands-on homework. In order to fully understand their roles and the world they would be bringing to life, the "Titanic" director took them out into the jungle for a little off-the-grid Na'vi boot camp.

Camping Out in the Rainforest

One of the biggest challenges facing anyone performing in an "Avatar" movie is that they're going to be doing a lot of acting in sound stages with blue and green screens. Many of them will also be covered in motion capture equipment, adding another silly layer of the real world they have to ignore while trying to emote. In the interview, Villeneuve asked Cameron how he inspired his performers to understand the worlds they're inhabiting without ever seeing them. Cameron explained that he took the actors out into the rainforests of Hawaii to get some real experience engaging with the environment: 

"I took the actors on what I called a sense-memory odyssey. We went to Kauai. We lived in the rainforest for a few days. We cooked in underground fire pits. We drank water from the leaves. I said, 'All right, we're going to walk up a trail and I want you to observe as much as you can about how you place your feet, how you place your hands when you go up a steep section. You're going to have to remember it, what it felt like, what it smelled like, and you're going to have to bring it back into a relatively sterile environment.' We all just embarked on that journey."

In order to help the actors get into the right mindset to play characters living in a tropical forest, he gave them that experience, even if it was only for a few days. That way, when they returned to the studio to work in a much less imagination-conducive environment, they had the memories to draw from. 

Returning to Pandora

It's been awhile since anyone has seen Pandora, the fictional planet of "Avatar." The first film came out in 2009, but Cameron plans to return for three more installments in 2022, 2024, and 2026, assuming those release dates hold and we're not all dead by then. We already knew that the cast was going through some intense training for "Avatar 2," including learning how to hold their breath underwater for minutes at a time, so camping out in the Hawaiian wilderness for a few days sounds kind of relaxing by comparison.

While we won't know if the actors really took those lessons to heart or not until 2022, fans who want to revisit Pandora ahead of time can check it out streaming on Disney+.