James Cameron Found An Unorthodox Way To Inspire His Avatar Stars

"Avatar" was a groundbreaking film when it came out in 2009. Director James Cameron didn't just create the landscape of Pandora and a new group of aliens called the Na'vi — he crafted a whole new world, using advances in CGI and 3D to bring that world to life. Whatever you thought of the story, you could lose yourself in Pandora, with these Na'vi who felt real, and solid, with a rich environment around them; you felt like you were there with them on that moon.

Part of what made Pandora feel so complete was the technology used to make "Avatar" — a whole lot of which Cameron created or worked on. Another part was how he dealt with his actors, helping them exist authentically in the world he created. At an event before the opening of the first film (via Gamesradar), star Sam Worthington spoke about Cameron's interesting ways of inspiring his cast. When they were shooting, a scene came up where a tree explodes, and Worthington laughed about the process, saying, "He'll throw bits of foam at you. If a tree explodes, instead of me going 'oooeeer,' you think what happens when a tree explodes." He said:

"There's a shockwave and the tree explodes, so we can't blow up a tree inside the volume, it's dangerous. But you'll have buckets of foam and a group of us on the sidelines and on action they'd throw all the foam at me. And I'm going to react truthfully. It's all about trying to get these absolute truths in an imaginary circumstance."

'Absolute truths in an imaginary circumstance'

He didn't just throw foam, though. Worthington said that when Cameron thought it wasn't working, he would tell them he'd "throw debris at you and ... hit you with a big rubber stick." One could argue that you are no longer acting if you're actually being hit by a stick, but whatever works. 

He continued, mentioning the new tech at the time that allowed you to see the virtual world during playback. That's something we take for granted now in films, but in 2009, no one had done it before. Worthington said, "So as you run past him, he'd belt you with a stick and I'll go flying across the room, but when you watch it back and there's an explosion and my blue alien goes flying, it looks like we've been blown up on a real set."

The tech for "Avatar" was groundbreaking back then, and we're really close to seeing what's next with the upcoming sequel "Avatar: The Way of Water." Here is the synopsis:

Set more than a decade after the events of the first film, "Avatar: The Way of Water" begins to tell the story of the Sully family (Jake, Neytiri, and their kids), the trouble that follows them, the lengths they go to keep each other safe, the battles they fight to stay alive, and the tragedies they endure. Directed by James Cameron and produced by Cameron and Jon Landau, the film stars Zoe Saldana, Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Cliff Curtis, Joel David Moore, CCH Pounder, Edie Falco, Jemaine Clement and Kate Winslet.

"Avatar: The Way of Water" will hit theaters on December 16, 2022.