Avatar World Premiere Report
Weaver and Cameron on the blue carpet
Let it be said that James Cameron, self-proclaimed King of the World (and now, of Pandora) cannot be captured on film. Well, either that, or Empire’s phone camera is terrible, or the guest attempting to use it on our behalf committed some terrible fail, because there we were, readers, on the big, blue carpet at the world premiere of Avatar at London's Odeon Leicester Square, with James Cameron’s hand on our shoulders, being snapped for posterity and/or the newsletter and – nothing. No pic. We vote witchcraft. And an upgrade as soon as possible.
Phone fails aside, all was on spectacular form tonight for what is arguably the most-anticipated film of the year (and rightly so - see our review). James Cameron’s return to the blockbuster, the sci-fi epic set on the world of Pandora with the Na’vi race, was feted with Avatar posters sprawling all round the square surrounded by that vast Na’vi-blue carpet, with James Horner’s score blaring out from every speaker.
Horner himself, resplendent of earring, said his and Cameron's "symbiotic" relationship, honed on 1997's Titanic helped work on Avatar: “It was the longest project I’ve ever been on, so he and I have developed a really tight working relationship. I was astounded, and that was just raw footage. When we started seeing finished effects I think we were all startled by just what was coming in. It caused Jim to even re-edit the film in places because the effects were just so stunning, beyond his expectations.”
These effects are perfectly showcased by Star Trek maven Zoe Saldana, who was glowing about both her role as Na’vi Neytiri, and the amount of detail that went into bringing her character to life: “Every avatar, Na’vi, their skin texture is the texture of the actor that did that character. I couldn’t believe it when I saw my scars and everything, I was like ‘Oh my God’!”
Steven Lang – aka Col. Quaritch – said his character’s moodier traits were nearly too convincing for Cameron, but that while that was acting, his impressive muscles had nothing to do with CG: “Cameron said to me: ‘You know, Slang, you get into this role way too easily!’. I trained for sure. I can say there’s a lot of computer enhancement on this film, but not on me! I swear to God, it’s all me."
Laz Alonso, who plays Na’vi prince Tsu’tey was more impressed with the movie than how he ended up looking, as one of the cast's 100% blued-up members: “I just saw the film last Friday and one thing that surprised me is that 20 minutes into the film you’re not watching blue people, you’re watching people, a struggle, emotion and you’re connecting with it. You get so immersed in the story that the humans start looking like the aliens, not the blue people.”
And Joel David Moore, aka anthropologist Norm Spellman, said turning blue was a blast: “We had to do a lot of it in a motion caption suit which is basically a wetsuit type of thing with a bunch of balls all around and a helmet and we would kind of look like drunk bicyclists, or triathletes maybe. But it was such an adventure the whole time. It really lets you get back to the acting. You don’t have to worry if your lighting’s right or if they can see the zit. Having James Cameron as the captain of your ship, you just sit back and relax because you know things are going to go well.”
Jim Cameron’s leading lady through the last 25 years, Sigourney Weaver, taking a slight back seat to Saldana’s lead here as Dr Grace Augustine, said that the 3D was just a part of Avatar’s larger picture.
“Jim kept saying to us there are a lot of special effects, it’s a big movie but it’s all about the characters. It’s all about the emotional story so we never felt overwhelmed.”
And partly helped by Grace’s funny lines, too. Delicately alluding to her director’s infamous temper, Weaver said: “Jim is actually a very witty guy and sometimes you don’t see that in these pressured situations, but Grace is very funny in a very dry way and she’s got a lot of conflicted feelings in what she does and what she’s working for so I think it was great. Also with Sam (Worthington), he’s very funny and their relationship just popped with all this banter.”
And what of James Cameron? Well, the King of the World is keen to push ever upwards. “Every film is a snap shot of its time and what I can say is every film we made we’re pushing the envelope in its time. I hope that’s still true 20 years from now.”
As for jumping back into the pit of movie critics after so long away from the big screen, he said: “It’s interesting to see someone coherently express what they thought about their movie. It can be sometimes a frustrating process where you say, ‘What? You got that from it? What are you smoking?!’”
You can read exactly what Empire was smoking and what star rating and review resulted from that in our Avatar review here. For now, this is us signing off from Pandora’s own avatar at the Odeon Leicester Square.
Avatar is out on 17 December.