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Avatar: James Cameron reveals Chris Evans and Channing Tatum were on the shortlist to play Jake Sully

By Josh Weiss
Sam Worthington Avatar

James Cameron's Avatar changed the game when it first hit theaters back in the winter of 2009. Not only did it become the highest-grossing movie of all time, it also made a genuine case for 3D and cemented Cameron as the king of cinematic technical innovations.

But what if the Terminator filmmaker had gone in a different direction in terms of his leading man? During a recent chat with Empire magazine, Cameron revealed that some of his other top choices for the role of Jake Sully (eventually played by Sam Worthington) were Chris Evans (Avengers: Infinity War) and Channing Tatum (Kingsman: The Golden Circle).

"Chris Evans, and Sam, and Channing Tatum. That was my choice," said the director. “I really liked Channing’s appeal. I liked Chris’ appeal. They were both great guys. But Sam had a quality of voice and a quality of intensity. Everybody did about the same on all the material through the script, except for the final speech where he stands up and says, ‘This is our land, ride now, go as fast as the wind can carry you.’ That whole thing. I would have followed him into battle. And I wouldn’t have followed the other guys. They’ve since gone on to fantastic careers and all that, but Sam was ready. He was ready.”

Since the release of Avatar, Worthington's career, which seemed on the up-and-up, has mellowed out, barring a few high-profile films here and there, including 2017's Hacksaw Ridge. Meanwhile, Evans and Tatum have become ubiquitous MCU mainstays, with Captain America and the Guardians of the Galaxy films, respectively. That being said, Worthington could be due for a resurgence with the four upcoming Avatar sequels, the first of which arrives next December. 

Speaking of which, Cameron also dished on some plot details for Avatar 2, which may be subtitled The Way of Water. It involves not a major sci-fi battle on Pandora, but a lovers' quarrel between Jake and his wife, Netyri (played by Zoe Saldana).

“There’s a three-page argument scene between Jake and Neytiri, a marital dispute, very, very critical to the storyline,” Cameron said. “I wound up shooting it all from the point of view of the 8-year-old hiding under the structure and peeking in... Having gone through the experience with [Sam Worthington] on Avatar, I now knew how to write the Jake character going forward across the emotional roller coaster of the next four movies. It’s been tough on him. He’s done two pictures back-to-back now, because we did 2 and together. He had to go to some dark places.”

Avatar 2 opens in theaters Dec. 18, 2020. The three sequels will follow in 2021, 2024, and 2025.