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'Avatar' sequel was 3+ hours already, but here's why Cameron left 10 more minutes on cutting room floor

"I don’t know if I would want to fetishize the gun, like I did on a couple of Terminator movies 30+ years ago, in our current world."

By Josh Weiss
Avatar: The Way of Water (2022)

James Cameron, the undisputed king of sci-fi action cinema, has begun to rethink his stance on firearms, which have always been a staple of his films — from Kyle Reese gleefully pumping the T-800 full of shotgun pellets in The Terminator to the Colonial Marines mowing down the Xenomorph hive with their M41A Pulse Rifles in Aliens. During a recent conversation with Esquire Middle East, Cameron revealed that his desire for weapons depicted onscreen has considerably waned in the decades since those early movies. So much so, in fact, that he decided to remove 10 minutes of "gunplay" in Avatar: The Way of Water (now playing in theaters everywhere). 

"I wanted to get rid of some of the ugliness, to find a balance between light and dark," he explained. "You have to have conflict, of course. Violence and action are the same thing, depending on how you look at it. This is the dilemma of every action filmmaker, and I’m known as an action filmmaker."

Not surprisingly, Cameron's disdain for firearms is directly related to the seemingly endless parade of gun-related massacres, particularly those committed in the United States (the director now lives in New Zealand, which banned military-grade semi-automatic and assault rifles in 2019 following the worst mass shooting in the country's history).

"I look back on some films that I’ve made, and I don’t know if I would want to make that film now. I don’t know if I would want to fetishize the gun, like I did on a couple of Terminator movies 30+ years ago, in our current world," the filmmaker continued. "What’s happening with guns in our society turns my stomach."

A still from James Cameron's AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER.

Cameron's current views on weapons are far from the ones he held during the production of Aliens nearly 40 years ago when he playfully clashed with longtime collaborator, Sigourney Weaver, over the multitude of firearms and explosives in the 1986 classic.

"She's very liberal, politically, and despised the idea of any kind of guns and tried to talk me out of having them have weapons," he remarks on the DVD commentary. "And I said, 'No, they're Marines, they would have weapons.' And she said, 'Well, do I have to carry a weapon?' And I said, '...Yes.' She said, 'Why?' I said, 'Because it's not Sigourney Weaver in the film, it's Ripley — and Ripley wants to survive.' So I took her out shooting a Thompson machine gun out behind the studio. She fired off a 50-round magazine from the hip and then she looked up at me with this kind of sly grin and said, 'That's really fun.' I said, 'Another liberal bites the dust.'"

Avatar: The Way of Water is now playing in theaters everywhere. The film has officially hit $1 billion in worldwide ticket sales.

Looking for more blockbusters that will make your spirit soar? True Lies, Speed, Night at the Museum, and The Legend of Tarzan are all streaming on Peacock alongside plenty of other classics.