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For over a decade, James Cameron has been hard at work on his four Avatar sequels. Years of progress ground to a screeching halt when the coronavirus pandemic reared its ugly head and shut down film and television productions across the globe in March. Most of them still remain in stasis, even as some countries like New Zealand and the Czech Republic say that that they are ready to welcome film crews back into their borders with the caveat of following stringent health guidelines.
Speaking with Empire for the magazine's upcoming "Celebration of Cinema" issue, Cameron offered an update on how the pandemic has affected the Avatar films, which were ready to start shooting some live-action components in New Zealand before the health crisis took hold.
“It's putting a major crimp in our stride here,” he said. “I want to get back to work on Avatar, which right now, we're not allowed to do under state emergency laws or rules. So it's all on hold right now ... We're trying to get back to it as quick as we can."
With that said, the celebrated filmmaker is optimistic that the major delay/slowdown will not affect the Dec. 17, 2021 theatrical release for Avatar 2 (co-written with Snowpiercer TV creator Josh Friedman).
"On the bright side, New Zealand seems to have been very effective in controlling the virus and their goal is not mitigation, but eradication, which they believe that they can do with aggressive contact tracing and testing,” Cameron continued. “So there's a very good chance that our shoot might be delayed a couple of months, but we can still do it. So that's good news.”
Production isn't just limited to the first follow-up movie. Last December, it was reported that the fourth installment had a finished script and was already in the motion capture stage. As such, it stands to reason that the virus shutdown is heavily affecting the steady progression of all four sequels, which have been confirmed to explore different areas and tribes on the planet Pandora.
“We've got everybody – everybody at Weta Digital and Lightstorm – working from home to the extent that that is possible,” Cameron finished. “But my work is on the stage doing the virtual cameras and so on, so I can do a bit of editing, but it's not great for me.”
Avatars 3-5 are scheduled to hit theaters in 2023, 2025, and 2027 respectively.
Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, CCH Pounder, and Giovanni Ribisi are all returning to play their characters from the first movie. The franchise will get an extra boost of talent from fresh characters played by Kate Winslet, David Thewlist, Cliff Curtis, Edie Falco, Jemaine Clement, Michelle Yeoh, Oona Chaplin, and possibly Vin Diesel.