It took 13 years but the first — of four, or maybe two — Avatar sequel is actually coming out in a few weeks. It looks like a good chunk of it is underwater, with actors actually holding their breath for Guinness-breaking amounts of time. It’s also really, really long — longer, even, than the 2009 original, which was pretty long, too. One exec thought it was too long, and he made the mistake of telling director James Cameron.
In a new interview with GQ (in a bit teased out by Variety), Cameron recalled the time he “said something I’ve never said to anybody else in the business.” What did he say? Well, said exec returned from a pre-release screening of the film with a “stricken cancer-diagnosis expression.” His beef was that 162 minutes was too long, arguing that it needed fewer minutes. But Cameron wasn’t budging.
”I think this movie is going to make all the f*cking money,” he recalls telling the unnamed exec. “And when it does, it’s going to be too late for you to love the film. The time for you to love the movie is today. So I’m not asking you to say something that you don’t feel, but just know that I will always know that no matter how complimentary you are about the movie in the future when it makes all the money.”
Cameron stressed that he really did say “all the money.” He then doubled down on his warning. “I said, ‘You can’t come back to me and compliment the film or chum along and say, ‘Look what we did together. You won’t be able to do that,’” he recalls. “At that point, that particular studio executive flipped out and went bug shit on me. And I told him to get the f*ck out of my office. And that’s where it was left.”
Maybe Avatar didn’t make all the money, but it remains, nearly 15 years later, the highest-grossing movie ever (not adjusted for inflation). That’s nothing to sneeze at. And now Cameron’s going Titanic-long with the belated sequel.