Avatar’s James Cameron Explains How Lord Of The Rings Influenced His Pitch For The Sequels

Avatar: The Way of Water and Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power
(Image credit: 20th Century Fox/Amazon)

Avatar’s lore is about to expand as James Cameron prepares to unleash Avatar: The Way of Water and Avatar 3 over the next few years. As any great filmmaker does, Cameron drew from multiple sources to craft the film series and its story. One source might be surprising to some but made sense given its success as an encompassing franchise. The Avatar director explained how Lord of the Rings influenced his pitch for the upcoming sequels.

Lord of the Rings’ still vital brand is something any film director would want to emulate. But the True Lies director was inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien’s book series and its revered lore rather than the hit films and television series. Using Tolkien’s beloved novels as the blueprint, Cameron opened up to Empire about how the books were the key to getting original studio 21st Century Fox on board for more tales from Pandora.

What I said to the Fox regime at the time was, ‘I’ll do it, but we’ve got to play a larger game here. I don’t want to just do a movie and do a movie and do a movie. I want to tell a bigger story.’ I said, ‘Imagine a series of novels like The Lord Of The Rings existed, and we’re adapting them.’ Now, that was great in theory, but then I had to go create the frickin’ novels from which to adapt it.

Looking at the Avatar sequels as novels rather than big-budget films sounded like a genius move from the prolific director. The Lord of the Rings book series was built over two decades as there were 17 years between The Hobbit and the first novel. So, it made sense given the time between the first film and the upcoming sequels. As the Terminator director explained, he had to create the source material compared to Peter Jackson’s LOTR films. Thinking of the films as “a bigger story” allowed the studio to invest more in the overall story rather than the huge budgets the sequels would require.

Despite selling Fox on the sequels, Cameron wasn’t always so confident in making the Avatar follow-ups after the first film’s record-breaking success. The Titanic director admitted he “had to think long and hard” about tapping into the world of Pandora once again. Doing so also came with a sense of pressure as he was following up on the billion-dollar success of the first Avatar film. But eventually, the Oscar winner let the pressure go and inked another deal.

Things worked out as Avatar: The Way of Water and the threequel is already in the can and ready for release. The Way of Water’s heroes and villains have already been confirmed along with other information related to the sequel. Despite his overall vision for the sci-fi franchise, Cameron is unsure if he will direct Avatar 4 and 5 as he floated another director taking over the final two films, citing he wanted to develop more projects. That doesn’t mean the filmmaker has given up on the franchise as he already defended The Way of Water’s long runtime. So the Oscar winner won’t be divesting from the upcoming sequels any time soon.

Avatar: The Way of Water will hit theaters on December 16 with Avatar 3 set to arrive in movie theaters on December 20, 2024. If you want to revisit the love story of Jake Scully and Neytiri, just watch Avatar on Disney+ before checking out other amazing movies on the streamer.

Adreon Patterson
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A boy from Greenwood, South Carolina. CinemaBlend Contributor. An animation enthusiast (anime, US and international films, television). Freelance writer, designer and artist. Lover of music (US and international).