Avatar 2 Star Explains The Complicated Way James Cameron’s Sequel Is Filming

David Thewlis as Lupin in Harry Potter

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James Cameon's Avatar was a massive hit when it arrived in theaters in 2009. The visionary filmmaker proved what was possible with visual effects and motion capture, with the blockbuster becoming the highest grossing movie in film history in the process. Cameron has a five-film vision for the sci-fi franchise, and was in the midst of finally filming Avatar 2 when sets across the world were shut down over global health concerns. Harry Potter alum David Thewlis is playing a new Na'vi character in the sequel, and recently spoke to the complicated process of filming the movie.

Avatar 2 will follow up on Sully and Neytiri, who reportedly have a family of their own on Pandora. In addition to the returning faces, James Cameron is welcoming a slew of new characters to the long-awaited sequel. David Thewlis is playing a new member of the Na'vi, and it sounds like his genre work didn't quite prepare him for working on motion capture. He recently opened up about his upcoming role in Avatar 2, saying:

I’ve got no idea what my scenes will be like because there are about 16 guys in the room with video cameras but they’re just shooting reference shots for Jim [Cameron] to look at later. What those guys are shooting will never be on the screen, what’s being shot is obviously on these sensors. There are about 200 around the room, doing their thing. I am a Na’vi, I’m a blue thing in it – which I didn’t quite understand when I went to meet [Cameron]. I was quite surprised when I got offered that. I’m fascinated to see how I’m going to look, because they sort of make them look a bit like oneself. It’s fantastic!

The Avatar franchise has proven its ability to transport audiences into a colorful new world, but it takes an extra level of imagination for those actually working on the movies. Mostly because so much visual effects and motion capture is necessary to properly translate the expression of Na'vi characters like Neytiri. Because it sounds like filming the movies is a pretty wild experience.

David Thewlis' comments to Total Film help to peel back the curtain on production for Avatar 2. The movie was in full swing filming in New Zealand before the set was shut down, with Thewlis one of the many actors who is transforming into a Na'vi through the magic of visual effects. This process requires some snazzy mo-cap pajamas, a ton of cameras, and those famous little dots on actor's faces. All of this is used to bring their performance to the alien creatures

Avatar fans can re-watch James Cameron's original movie on Disney+. You can use this link for a free 7-day trial to the streaming service.

David Thewlis has worked with some high concepts before, especially in the Harry Potter franchise. Thewlis played Remus Lupin, a wizard who would also transform into a werewolf. Lupin also engaged in countless wizard duels, so the actor has had to use his imagination in order to properly tell J.K. Rowling's story. It'll be interesting to see how those skills come into play with Avatar 2, which is admittedly more complicated to film.

James Cameron has been keeping his plans for Avatar 2 under wraps, although we've seen a few photos from the set, including those featuring Sigourney Weaver and Kate Winslet. The movie has been a long way coming, although fans have been able to return to Pandora through Disney parks. Hopefully the sequel will meet its release date, especially as Cameron prepares to continue filming in New Zealand.

Avatar 2 is currently set to arrive in theaters on December 17th, 2021. In the meantime, check out our 2020 release list to plan your next trip to the movies.

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Graduated with degrees theater and literature from Ramapo College of New Jersey. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his favorite actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid. He's particularly proud of covering horror franchises like Scream and Halloween, as well as movie musicals like West Side Story. Favorite interviews include Steven Spielberg, Spike Lee, Jamie Lee Curtis, and more.