“Avatar” & “Avatar: The Way of Water” by James Horner, Simon Franglen

I don’t really have an awful lot to say about this blog post or its custom covers. And I also don’t feel like adding my opinion on the Avatar movies to the thousands of reviews and essays already out there. So instead I thought I’d just share some random trivia that I’ve picked up over the last few days while researching James Cameron and his filmography.

Welcome to watchmojo dot com, I’m heidl and here are ten incredible facts you didn’t know about director mastermind James Cameron.

(No.6 will make you cry!)

ALIEN$
This is a rather popular story, but you probably haven’t heard it before. It is said that in the pitch meeting for Aliens, James Cameron wordlessly entered the room, walked to a whiteboard on the wall and wrote the word ALIEN on it. He then turned to the producers behind him and added an S to the end of ALIEN, whereupon they looked at him in confusion. It wasn’t until he turned the S into a $ that they realized his thinkings and instantly greenlighted his film. Whether this story is true or not, it beautifully illustrates the capitalist nature of Hollywood and how James Cameron, as a creative, used its workings to his own benefit.

The original casting of The Terminator
Did you know that Arnold Schwarzenegger first auditioned for the role of Kyle Reese? It’s true, Cameron originally wanted O.J. Simpson to be the cyborg killer from the future. Yet he had second thoughts about the idea of a person of colour hunting down a white woman. Ultimately casting Arnold as the T-800 was certainly a fateful decision that significantly changed all of our futures.

The Papyrus font
Avatar producer Jon Landau said in a podcast interview I heard the other day that when they were making the first film, they just didn’t have enough time to think a lot about the font choice for the title logo, simply because they were so consumed with creating the magical world of Pandora. Classic marketing speak, sure, but at least I’ll buy his lack of attention as far as the font choice is concerned. According to him, they made up for this faux pas by designing a specially created logotype for the second film. Well, if he thinks so.

The Terminator fever dream
It is said that The Terminator is a brainchild of an ill and bedridden Cameron who was stuck in Rome where he worked on Piranha II: The Spawning for Italian producer Ovidio G. Assonitis. This production was such a mess that it exhausted Cameron to the point that he fell ill and had a dream about a metallic torso holding kitchen knives dragging itself from an explosion. This dream was the incentive to him to write a slasher film. Of course, it didn’t stop there; numerous writing sessions in California followed, as well as an appearance by Cameron’s friend Lance Henrikson, who, disguised as the Terminator, kicked in the door to the production office unannounced, thus convincing the producers of the idea behind the film.

The on-set drama on Aliens
Coming from a working-class family, James Cameron was never one to be above the dirty work. In fact, his philosophy was that if his hands weren’t dirty at the end of the day, he hadn’t been working. An attitude that carried over into his films, where he would get involved in every department. Whether it was drawing storyboards, lighting a set, or changing camera lenses. If he had been able to, he probably would have stood at the grill during the lunch break and prepared meatballs. When he worked on Aliens in the United Kingdom, however, this work ethic wasn’t well received at all; the British saw it much more as an insult on Cameron’s part that he didn’t appreciate their work and interfered everywhere. One day during one of his very disapproved tea breaks, Cameron changed a lighting setup on set. As a result, an argument escalated between him and his cameraman and assistant director, leaving producer Gale Ann Hurd no choice but to fire both men. Eventually, Sigourney Weaver, who was respected by everyone, had to intervene in order to bring the production to a successful end.

The Abuse
Before Avatar: The Way of Water, there was another film in Cameron’s career that was shot largely underwater: The Abyss. This ill-fated production, which took place in a decommissioned nuclear power plant in California, demanded so much of its cast and crew that they ended up just referring to the film as The Abuse. Among the numerous incidents on set were accidental electrocutions in the water tank, collapsed roofs, numerous fights and mental breakdowns. The never-ending night shoots took their toll on the cast and crew, leaving them with skin irritation and bleached hair due to constant exposure to chlorine. On top of that, director Cameron and his producer and still-wife Gale Ann Hurd had an ugly divorce going on, which didn’t necessarily help to lighten the mood on set. Moreover, Cameron himself almost drowned during the production, so it’s quite surprising that he even dared to return to filming undwater at all.

Arnie in Titanic
NO, this is not meant to be a nod to this outrageously funny YouTube clip by Deepfaker Brian Monarch. But in fact, at the world premiere of Titanic, Arnold Schwarzenegger was asked if he might have a cameo appearance in the film, to which the Styrian said in his very own dialect, “Aye plaid de icebearg.”

Roping in Sigourney Weaver to star in Aliens
Cameron really wanted to work with Sigourney Weaver and even Sigourney was excited about working with him, but her agents demanded a staggering amount of money for her involvement. So Cameron called Arnold Schwarzenegger’s agent and told him that he already had a great idea for a new script without the Ellen Ripley character and he was basically already writing it. Cameron knew that Arnold was under contract with the same agency as Sigourney and as soon as he hung up the phone, his word would immediately reach Sigourney. Less than twelve hours later, Sigourney Weaver had signed on for the film.

James Cameron’s way with sequels
He is one of the few directors who can pull off sequels that elevate their predecessor films, with plot points that put the originals under new light and raise intriguing questions. In Aliens, he focuses on motherhood, bringing new depth to both Ellen Ripley and the Xeno Queen, as both are basically just trying to protect their own offspring from the other. Or in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, in which Linda Hamilton plays a broken Sarah Connor, who over the course of the film takes it upon herself to change the future by killing the man behind Cyberdyne Systems. She effectively becomes the Terminator while the T-800, embodied by Arnold, gradually adopts human behaviour and thus turning the roles of the first film upside down. In Avatar: The Way of Water however…

Self-references in Avatar: The Way of Water
Quite strikingly, in his latest film James Cameron has included quite a lot of references to some of his earlier works. For example: flying fishes just like the creatures from Piranha II: The Spawning; the graceful movements of the long-legged Na’vi (especially during the finale), which strike a bearing resemblence to the Xeno Queen from Aliens; the dramatic sinking of a ship which seemingly features some shots taken directly out of Titanic; using a foster child as a crucial plot device, also like in Aliens; the whole plot to be honest, which is basically a rehash of the first Avatar ;)

11 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    Nice works. 🙂

    Though can you make the title color of #10 custom cover closer to how it was in the poster? Like here:

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well spotted! I have deliberately changed the logo, because it has a completely different color temperature than the image motif and it doesn’t match at all.

      Still, here’s your requested edit:

      Avatar: The Way of Water (Alt Colours)

      Like

      1. Anonymous

        Thanks! 😁

        Like

  2. Anonymous

    Oh, and on a side note, did you change the title color of #3 custom cover as well? Or was there a precedent for that in one of the film’s official posters? If you DID change it, do you think you can create a version that has an original title color? Though you don’t have to do that if you don’t want to. 😉

    Like

  3. Anonymous

    Also, did you change the title color for #3 custom cover as well? Or was a title with that kind of color existed in one of the posters? If it’s the former, do you think you can create the version of #3 custom cover with the original title color? Though you don’t have to do this one. 😉

    And man, I still wish that there was ‘Pacific Rim’ soundtrack cover based on this poster:

    I guess you can’t have everything in life, though. 😦

    Like

    1. Except for a few contrast adjustments, I didn’t change anything in that logo.

      Like

      1. Anonymous

        So definitely a lot less change than what you did with ‘The Way of Water’, is that correct?

        Like

  4. caikelm

    Any chance you could make alternate versions of the first movie covers with the new logo? Just to keep it consistent with the second and the upcoming ones :p
    They all look amazing as always!

    Like

    1. Don’t tell me you don’t like Papyrus!? :D

      I’ll see if I come around to it. I’ll update this comment then.

      Like

      1. Anonymous

        Are you thinking about making the title color white like it was it was in the re-release poster? 😉

        Like

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