Avatar: The Way of Water’s James Cameron Explains the Intricate Thought Process Behind Making the Sequel

Speaking at the press conference for Avatar: The Way of Water, director James Cameron revealed what inspired him to make the sequels.

In just a few days, Disney and 20th Century Studios will finally be ready to show the world the highly-anticipated Avatar: The Way of Water. The film, co-written and directed by James Cameron, has literally been a decade in the making — it is a sequel to the highest-grossing movie of all time, 2009’s Avatar (which was also nominated for Best Picture), though planning the sequels wouldn’t begin until 2012. In 2013, he put together a writers’ room and decided to shift from two sequels to four (and two more could be in the pipeline if things go well too).

During the press conference for Avatar: The Way of Water, which The Illuminerdi attended, the director weighed in on the early stages of the process. For him, moving forward with another Pandora-based installment was not the no-brainer that many people made it out to be, as he explained:

“Well that’s an interesting question, because it seems obvious to everyone, ‘Oh, you just made a bunch of money, do a sequel,’ right? Well Stephen Spielberg didn’t do a sequel to E.T., highest grossing film in its time, right? It’s not a no-brainer, do you want to call down the lightning strike again in the same spot? You know, it’s a lot to live up to. But you know, we have this amazing cast, and we figured out a way to bring [Sigourney Weaver] back, as well, even though her character from the first film dies, obviously.

And we also had this amazing family of artists and troupe players, you know, all the other actors. When you see a crowd scene in this movie of a hundred people, it’s the same ten actors just moved around, right? (Laughter.) So it’s a small group and we kind of love each other and enjoy the process. And Kate got to join that, and feel that vibe as well. And that was a big incentive for me, to come back and do this all again.”

The Family Element Was The Key To Unlocking Avatar: The Way of Water

James Cameron Avatar: The Way Of Water

The writing process for the four sequels would take another four years, before back-to-back production for the first two films finally began in 2017. Cameron was also asked about the process of mapping out the new movies, and he revealed the key element for him, family. He said:

“I think it’s important for a sequel to honour what the audience loved about the experience the first time. But also to, you know, get them off-balance, you know, do things that they don’t expect. There are a lot of surprises in terms of where the story goes in this film, that we’re not putting into the trailers and the TV spots and all that. You kind of have to experience it.

But it also goes a lot deeper, in terms of the heart and the emotions, I mean, wouldn’t you guys say? I mean, we were (Sure), it was a much simpler story, and the characters were simpler the first time. And I was inspired by the fact that both Zoe and Sam are parents, and I’m a parent of five, and so we wanted to get into the family dynamics, and the responsibilities of having kids. And also what that’s all like from the kid’s perspective right?”

James Cameron Avatar: The Way Of Water
Jake Sully in 20th Century Studios’ AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. ©2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

The Way of Water will bring back the main cast from the first film, including Sigourney Weaver. The 73-year-old actress will be playing Kiri this time, Jake and Neytiri’s adoptive teenage daughter. The first sequel is also bringing Kate Winslet into the fold, as the actress reunites with her Titanic director.


The next sequel is deep into post-production, targeting a December 2024 release. A fourth movie is filming at the moment, with Cameron back at the helm. It’s currently unknown if he will also direct the fifth installment, which will apparently go back to Earth, as producer Jon Landau revealed recently.

Avatar: The Way of Water opens in theaters on December 16, 2022. What do you make of these comments? Are you looking forward to Avatar: The Way of Water? Let us know in the comments and on our social media!