Now that cat is out of the bag and many people have had the chance to watch Avatar: The Way of Water, screenwriting couple Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver (Jurassic World) can finally open up about some behind-the-scenes events. In an interview to Variety, the duo talked about some of the decisions that happened while they were in “Avatar boot camp” figuring out the story for the whole franchise – something that happened almost a decade ago.
In a previous interview with Collider, Avatar producer Jon Landau revealed that all scripts for every entry in the franchise are already written and the main cast has read them. Now, Jaffa and Silver explained exactly how all of that went down. They revealed that when they were hired along with fellow screenwriters Josh Friedman (Snowpiercer series) and Shane Salerno (Armageddon), James Cameron established a set of ground rules so that the installments could have the same core.
Jaffa explained that understanding everything about Pandora was a particular focus to the team, revealing they had to get a “master’s degree in all things Pandora”. Jaffa also explained:
“[We] talked about everything from flora and fauna to the way the RDA’s space shuttles worked[…] We did a lot of research and a lot of talking about it. You have to write, really, to character. We just kept falling back into character and emotion. As long as we had studied and really been sensitive to it, we felt like we were on solid ground. […] It was important to Jim that everything work technically, scientifically — that we understood the flora and fauna of Pandora, the atmosphere, the tides. But what always led through all of it was emotion and character.”
“Pandora-pedia” Was a Must-Read For Writers
An important part of that learning curve was delving into the “Pandora-pedia”, the binders in which James Cameron jotted down about 800 pages of information and ideas, so the four writers had to study Cameron’s mind in order to better understand his thought process. Jaffa explained, “We went through it with him, very slowly and carefully. We were invited into his mind, his left brain and his right brain, and to just kind of dive in and immerse ourselves in the world that he’d created in the first movie”.
Jaffa and Silver also revealed that Avatar was originally going to have three sequels, and not four. But the story just kind of expanded naturally. After all, Avatar: The Way of Water has the difficult job of catching up the audience to 14 years of events that happened in Pandora while we weren’t looking, as well as introduce Jake (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri’s (Zoe Saldaña) kids and new species of Na’vi.
Even though Avatar: The Way of Water has only been in theaters for a week, it has already grossed over $600 million worldwide. However, the franchise’s massive price tag dictates that the sequel needs to have an all-time gross that is somewhat close to what the first movie made; 2009’s Avatar still stands tall as the highest-grossing movie ever, with almost $3 billion made in ticket sales alone. The box office result of the sequel will be a thermometer that dictates how far we will be able to go into the world of Pandora in the coming years.
Avatar: The Way of Water is theaters now. You can watch our interview with Landau, Worthington, and Stephen Lang, below: