Cameron film begins production

James Cameron has added two cast members to “Avatar.” Stephen Lang and Michelle Rodriguez will join Australian actor Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Wes Studi and CCH Pounder in the performance-capture pic, which is in production in Los Angeles. In October, the company will move to Wellington, New Zealand, close to Peter Jackson’s Weta Digital, which is supervising the film’s visual effects.

Lang plays a seasoned Marine Corps colonel who travels to the faraway planet Pandora to take charge of its troops. Lang is known for his New York theater roles in “A Few Good Men,” “Defiance” and “Death of a Salesman.” He’ll wrap up 101 performances at the Roundabout Theater in his sold-out one-man show “Beyond Glory” on Aug. 19 and then take on the “Avatar” role.

Lang first met Cameron 20 years ago for a role in “Aliens” he didn’t get. But Cameron never forgot him.

Rodriguez plays an ex-Marine pilot. “Michelle Rodriguez is someone I’ve wanted to work with since I saw ‘Girlfight’ seven years ago,” said Cameron.  Film is a $190 million hybrid of live action and animation. Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment team has researched a mix of live-action cinematography and virtual photorealistic production techniques which will feature virtual characters. Thirty-one days of live-action photography will begin on Weta soundstages in October.

Pic will be produced by Cameron and Jon Landau for Lightstorm. Mauro Fiore (“Training Day,” “The Island,” “Kingdom”) has been hired as d.p.

“Avatar,” which will be filmed in a new digital 3-D format, is skedded to debut on May 22, 2009.

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