James Cameron recently told Entertainment Weekly that part of the reason he decided to film “Avatar: The Way of Water,” “Avatar 3” and some of “Avatar 4” all at once is because he wanted his franchise to avoid what he called “the ‘Stranger Things’ effect,” or when child actors grow up so fast in between installments that eventually they stop resembling children. “The Way of Water” introduces several young characters, including Tuk (Trinity Jo-Li Bliss, who was 7 years old when cast and is now 13) and Spider (Jack Champion, who was 12 when cast but is now 18).
Because Champion was already “growing like a weed” when cast in the film, Cameron knew he was going to have to film a chunk of the “Avatar” sequels all together. “Otherwise, you get — and I love ‘Stranger Things’ — but you get the ‘Stranger Things’ effect where they’re supposed to still be in high school [but] they look like they’re 27,” the director said. “You know, I love the show. It’s okay, we’ll suspend disbelief. We like the characters, but, you know.”
“She does not see herself as the youngest,” Bliss told Variety about her Na’vi youngster. “The family might be protective of her, but she sees that as underestimation. She doesn’t underestimate herself. She’s got a really big heart and is so curious. She’ll do anything to protect her family and Pandora. Seeing Tuk on the screen in her final form was incredible… I just have so much love in my heart whenever I look at my little Tuk.”
Not only did Cameron shoot two full “Avatar” sequels at once, but he also waited to start filming until all the scripts for “Avatar 2,” “Avatar 3,” “Avatar 4” and “Avatar 5” were complete. He told Collider that his model was similar to what Peter Jackson did with his “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy.
“They took that chance to launch on all three of those films,” Cameron said. “But he had the books mapped out, so he could always show the actors what they needed to know about their character arc. So I felt I had to do the same thing. I had to play this as if the books already existed. So the only way for us to do that was to write all the scripts and let the actors read all the scripts and see where their characters were going and what it all meant. Not that that’s actable in the moment, but I think it’s something that the actors could work into their preparation for their characters.”
“Avatar: The Way of Water” is now playing in theaters nationwide. The third installment of the franchise is already scheduled for a Dec. 20, 2024, release date from Disney.