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James Cameron is flanked by towering trees and lush, dreamlike vistas. No, the “Avatar” director isn’t dialing in from Pandora, he assures Robert Rodriguez. It’s just a screen saver, meant to enliven whatever drab editing bay he’s in, putting the final touches, this November afternoon, on “Avatar: The Way of Water,” his long-gestating sequel to the 2009 blockbuster that introduced the world to the way of the Na’vi.

The two men are old friends — having worked together on the sci-fi adventure “Alita: Battle Angel,” which Rodriguez directed and Cameron produced — and clearly have a lot of respect for one another. Cameron, for instance, makes Rodriguez swear a “blood oath” that they’ll make a sequel to “Alita.” And there are other perks to their friendship. Namely, Rodriguez and his sons are some of the first people to have seen an earlier version of “The Way of Water.” Afterward, Cameron drilled the group for their reactions, eager to incorporate their notes as he perfected his action epic. It’s part of a process that he says he learned from Oscar-winning director Guillermo del Toro.

“Directors are too much like lone wolves,” Cameron says. “We should be like college pals that are film geeks. Our pal Guillermo says that, in Mexico, when somebody makes a film, all the other filmmakers gather around like a baby was being born. They all get involved in the process. And I think that’s the way it should be.” 

Watch the full interview here as part of Variety’s Directors on Directors series, presented by MGM Studios and United Artists Releasing.