Last June producer Jon Landau gave me the flip cam interview below (for a Popular Mechanics Avatar feature I was writing) in the Lightstorm screening room the day he and James Cameron made their big videogame presentation at E3. I was about to see about fifteen minutes of 3-D footage from Avatar--which blew me away. It's hard to recall how nervous and concerned Landau and Fox and Cameron were about selling this unbranded original movie. Remember how badly the first online trailers played on Avatar Day, August 21? The rest, shall we say, is history.
It doesn't really matter what happens on Oscar night. The movie is up to $2.5 billion, but will slow its pace as it loses its IMAX 3-D and many 3-D screens to Alice in Wonderland on Friday. Going into Avatar, Landau and James Cameron did not contemplate accolades on the awards circuit. Now they really want their crew to get their just rewards. In the last phase of the Oscar campaign, they have been emphasizing the movie's environmental message (Cameron was terrific on that front on Charlie Rose). Cameron spoke before the TED conference (video on the jump), and participated in an National Resources Defense Council, where he was interviewed by The Treatment's Elvis Mitchell.
Now a bit more relaxed, Landau had some fun with Fran Drescher in this video audition for Avatar:
Oscar trivia: At the Oscar nominees lunch group photo, Landau--who is not a member of the Academy, having been rejected twice, even after Titanic-- held up a stick with the face of production designer Rick Carter--because the guy was stuck in Barcelona.
The unanswered Oscar question: will Avatar sweep the technical categories and lose picture and director to The Hurt Locker, or will the films split various awards with Inglourious Basterds? More compelling is what happens to the prequel novel that Cameron is writing. The movie is the foundation for the novel--and an eventual series of novels not unlike the Lucasfilm Star Wars book series. In fact, Cameron started writing the book at night while he was shooting the movie. The novel will stop before the next movie begins. The deal hasn't even been made for the sequel--although conversations have begun with Fox. The Avatar novel isn't about proving himself as a writer, apparently. Cameron continues to write to entertain: always has, always will.