Anticipation for an "Avatar" sequel has been riding high since December 18 of last year, also known as the day the first movie hit theaters. Writer/director/producer James Cameron promised multiple times that there was more story to tell... but the when's and how's have remained mostly a mystery. Deals still need to be made, Cameron revealed in an interview with MTV's Josh Horowitz yesterday, but momentum is nonetheless building in other ways.
"'Avatar 2'... we're still working on deals. We don't start the movie until we get the deals worked out," he said. "I'm making notes. I'm not sitting idle," Cameron said. "But really, what I'm working on primarily is the novel."
He continued, "I never had a chance to get the novel done while we were making the movie, and I always intended to. I didn't want to do a cheesy novelization, where some hack comes in and kind of makes s--t up. I wanted to do something that was a legitimate novel that was inside the characters' heads and didn't have the wrong culture stuff, the wrong language stuff, all that."
Once the novel is out there, Cameron hopes that others will help him in further fleshing out the universe. There are simply key bits of the ongoing story, such as the happenings on Earth and Jake & Grace's personal arcs, that he wants to make sure are developed in specific ways. "I don't mind opening the universe, but I just don't want that to happen until I've got more meat on the bones. ... That all needs to be filled in before other writers can come in and run with it."
Presumably, once the novel is nailed down, work will begin in earnest on getting the sequel going. In fact, Cameron hints that the final two films in the planned trilogy could be lumped together into a single mega-production. "We're actually talking about that. That's not a decision yet," he said. "That is something that makes a lot of sense, given the nature of these productions, because we can bank all the [motion] capture and then go back and do cameras over a period of time."
There's also Cameron's insane schedule beyond the "Avatar" films. He's got any number of possible projects lined up, stories he's spoken before about wanting to tell, and locking into not one but two multi-year "Avatar" productions will undoubtedly set any other plans back. Fold both movies into one slightly longer production process, however, and it's a more economical use of that time.
The nature of the "Avatar" world is also a big plus. Where live-action films shot back-to-back have breakneck schedules and place great demands on the participating cast & crews, the largely CG environments of the planet Pandora require a comparably smaller commitment. "The way these back-to-back productions fall apart is that you're trying to do two live-action films back to back, and you're working on it for a year and a half, shooting. Everyone is dead. It's not humanly possible. This type of film, it absolutely would work."