While James Cameron’s Avatar: The Waterway continues to top the box office worldwide, Empire decided to give well-known stars the chance to ask the famous director anything they wanted. Below is a summary of how this multiple interview turned out.
—Sigourney Weaver: How did you first imagine the Na’vi?
—I researched indigenous cultures around the world and tried to draw some common denominators, such as their innate reverence for the living world around them and their methods of cooperation and conflict resolution, as well as their spirituality. He wanted the audience to side with the indigenous people and see humans as the invaders from space that were devastating their world. Some of the early Na’vi designs proved too amphibious or lizard-like. I wanted relatability. I figured we could emotionally relate to cats and dogs, so we gave the Na’vi tails and expressive ears that had that familiarity. The color blue is from a dream my mother had of a blue woman with six breasts.
—Zoe Saldana: Why water?
—The truth is that I was drawn to the ocean as a child who loved science fiction and other worlds. I suddenly realized that there is an amazing alien world right here on Earth and that I could go explore it if I just strapped on a scuba tank. It was that promise of adventure and curiosity that inevitably led me to the ocean. Then, in my early years as a diver, I fell in love with the ocean, its inhabitants, and the general appeal of boats and being at sea.
—Matt and Ross Duffer (‘Stranger Things’): Your streak of titanically successful movies is arguably unparalleled in movie history. Is there some kind of secret formula that you’ve come up with or do you just do what you love, and it just happens to resonate with… the whole planet?
—Before writing Terminator, I made a list of the 20 highest grossing movies of that time (early 80s) and did some analysis on what they all had in common, writing principles like “ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances”, etc., in a notepad. It served as a guide in my first projects as a couple. Unfortunately, I have lost the list. But, as you know, once you start publishing your movies, you get a lot of feedback from the audience, good and bad, which can then guide the way you tell stories in the future. Ultimately, it all comes down to a filmmaker’s personal aesthetic. I try to tell stories that I would like to see in a movie theater.
—Sam Mendes (director): Is it true that on Titanic and all your other movies you have a 20-take limit, and if you don’t make it within 20 takes, you move on?
“This is the rare funny rumor that has the added benefit of being true. I like a lot of takes, why the hell not? The 20 shot rule is self-imposed to keep me disciplined in a real world of deadlines and budgets. I remember Leo DiCaprio being outraged when I pulled the plug on a “one off” scene in 20 takes. We didn’t have it and he couldn’t imagine moving on. He was more of a perfectionist than me! I remember we used take three.
—Harrison Ford: I’m a fan, I love your movies and I’m waiting for your call.
—Pierce Brosnan: Why have you never put me in one of your movies?
—Responding to both Harrison and Pierce: I would love to work with you two and with many other actors that I deeply admire. My biggest regret as a filmmaker is that I take so long to make my films that I only get to work with a small fraction of the artists I respect. I have a long list of people I’d love to collaborate with, but I know my career will be over before I’ve made a dent in it.