‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ Producer Jon Landau Confirms the Return of Payakan: ‘He Will Be Back’

Landau also talks the Tulkun-hunting scene and when we’re getting “The Abyss” on 4K

“Avatar: The Way of Water” is finally coming home.

James Cameron’s supersized sequel, which grossed a whopping $2.3 billion worldwide (enough to make it the third-highest-grossing movie ever), is making its way to digital on March 28 – pretty impressive, especially in our quick-fix era, for a movie that opened before Christmas.

In the sequel, Jake (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña) are forced to retreat from their home after the evil corporation RDA returns to Pandora. They flee with their extended family (including Sigourney Weaver, playing the teenage Na’vi daughter of her character from the first movie), take refuge with the reef people and realize that, no matter where they are, the RDA will find them.

It’s a thrilling, emotional follow-up and one that clearly resonated with audiences. And it’ll be nice to be able to watch the movie anytime you want, especially since the release is festooned with new special features (get a glimpse of one of them above).

We visited Lightstorm to check out the soundstages where they shot the film and chatted with producer Jon Landau about that photo of Kate Winslet, whether they knew Payakan was going to be the breakout character (“It’s too painful”) and the status of other Cameron movies that have yet to make it to home video.

There’s a shot that has been circulating of Kate Winslet underwater with these flags. What was that about?
Look, I think what what’s interesting is on the surface, it’s a scene that was cut from [the sequel]. It doesn’t mean that there’s not an opportunity to use it elsewhere. I think that’s one of the really interesting things. There are other scenes where that we’re thinking of that, hey, this moment that didn’t fit in, the final cut of two might work in three. And that’s all stuff we’re involved evaluating.

Let’s talk about one of the breakout characters of “Avatar: The Way of Water,” Payakan [the giant sea creature]. Did you have any idea that the character was going to connect with people in such a massive way?
I always viewed Payakan a little bit like Lassie. And I would say this is a story like a boy and his dog, and they’re both outcasts and they need each other. And I thought that Payakan was going to be a character as you describe them. People wouldn’t see that at first. And we had to keep saying Payakan is a character. And when we would ask people about characters, Payakan was always on that list and included them, which was unusual.

Will he be back?
Payakan will be back.

Speaking of Payakan, it is my understanding that the Tulkun hunt was much longer in initial cuts. Was it just too much for people to take?
One of the things that we found on the “Avatar” films in general is that action that tells a story and a succinct is the most effective kind of action. And as we were looking at a first cut of the Tulkun hunt, we saw opportunities to make it more streamlined without sacrificing the adventure of it or the emotional quality at the end.

But people weren’t too upset? That sequence is really upsetting.
It’s meant to be upsetting. I think one of the things that sometimes filmmakers react wrongly to is when they get a negative, we don’t like Jack’s death scene in Titanic. It doesn’t mean the scene’s not working. The Tulkun hunt was something that people were not supposed to like. Where people were going to say, “that was awful, why’d they have to do that.” That’s OK to ask those questions. The scene is intended to do that.

That sequence also opens up questions about what the RDA is doing and what they’re bringing back. Will we see more of how the RDA operates going forward?
I think we’ll definitely see more of the RDA as we move forward. We know that Giovanni’s coming back as Selfridge. We hinted at him with just on a video clip in this movie. But he will be back in force as we move forward.

Since we are talking about “Avatar: The Way of Water” on home video, let’s talk about some other Lightstorm properties that haven’t gotten the home video love, starting with “The Abyss.”
“The Abyss.” We are very close to being able to offer to our audiences in 4K at home.

“True Lies?”
“True Lies,” same thing.

Will this be a box set?
No, I think, we see each movie as standing on its own. They play to a lot of overlap, but some of them play uniquely to different audiences.

What about “Strange Days?”
That’s a little bit probably further behind only because there’s complexities in, the other titles are all owned, “Strange Days,” the way that was set up, it was more independently and has different distributors, around the world.

“Avatar: The Way of Water” will be available to own digitally March 28.