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‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ Star Sigourney Weaver, Producer and Crew Talk Their ‘Beautiful’ Collaboration (Video)

TheWrap Screening Series: ”It’s a testament to the 3,800 names that are in the credits. We threw obstacles to them every day. And they overcame them,“ producer Jon Landau says

Sigourney Weaver is no stranger to the unique experience of collaborating with James Cameron, having previously worked with the visionary director on sci-fi classic “Aliens,” and of course, “Avatar” and its sequel “Avatar: The Way of Water.” So the actress is well aware of the challenges that can arise during the process.

This could be why she ended up doing breathing exercises in her pool with a man who trains Navy SEALs.

Steve Pond, Jon Landau, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Deborah Lynn Scott and Scott Franglen (Ted Soqui for TheWrap)

“Jim would talk about our doing this swimming, where we’d be holding our breath for a minute and a half or something, and that was conservative actually. And I just thought, well, I can only hold my breath for about 30 seconds, period, let alone when I’m moving,” Weaver said during a screening of “Avatar: The Way of Water,” part of TheWrap’s 2022-2023 Awards Season Screening Series. “And yet, Jim never throws out these challenges unless he backs them up with help so you can get there. So we started training with Kirk Krack, who teaches the Navy SEALs, in May of 2017 and we had our first session in the pool. My husband and I and we were able to hold our breath for a minute, just still in the water and we kind of built from there.”

By the time all was said and done, Weaver was able to hold her breath for a cool six and a half minutes — just another seemingly impossible feat made manifest in the process of making the movie, already one of the highest-grossing films of all time.

The sci-fi epic returns to the wilds of Pandora, where humans have again come into conflict with the indigenous inhabitants, the Na’vi. Joining Weaver to discuss the film with TheWrap Executive Awards Editor Steve Pond, were producer Jon Landau, actor Stephen Lang, costume designer Deborah Lynn Scott and composer Scott Franglen. (See the full video here.)

Stephen Lang (Ted Soqui for TheWrap)

Landau thanked the team for the mind-boggling challenges he and Cameron lobbed at the cast and crew on a daily basis. “It’s a testament to the 3,800 names that are in the credits,” he said. “We threw obstacles to them every day. And they overcame them.”

One obstacle in particular was the sheer volume of materials required to populate a universe as vast and deep as the one presented in “Avatar: The Way of Water.”

“Deborah actually built over 2,000 pieces of Na’vi costumes,” Landau said. “We built them to photograph them, we built them to simulate them, to put them in water to see how light reacts to them. Because if we want wet effects to ascribe to something to look real, we have to give them something to ascribe to.”

Scott Franglen (Ted Soqui for TheWrap)

“We had to make everything just like they (the actors) had to perform everything. Our departments had to do everything exactly like you would, plus more, because we had help inform their motion capture performances, while designing the world for them,” Scott said. “And it was really gratifying to have them be involved, as actors, with my process.”

And yet, for all the towering effects and oversized challenge, there was a current of connectedness that ran throughout the production and ended up on-screen in powerful fashion.

“In the very first paragraph of script 2, there’s a thing which says, ‘Neytiri sings the song chord.’ And the song chord became this thing. I had to write the theme for Neytiri to sing,” said Franglen. “I wrote that in January, February of 2018. And then sometime, March, April, there’s this magical moment when Zoe (Saldaña), in front of 100 technicians sings this live. And what you see on screen is her singing live. It’s not pre-recorded by me in the recording studio. That’s the live take.”

“There is this beautiful thing that happens,” Franglen said. “This sort of organic process between all of us.”

Watch the full Q&A here.