By far the high point of the Con for me was EW editor Jeff Giles’ interview with Peter Jackson and James Cameron. The two men respect each other enormously. Weta’s achievement with The Lord of the Rings‘ Gollum convinced Cameron that he might be able to forge ahead with Avatar, which had been collecting dust for more than a decade.
Cameron signed up Weta to do the elaborate visual effects on Avatar; Jackson wanted to visit the set but took off to shoot The Lovely Bones just as Cameron was arriving. He came back for the last week of principal photography.
Jackson was making his first visit to the Con. He always sent lovely personal video greetings from Wellywood, full of cool stuff for the fans to see. He clearly understands what goes on at SDCC, and the role the fans play. So it was odd to see him looking so thin, tired and low-key. Jackson made the schlep from Wellywood partly to support his protege Neill Blomkamp whose horror thriller District 9 was the hit of the festival. He candidly expressed his anger over how he and Blomkamp lost Halo, and then made District 9.
Cameron, for his part, seemed energized and mellow, while acknowledging that he and producer Jon Landau have their work cut out for them. (Avatar went over well, but it was not the best-received footage in San Diego. Cameron sets a high bar. And the film plays very sci-fi.) They cooked up the 15-minute free 3D footage stunt set for August 31, knowing that marketing will be key to turning Avatar into the event it needs to be on December 18.
I could listen to these guys all day. I love it that they respect their audience. They make smart movies to please themselves and everyone else at the same time. Which is really hard.
[Thank you, Kris Tapley.]