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Sigourney Weaver Filmed ‘Avatar 2’ Underwater by Tying Weights to Herself, Holding Breath for Six Minutes

Sigourney Weaver was 70 years old while filming "Avatar 2," but that only motivated her to pull off her own stunts.

AVATAR, Sigourney Weaver, 2009, ph: Mark Fellman/TM & Copyright ©20th Century Fox. All rights reserved/Courtesy Everett Collection

Sigourney Weaver, under layers of CGI, in the original “Avatar.”

©20thCentFox/Courtesy Everett Collection

James Cameron announced last month his long-in-the-works “Avatar 2” was “100 percent complete,” while a second sequel was close behind at “95 percent completion.” Sigourney Weaver is one of the franchise’s returning actors, reuniting with Cameron after “Aliens” and “Avatar,” and she reveals in a new interview with The New York Times some of the demanding prep work that was required to pull off the “Avatar” sequels. Cameron has said the first sequel explores the underwater worlds of the fictional Pandora, which forced Weaver and the actors to be able to perform while submerged.

Weaver told the Times she spent a large part of her prep work deep sea diving in Key West, Florida, and in Hawaii, where she would “recline on the ocean floor while manta rays glided over her.” The actress also trained with “elite military divers so that she could hold her breath, after a big gulp of supplemental oxygen, for more than six minutes.” The longer Weaver and other cast members could hold their breathe, the more takes Cameron could film in a single period underwater.

“My hope is that what I receive from the universe is even more outrageous than anything I can think of,” Weaver said. “I don’t really say to myself, ‘Well, you can’t do this.’ Or, ‘You can’t do that.’ Let me at it! And we’ll see.”

“I had some concerns,” Weaver continued about the stunt work required for the “Avatar” sequels. “But that’s what the training was for. And I really wanted to do it. I didn’t want anyone to think, ‘Oh, she’s old, she can’t do this.’”

Weaver was 70 years old at the time of filming “Avatar 2,” but that only motivated her more to pull off such prep work as holding her breath underwater for six minutes. The Times reports that “Weaver and other members of the cast had to learn not to squint or clamp their mouths shut — both natural reactions when you’re submerged — during take after take in a gigantic water tank. She had weights around her waist and professional divers who sped her back to the surface for air at brief, regular intervals.”

Weaver starred in Cameron’s original “Avatar” as Dr. Grace Augustine, an exobiologist and mentor figure to protagonist Jake Sully (Sam Worthington). The character dies in the middle of the film, which has made Weaver’s return in “Avatar 2” something of a mystery. Weaver is joined in the sequel by returning actors Worthington and Zoe Saldana, Stephen Lang, and CCH Pounder, plus newcomers like Cameron’s “Titanic” star Kate Winslet.

“Avatar 2” is scheduled to arrive in theaters on December 16, 2022. “Avatar 3” will follow with a theatrical release on December 20, 2024. The fourth and fifth films are due in 2026 and 2028.

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