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James Cameron Shot ‘Avatar’ Sequels Back-to-Back So Teen Actors Wouldn’t Age Like ‘Stranger Things’ Kids

"I love 'Stranger Things,' but you get the 'Stranger Things' effect where they're supposed to still be in high school [but] they look like they're 27."

Avatar: The Way of Water

“Avatar: The Way of Water”

Courtesy of 20th Century Studios

Although it was a 13-year wait for a follow-up to 2009’s “Avatar,” the gap between “The Way of Water” and its sequels are set to be much shorter, with the third film and part of the fourth being shot at the say time as the recent blockbuster. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Cameron revealed why: so the child actors in the film will still look like children.

In the film, there are several child and teen actors who play main characters Jake (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri’s (Zoe Saldana) kids and other adolescents growing up on the planet of Pandore. For example, Trinity Jo-Li Bliss was 7 when she was cast as youngest-child Tuk, while Jack Champion was 12 when he was cast to play Spider, a human child looked after by Jake and his family; the two are now 13 and 18 respectively. Cameron said filming the movies at the same time helped ensure that the kids, who are very important to the narrative, look consistently young across the story, since Champion in particular was “growing like a weed” during production.

Cameron compared the approach to the Netflix series “Stranger Things,” which has had long breaks between seasons, and as a result has seen the young cast visibly age significantly from 2016’s first installment to this year’s “Stranger Things 4.”

“I love ‘Stranger Things,’ but you get the ‘Stranger Things’ effect where they’re supposed to still be in high school [but] they look like they’re 27,” Cameron says. “You know, I love the show. It’s okay, we’ll suspend disbelief. We like the characters, but, you know.”

In addition to the upcoming third and fourth films, which filmed during a 2017 shoot in New Zealand, a fifth “Avatar” movie is also in development at Disney. In an interview with IndieWire ahead of “Way of Water’s” release, Cameron attributed the gap between the original film and its follow up to a need to “future-proof” the sequels, and said the next films will roll out at a faster pace.

“We started the screenwriting process officially in the summer of 2013,” Cameron said. “The next few years were parallel processing on writing four films, designing every creature, every character, every vehicle, every cityscape, every biome, every habitat across those four movies. That same period of time was also for R&D and tech [development] to really future-proof ourselves across that whole oeuvre of films, because I’d rather stop once for a big chunk and get it all ready, and then work with a kind of rhythmic cadence forward from there where we don’t have to stop and retool at each stage of the game.”

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