‘Avatar’ VFX Artist Immediately Went into Surgery After His Oscar Win

Eric Saindon, senior visual effects supervisor for "Avatar: The Way of Water," left the ceremony for an operation on a ruptured small intestine.
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 12: In this handout photo provided by A.M.P.A.S., Eric Saindon, winner of the Visual Effects award for "Avatar: The Way Of Water" is seen backstage during the 95th Annual Academy Awards on March 12, 2023 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Richard Harbaugh/A.M.P.A.S. via Getty Images)
Eric Saindon seen backstage during the 95th Annual Academy Awards on March 12, 2023 in Hollywood, California.
Getty Images

[Update March 15, 3:40pm ET: According to the Weta FX rep, he is “recovering nicely and doing much better.” It was serious enough that it would’ve been a lot worse if he had waited any longer to rush back to the hospital. He’s out of intensive care and moving around. He will be in the hospital another three to five days.]

Avatar: The Way of Water” won Best Visual Effects at the Oscars this Sunday, and the team that brought Pandora to vivid life in James Cameron’s blockbuster took the stage to celebrate. But for one team member, the evening took a turn shortly afterwards, as senior visual effects supervisor Eric Saindon was rushed to the hospital for surgery immediately after his win.

According to a rep from Weta FX, the visual effects production company behind “The Way of Water,” Saindon experienced intense pain throughout the day of the Oscars and checked into a Beverly Hills hospital around noon. After testing negative for appendicitis and kidney stones, Saindon decided to still attend the awards ceremony, and received painkillers from his doctors.

After powering through to winning the Visual Effects award, Saindon experienced more pain, and left his press room interview at the ceremony to return to the hospital. Doctors determined that Saindon was suffering from a ruptured small intestine, and performed surgery on him. According to the Weta FX representative, he is currently in recovery.

Saindon works for Weta FX and received his first Oscar for “The Way of Water.” He first served as on-set VFX supervisor for the film, focusing on bringing the water scenes to life, and he was promoted to senior VFX supervisor during production. He was also VFX supervisor on the original 2009 “Avatar.” Prior credits include work as production VFX supervisor on acclaimed films like “The Green Knight,” “Alita: Battle Angel,” and “Pete’s Dragon,” as well as work as VFX supervisor on “Night at the Museum” and “X-Men: The Last Stand” among others. He received his first two Oscar nominations for his work on two films in “The Hobbit” trilogy, released in 2012 and 2013.

Along with Saindon, the Best Visual Effects Oscar was awarded to production senior visual effects supervisor Joe Letteri, visual effects supervisor Richard Baneham, and senior animation supervisor Daniel Barrett. The visual effects trophy was the only win for “The Way of Water,” after the blockbuster scored four nominations at the ceremony. The team also took home the top prize for Outstanding Visual Effects in a Photoreel Feature at the annual VES Awards last month.

NBC News Center Maine was the first to report on Saindon’s surgery.

Additional reporting by Bill Desowitz

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