James Cameron Reveals ‘Avatar’ Franchise Came to Him in a Dream

People say you should always believe in your dreams, but sometimes that saying is a lot more literal than it sounds. For Avatar: The Way of Water director and screenwriter James Cameron, believing in his dreams meant embarking on a larger-than-life project that would extend for decades. In a recent interview to GQ, the filmmaker revealed that the initial ideas for the Avatar franchise – which already has three more installments brewing – came to him in a dream when he was only 19 years old.

Young Cameron didn’t know it at the time, but a simple act he did back in the 70s saved him from a lot of headaches that would come when the franchise finally kicked off. After he had the dream, he decided to do some drawings that became really early concepts of the franchise. Cameron also knew it wouldn’t be an easy project to bring to life, so first he had to establish himself as a hitmaker before a studio would trust him to tell the story of blue aliens fighting for their homeland. And it all started with Pandora:


“I woke up after dreaming of this kind of bioluminescent forest with these trees that look kind of like fiber-optic lamps and this river that was glowing bioluminescent particles and kind of purple moss on the ground that lit up when you walked on it. And these kinds of lizards that didn’t look like much until they took off. And then they turned into these rotating fans, kind of like living Frisbees, and they come down and land on something. It was all in the dream. I woke up super excited and I actually drew it. So I actually have a drawing. It saved us from about 10 lawsuits. Any successful film, there’s always some freak with tinfoil under their wig that thinks you’ve beamed the idea out of their head. And it turned out there were 10 or 11 of them. And so I pointed at this drawing I did when I was 19, when I was going to Fullerton Junior College, and said, ‘See this? See these glowing trees? See this glowing lizard that spins around, that’s orange? See the purple moss?’ And everybody went away.”

Image via Disney

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At the time of its premiere, Avatar became the highest-grossing movie ever – a title that was previously held by another James Cameron movie, Titanic. For the next four installments, Cameron promises a lot of new technology developed exclusively for Avatar, including the possibility to watch a 3-D movie without 3-D glasses.

Is The Future of Avatar In Danger?

However, the whole future of Avatar has the risk of not seeing the light of day: The ambitious project has cost so much that Avatar: The Way of Water has to become one of the highest-grossing movies ever just to break even – meaning that anything less than two billion dollars in ticket sales could already put the future of the franchise in jeopardy. In the same GQ interview, Cameron didn’t mince words and said that Avatar: The Way of Water was “very fucking” expensive, and that the sequel was “the worst business case in movie history.” At the same time, the director showed confidence and revealed that he likes difficult projects, and that they are a magnet for him.

Avatar: The Way of Water premieres in theaters on December 16. You can watch the latest trailer below:

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