James Cameron May Add Chinese Na'vi to 'Avatar' Sequels

This story first appeared in the Sept. 28 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Now that James Cameron is doing business with China, don’t be surprised if Chinese Na’vi pop up in the Avatar sequels.

In August, the Cameron/Pace Group, which the director founded with Vince Pace, announced CPG China, a joint venture with the state-owned Tianjin North Film Group and Tianjin Hi-Tech Holding Group to provide camera systems and other 3D production services in the northern port city of Tianjin.

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Cameron, 58, still plans to shoot the performance-capture work on Avatar 2 and Avatar 3 in Los Angeles, live-action photography in Wellington, New Zealand, and VFX work at Wellington-based Weta Digital once preproduction finishes and filming gets under way in 2013. “That was the model for the first film,” he tells THR, "and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it."

But Cameron acknowledges that there are reasons to do some of the work on the films in China. “Within five years," he says, "China could easily be as big a gross-revenue market for film as North America, and there are very specific economic incentives for having both Chinese content and Chinese co-production. We are already funded on Avatar 2 and 3, but if we qualify as a co-production, there might be some incentives in the percentage of revenue we can take out of China.

"We are running the numbers to see if that makes sense.” At very least, the director could recruit Chinese actors to work in the movies, which will be distributed worldwide by Fox (though Cameron has not set release dates yet). “For Avatar, we can certainly use Chinese actors as performance-capture actors because any accent issues will hide within the Na’vi accent,” says Cameron.

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“So we can have Chinese Na’vi; [and in the live-action sequences] we can also have Chinese actors who speak English in the film," he adds. "We are projecting a future in Avatar, and if you project that future out, it is logical that there would be a number of Chinese amongst the contingent on Pandora.”