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James Cameron on AVATAR Deleted End Scene and why it's his 'Most Personal Film'

The LA Times' recently did a roundtable discussion with the five Best Director nominees for this years Academy Awards -- including James Cameron (Avatar), Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker), Quentin Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds), Lee Daniels (Precious) and Jason Reitman(Up In the Air).

You can watch snippets of the interviews here, but but the LA Times' Hero Complex featured a couple little excerpts from James Cameron that are pretty amazing. With Golden Globe wins for Best Picture and Best Director already in the bag, Cameron and his groundbreaking epic will more than likely be taking home the Oscar gold as well. 

We all know many scenes don't make it into a movie, or are cut down. But with the amount of money and time that has to be spent on the visual FX of Avatar, Cameron and his crew didn't finish the effects on a scene unless they absolutely knew it was going to be in the final product. But there was one completely finished scene that didn't make it into the final cut, Cameron explained:

It was an epiphanal scene for me when I was writing the script, and when I wrote it, I actually kind of welled up myself. It’s a scene at the end where the warrior that Jake has had to prove himself to, Tsu’tey, the guy that’s ... keeping him out of the clan and the whole Na’vi experience, is dying after the battle ... Jake goes to him and he hands him the baton of leadership and says, “You have to lead the people,” as he’s dying. Very, very powerful, emotional scene and again, the rhythm — it just messed with the rhythm of the ending. It just felt like there was one dramatic beat too many...

It had to come out completely, and that was the one scene that we finished all the way through the [special effects] Weta process because nobody could imagine the scene not being in the movie. Nobody. All the effects people came to me and said, “I can’t believe you’re cutting Tsu’tey’s death.” They were all invested in the scene. So, I actually had it out and I put it back in ... Then it got right down to the end where the final decision had to be made and I said, "No, it’s coming out."

We all know Avatar is Cameron's first feature after a 12 year break, and that the script is well over 15 years old, so the film is obviously a very personal film for him. But Cameron takes it way back in his explanation of why it's his MOST personal film:

It’s hard to visualize “Avatar” maybe from the outside as a personal film, but to me in a funny way from my perspective, it’s my most personal film because it so accurately reflects my childhood — as a kid who was both an avid reader of science fiction and fantasy and comic books and constantly conjuring all these images in my head before there were VCRs and I could just watch any movie any time I wanted ...

There was very little imagery out there at the time. You had to make it up yourself, and as an artist I was always drawing all these things, so all the stuff in “Avatar” was stuff I had been drawing for years as a teenager ... And then as a scuba diver sort of discovering the endless bounty of nature’s imagination underwater, which is really, ultimately, almost unfathomable. So “Avatar” is all of that, all sort of distilled down into one movie. The story was written 15 years ago, and certainly there was a strong environmental consciousness then ... but it’s obviously on our minds a lot more now as this sense of a coming day of reckoning ... that we really have to deal with this.

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