James Cameron has revealed that Avatar: The Way of Water, the long overdue sequel to his 2009 blockbuster and box office champion, Avatar, needs to be the “third or fourth highest-grossing film in history” in order to be profitable.
Cameron shared the seemingly lofty, $2 billion goal in a new interview with GQ magazine that celebrates the director’s return to the box office following his work on the original film, which released 13 years ago but is finally getting its belated and, apparently, very expensive, sequel:
The Way of Water was expensive to make—How expensive? “Very fucking,” according to Cameron, who told me he’d informed the studio that the film represented “the worst business case in movie history.” In order to be profitable, he’d said, “you have to be the third or fourth highest-grossing film in history. That’s your threshold. That’s your break even.”
Avatar critics believe that the film could flop, reasoning that the theatrical landscape is very different from what it was in 2009 and how 3D can no longer be used as an effective gimmick to drive people into cinemas, but Cameron doesn’t seem to be nervous, going on explain how he’s a “fucking magnet” to challenges:
“I like difficult,” he told me. “I’m attracted by difficult. Difficult is a fucking magnet for me. I go straight to difficult. And I think it probably goes back to this idea that there are lots of smart, really gifted, really talented filmmakers out there that just can’t do the difficult stuff. So that gives me a tactical edge to do something nobody else has ever seen, because the really gifted people don’t fucking want to do it.”
Cameron even shared a story in which he cursed out a Fox executive who begged him to make Avatar shorter, telling him to “get the fuck out of my office” after he “flipped out”:
Cameron still remembers an executive at the company—“who will go unnamed, because this is a really negative review”—who approached Cameron with a “stricken cancer-diagnosis expression” after a prerelease screening of the film and begged the director to shorten it. “I said something I’ve never said to anybody else in the business,” Cameron recalled. He said he told him, “ ‘I think this movie is going to make all the fucking money. And when it does, it’s going to be too late for you to love the film. The time for you to love the movie is today. So I’m not asking you to say something that you don’t feel, but just know that I will always know that no matter how complimentary you are about the movie in the future when it makes all the money’—and that’s exactly what I said, in caps, ALL THE MONEY, not some of the money, all the fucking money. I said, ‘You can’t come back to me and compliment the film or chum along and say, ‘Look what we did together.’ You won’t be able to do that.’ At that point, that particular studio executive flipped out and went bug shit on me. And I told him to get the fuck out of my office. And that’s where it was left.”
Avatar ended up making over $2.7 billion worldwide, cementing it as one of the most successful films ever.
It remains to be seen whether Avatar: The Way of Water, which releases on December 16, 2022, will do similar numbers.
A final trailer for Avatar: The Way of Water that 20th Century Studios released last night can be viewed below.