James Cameron revealed Chris Evans and Channing Tatum both came close to being cast as Jake Sully in Avatar. Avatar was a literal dream project for Cameron, with the original concept coming to the director from a dream he had about a luminescent forest. He wrote the first treatment for it in 1995 but sat on the project for a decade to let technology catch up with his vision of photorealistic CGI characters. While early trailers and photos had some predicting Avatar would be Cameron’s first big flop, the movie would eventually become the highest grossing movie of all time.
Cameron developed Avatar almost side by side with another pet project, a live-action adaptation of manga Alita: Battle Angel. He was originally planning to jump from Avatar right into production on Alita, but the success of Avatar led him to other side projects, and eventually into development on four Avatar sequels. Cameron is currently deep in production on Avatar 2 & 3, with a green light for the final two installments dependent on their financial performance. The director recently wrapped the performance capture side of the sequels, and filming on the live-action parts will commence soon.
Sam Worthington will return as Jake Sully for the Avatar sequels, which will apparently take the character to some dark places. During an interview with Empire, Cameron revealed Worthington was one of three actors who made it to the final part of the casting process for Jake, with the other two being Chris Evans and Channing Tatum. Cameron said:
Chris Evans, and Sam, and Channing Tatum. That was my choice. I really liked Channing’s appeal. I liked Chris’ appeal. They were both great guys. But Sam had a quality of voice and a quality of intensity. Everybody did about the same on all the material through the script, except for the final speech where he stands up and says, ‘This is our land, ride now, go as fast as the wind can carry you.’ That whole thing. I would have followed him into battle. And I wouldn’t have followed the other guys. They’ve since gone onto fantastic careers and all that, but Sam was ready. He was ready.
It’s interesting to picture an alternate version of Avatar with either Evans or Tatum in the lead role. In the end, both actors are younger than Worthington, so Cameron likely felt Worthington had a little more gravitas in the part. It definitely worked out in the end, since both Evans and Tatum have gone on to highly successful careers. Given Evans initial reluctance to sign on for multiple Captain America films, he likely would have turned that part down had he been cast in Avatar, since it too was conceived as the start of a franchise.
Aside from the Avatar sequels, Cameron is also set to return as producer on Tim Miller’s Terminator 6. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton are also coming back for the sequel, which Cameron pictures as the start of a potential new trilogy. Recent comments suggest Cameron’s also trying to convince Neill Blomkamp to resurrect his idea for Alien 5, with him acting as producer.
- Avatar 2 (2021) release date: Dec 17, 2021
- Avatar 3 (2023) release date: Dec 22, 2023
- Avatar 4 (2025) release date: Dec 19, 2025
- Avatar 5 (2027) release date: Dec 17, 2027