Exclusive: James Cameron's Avatar Was Originally Written to be Rated R

Robert Rodriguez won over longtime friend James Cameron to become the director of Alita: Battle Angel by taking the film's mega-long script and hundreds of pages of Cameron's notes and turning it into something that can actually enter production, while keeping the themes intact. Adapting Yukito Kishiro's popular manga involved merging a few characters, including one that does some extremely gruesome stuff in the source material.

We're of course referring to Makaku who in the "Battle Angel Alita" manga is addicted to Endorphins and gets his fix by consuming the brains of dogs and people. In the upcoming live-action film, much like the 1993 animated two-part adaptation, the Makaku character was merged with Kinuba (a champion fighter in the manga) and called Grewcica, but he still ate brains. In Rodriguez and Cameron's film, this character is named Grewishka and played by Jackie Earle Haley. What about the brains?

Related: Our Full Interview With Robert Rodriguez

After having visited Weta Digital to see how much work went into bringing the cyborg characters of Alita to life, I had to ask Rodriguez if this over-sized villain did what he's most well-known for. So, after returning from New Zealand I travelled to Rodriguez's Troublemaker Studios in Austin, Texas to celebrate Day of the Dead with the director's new brand partner Estrella Jalisco and sat down with him to find out what you've all wanted to know - Does Grewishka (or any character) eat brains in Alita: Battle Angel?

"Not in the movie but I do know what you're talking about. There's some stuff in the graphic novel that goes further..."

I joked about the reason the character did eat brains, to which Rodriguez continued:

"Yeah, because it's a graphic novel they can go really out there and part of what Jim [Cameron] did on Avatar originally, he wrote that to be an R-rated movie. He knew he needed to pull some stuff back so it could be for all audiences, PG-13. And so we certainly keep a good balance I think, especially because with cyborg action you can do a lot more, but I think we keep the right tone. And people who enjoy the graphic novel, we don't go as far as the graphical stuff but it still really is hard-hitting and they still collect heads and all that stuff."

James Cameron has had Alita: Battle Angel in mind for years, but the technology (similar to the Avatar sequels) just wasn't there so he had a choice which project to do first and he chose Avatar, with the thinking being that the tech and processes developed on that project would help inform and pave the path for Alita: Battle Angel. Of course, Avatar become the biggest movie of all time and so Cameron had to focus on the sequels and it took a while before he found a worth successor to pass his script and notes to for Alita.

Little did we know however, that the early plan for Avatar was an R-rated story like Cameron's previous hits Terminator, Terminator 2, and Aliens. Could you even imagine an R-rated Avatar at this point?

More: Avatar Sequel Titles Possibly Revealed

Key Release Dates
  • Avatar (2009) release date:
  • Avatar 5 (2027) release date: Dec 17, 2027
  • Avatar 4 (2025) release date: Dec 19, 2025
  • Avatar 3 (2023) release date: Dec 22, 2023
  • Avatar 2 (2021) release date: Dec 17, 2021
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