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Avatar (2009) Poster

(2009)

Trivia

Jump to: Director Cameo (1) | Director Trademark (1) | Spoilers (7)
At the time of auditioning, Sam Worthington was living in his car.
The Na'vi language was created entirely from scratch by linguist Paul R. Frommer. James Cameron hired him to construct a language that the actors could pronounce easily, but did not resemble any single human language. Frommer created about 1000 words.
James Cameron, known for being tough on set, allegedly kept a nail-gun on set that he would use to nail cell phones, that had the misfortune of ringing, to a wall above the exit sign.
James Cameron was convinced that CGI effects had progressed enough to make this film when he saw Gollum in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002).
Jake's atrophied legs were prosthetics cast from the legs of a real paraplegic. Sam Worthington's real legs were tucked into the wheelchair and digitally removed in post-production.
Each frame (1/24 of a second) of the CGI scenes took an average of 47 hours to render.
James Cameron wanted an unknown actor to play Sully, because it would give the character a "real" quality. The guy you want to have a beer with, who ultimately becomes the leader that transforms a whole world.
The cigarette that Sigourney Weaver's character 'smokes' is computer generated.
To help the actors prepare for their roles, director James Cameron took the cast and crew to Hawaii, where they spent their days trekking through the forests and jungles and living like tribes (building campfires, eating fish, etc), in order to get a better sense of what it would be like to live and move around in the jungle on Pandora, since there would not be any actual jungle sets to aid and guide the actors and crew. Zoe Saldana even dressed up as a warrior during these journeys, complete with an alien tail symbolic of the one her character has in the movie. These hikes were only done during the daytime, though; the cast and crew spent their nights at a Four Seasons hotel.
The book Grace picks up in the abandoned school is called 'The Lorax' by Dr. Seuss. Like the plot of the film the book is about a mystical forest full of beautiful trees and mystical creatures that are destroyed by man's lust for ever growing industry.
Sam Worthington said in an interview that it was easier for him to master the Na'vi language than the American accent.
First movie to ever cross the US$ 2,000,000,000 mark worldwide (and later the US$ 2.5 billion mark), making it the highest grossing film in history.
The movie is 40% live action and 60% photo-realistic CGI. A lot of motion capture technology was used for the CGI scenes.
According to James Cameron, the Na'vi are blue to create a conceptual parallel with traditional Hindu depictions of God (e.g., in the forms of Vishnu, Shiva, Rama, Krishna, etc.), but also because "I just like the color blue."
Chris Pine auditioned for the lead role and said that it was his worst audition ever.
One of the most expensive movies ever made (as of December 2009), with an estimated budget of US $280,000,000.
According to Sam Worthington, he was invited to the casting via a phone call. Who called told him nothing about the script, nor even told the director's name and Sam was disappointed at first, thinking it was "another waste of time".
James Cameron originally planned to have the film completed for release in 1999. At the time, the special effects he wanted increased the budget to $400 million. No studio would fund the film, and it was shelved for eight years.
Matt Damon and Jake Gyllenhaal were the studio's first choice to play Jake Sully, but James Cameron decided to cast an unknown Sam Worthington in the lead role.
"Avatar" is Sanskrit for "incarnation". It is used extensively in Hindu scriptures to refer to human incarnations of God.
This movie took 4 years to make. From Pre-Production to Release
The first in a proposed trilogy.
James Cameron's first directorial feature film since Titanic (1997).
In James Cameron movies, allies to the main characters often have Catholic references. In Aliens (1986), this ally was called 'Bishop'; in The Abyss (1989), it was 'Monk'. In 'Avatar', Sigourney Weaver plays a character called Grace Augustine. Saint Augustine was a Catholic monk who brought Christianity to pagan England, and became Archbishop. One manner of address for an Archbishop is 'Your Grace'.
The whooping and cackling sounds made by the wolf-like predators on Pandora are actually real spotted hyena calls.
According to Jake's video logs, the entire film (on Pandora) takes place over a 96-day period. The first log is dated 05/19/2154 and the last 08/24/2154 - 3 months and 5 days later.
All animals on Pandora have six limbs, except for the humans and Na'vi.
The multiple breathing orifices seen on the larger animals of Pandora were inspired by the air intakes on the sides of sports cars.
The first completely digitally shot movie to win the Oscar for Best Cinematography.
The first movie to be shot with a 3D camera, to be released in 3D, and released in IMAX 3D to be nominated for the Best Picture Academy Award
Jake Sully's initials (J.S.) are the same as John Smith, a central figure in the historical and often romanticized story of Pocahontas. Avatar shares many similarities with the Pocahontas story in plot and theme. Like John Smith, Sully is a member of an invading force who falls in love with a tribal princess, after learning her customs.
The spiral-shaped, retracting creatures Jake encounters early in the film are giant versions of Christmas Tree Worms, a marine invertebrate commonly kept in reef aquariums.
Ey'wa, the deity of the Na'vi people, is a mixed-up pronunciation of "Yahweh", the God of the Hebrews. It also means "yes" in Arabic.
Sigourney Weaver plays a James Cameron persona for her character in this film. Sigourney stated in an interview, "I teased him because to me I'm playing Jim Cameron in the movie as this kind of brilliant, approach-driven, idealistic perfectionist. But that same somebody has a great heart underneath. So I have to say I was always kind of channeling him."
Avatars have eyebrows and five digits per hand or foot while the Na'vi only have four and no eyebrows. The Avatars are also broader in the chest and arms, appearing more 'muscular'.
The actors playing the Na'vi had cameras attached to their head so that they filmed close-ups of their faces. Dots painted on their faces allowed motion-capture software to record their facial expressions, providing a 'framework' from which the CG artists worked.
The word "na'vi" in Hebrew means prophet. A na'vi is a visionary or someone who communicates directly with God. Its plural, nevi'im, also refers to the prophetic books of the bible, which include "Daniel," "Micah," and "Isaiah."
To appease 20th Century Fox's fears, and remembering the harrowing experience of Titanic (1997) and its production overruns and costly delays, James Cameron promised to forgo his director's fee if Avatar (2009) flopped.
In much of the movie, Sigourney Weaver's avatar wears a Stanford tank top. Weaver attended Stanford in the early 1970s.
The common spirit of Pandora where every creature is constantly connected to each other and the planet itself is based on the concept of Gaia described in Isaac Asimov's novel 'Foundation's Edge' (1982).
The cap that Norm Spellman wears during his first trip into the Pandoran jungle has Braille symbols on it that represent "#1969", or "Number 1969", the year that humans first landed on the moon.
The name Avatar came from a Hindi word Avathar, meaning descent of the Supreme Being.
"Unobtainium" is a humorous term used mainly in the aerospace industry. It describes a material that is perfect for an application, but does not exist, is extremely expensive, or violates the laws of physics. Its chemical symbol is Uo. "Unobtainium" is also a general concept term used by sci-fi enthusiasts for any fictional substance that is needed to build a certain device that is crucial to the plot of a sci-fi story. "Unobtainium" is featured in the movie The Core (2003), where the earth-boring vessel called the "Virgil" has a hull made from unobtainium to help it withstand the massive pressures inside the Earth's core. "Unobtainium" is also an anti-gravity element in the online multi-player video game "Skyrates."
Michael Biehn was considered for the role of Col. Quaritch. James Cameron rejected him because he'd already cast Sigourney Weaver, and he didn't want people to think it was Aliens (1986) all over again.
Promotional items were shipped to cinemas under the name "Project 880".
Though he is not credited in the film, several locations look very similar to paintings by English surrealist Roger Dean, most notably his works "Floating Islands" and "Arches".
Weta Digital and ILM (Industrial Light & Magic) have previously worked together on Contact (1997), Van Helsing (2004), and Eragon (2006), making 'Avatar' their fourth collaboration.
The first (and only, as of 2010) science fiction feature film by James Cameron that does not involve or mention nuclear weapons.
James Cameron disclosed on The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien (2009) that he began working on preliminary drafts of his movie as early as the mid 1990's. Because his visual concepts were so avant-garde, the technology required to consummate his vision was not then yet available. Not until 2005 was he able to proceed with viable script scenarios.
The film's landscapes were in part inspired by the famed Huangshan Mountain in China.
There are striking similarities between the movie and the "Destination: Void" universe depicted by Frank Herbert and 'Bill Ransom' in the science fiction novels 'The Jesus Incident' and 'The Lazarus Effect'. In the novels, an alien planet called Pandora is home to a global network of sentient kelp in which the minds of the deceased also continue to exist. The kelp, as well as other native lifeforms on the planet, are linked into a large entity with a shared consciousness, called "Avata".
During the aftermath of Home Tree falling, James Horner uses a three-note motif that is the same one used throughout Enemy at the Gates (2001) and Troy (2004) movies that he also scored.
Colonel Quaritch mentions that being on Pandora made him feel "like a shave-tail Looie." "Shave tail" was a term originally used in the 19th century among U.S. cavalry regiments. Newly assigned cavalry troopers were given horses with a shaved tail, to let other troopers know that the rider was dangerously inexperienced, and should be given extra room to maneuver during training. "Looie" is a nickname for lieutenant, the lowest ranking, and least experienced, rank among U.S. Marine Corps officers.
In the original draft Jake's original name was Josh while Neytiri was named Zuleika.
In early December 2005, a casting call for the female lead was posted on the website of Mali Finn Casting. It erroneously identified the movie as James Cameron's Battle Angel.
In the UK, the film was shipped in two parts, under the code name "Redbird". Reels 1-5 were delivered first; 6-10 came the following day.
In the Thai version, Jake Sully is a "Navi" who becomes a "Na'vi". The Thai word for Marine is "Na-vig-ga-yo-tin", but the translator shortened it to make the voice-over sync.
Became the highest-grossing film of all time on January 26th, 2010, with a final worldwide gross of US$ 2,779,404,183. The previous record-holder was Titanic (1997), also written and directed by James Cameron, with a worldwide gross of US$1,843,201,268.
The film reached the US$500 million dollar mark in 32 days, beating The Dark Knight (2008)'s previous record of 45 days. James Cameron's previous film, Titanic (1997), took 98 days to reach the US$500 million dollar mark.
The RDA (Resources Development Administration)'s private security force members all wear French military rank badge. Colonel Miles Quaritch ('Stephen Lang') wears the rank badge of a French Colonel. When Trudy Chacón (Michelle Rodriguez) breaks Sully and Angustine out from jail and flies them to the avatar link outpost, the woman alerting Quaritch is shown wearing the 3 ribbons of a French captain.
The concept of a network of trees in which minds of the deceased continue to exist appears in several novels of the "Ender" series by Orson Scott Card, most prominently in "Speaker for the Dead". Just like in the movie, the trees in the novel are sacred to the native (remotely humanoid) inhabitants, who tolerate the presence of a small human colony on their world until cultural misunderstandings lead to conflict.
When Trudy (Michelle Rodriguez) refers to them needing to fly VFR what she is referring to is the Visual Flight Rules, where a pilot, accurately enough, needs to see where they're going.
Yunjin Kim appeared as Neytiri in early test footage.
James Cameron has mentioned Roger Dean as a possible influence on the landscapes.
Is the highest-grossing film in post-communist Russia. It earned $111 411 877 there and a total of 13,3 million tickets was sold (as of March 2010).
The joystick and throttle used to remote-control the bulldozer is a set of modified Saitek X52 Pro. Those are designed to control airplanes in flight and combat simulator programs.
The first time Sigourney Weaver has appeared in a James Cameron film since Aliens (1986).
The year is never stated, but the video log shows that the year is 2154. The final battle takes place during August 2154, 200 years from the date of James Cameron's birth.
In Korean, "Na'vi" is spelled like "nabi", the Korean word for "butterfly", and a very common name of cats.
When Sully reassures Mo'at (the shaman) that he is "empty", it refers to his life being empty. The term "jarhead" is applied to Marines referring to their traditional 'high and tight' haircut, and is used by Dr. Augustine when Sully is entering the Avatar link for the first time.
Jodie Foster was considered for the role of Dr. Grace Augustine.
Mo'at, the spiritual leader of the tribe, is referred to by the title "Tsahik". This name sounds remarkably similar to the Hebrew "Tsaddik", meaning an individual of outstanding virtue and piety. The term is often applied to an especially knowledgeable interpreter of Biblical law and scriptures.
The first film to gross $700 million domestically in the United States. James Cameron's previous film Titanic (1997) was the first film to gross $500 and $600 million domestically.
James Horner stated that this was his most difficult film and the biggest challenge of his career. He said in an interview that he worked on the music from 4 AM to 10 PM for a year and a half.
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Director Cameo 

James Cameron:  His voice is heard over the radio shortly after the Dragon Gunship appears on screen, in route, to attack the Na'vi Hometree.

Director Trademark 

James Cameron:  [feet]  Close-up of Jake's feet when he moves them around in the soil; close-up of Col. Quaritch's feet in his first scene; slow-mo focus on the wolf-creature's feet as it circles around Jake's avatar, just before he first meets Neytiri.

Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

In the final battle sequence, Neytiri has a white hand print on her chest as part of her warpaint. It has five fingers, indicating that it is Jake's hand (avatars have five fingers while Na'vi only have four).
When Jake is examining his ponytail, Dr. Augustine states, "Don't play with that, you'll go blind." This is a common phrase that is taught to adolescent boys (referencing their genitalia) to discourage them from masturbating. It is shown later in the film that the Na'vi use their ponytails to link their minds during mating.
In the scene that introduces the concept of the tree of souls to the viewer, Grace remarks that outsiders are forbidden to go there, but that she would "die to get samples." This turns out to be an unfortunately prophetic figure of speech as later, she is allowed to go to the tree of souls because she is dying. Her first words upon arriving are, "I need to get samples..."
Stephen Lang has hinted that Colonel Quaritch could return for a sequel: "You think those two arrows in my chest are going to stop me from coming back? Nothing's over so long as they've got my DNA."
Sully and Neytiri only meet face to face at the end.
Grace Augustine says to Quaritch, "Or what, Ranger Rick, you going to shoot me?" Which, of course, is what he eventually did.
In the scene where Jake Sully is in prison, his back is to the camera and you can see the back of his wheelchair. The brand of wheelchair he is in is "Grunt", which is another term for a Marine infantryman.

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