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After twelve years, James Cameron returns to Pandora with his sequel to “Avatar,” “Avatar: The Way Of Water,” in theaters everywhere on December 16. And a lot is riding on “The Way Of Water.” For one, the sequel needs to measure up at the box office to Cameron’s 2009 film, which currently sits at the top of the list of highest-grossing films of all time (thanks to its theatrical re-release earlier this year). But the film also needs to be super-profitable for another reason. Cameron claims “The Way Of Water” needs “to be the third or fourth highest-grossing film in history” to break even. For reference, that break-even point is around $2.2 billion, or more than another Cameron mega-hit, 1997’s “Titanic.”
READ MORE: ‘Avatar: The Way Of Water’ Final Trailer: James Cameron Lays It All On The Line Again
But Cameron likes his odds to hit that mark because he believes in his dreams. In a new interview with GQ, Cameron cites his rich dream life as his best creative tool. Dreams are where the director first had the idea for 1984’s “The Terminator,” and the egg chamber sequence for 1986’s “Aliens.” And, as it happens, Cameron’s original conception of Pandora for “Avatar,” in a dream he had when he was 19. “I woke up after dreaming of this kind of bioluminescent forest with these trees that look kind of like fiber-optic lamps and this river that was glowing bioluminescent particles and kind of purple moss on the ground that lit up when you walked on it,” Cameron told GQ. “And these kinds of lizards that didn’t look like much until they took off. And then they turned into these rotating fans, kind of like living Frisbees, and they come down and land on something. It was all in the dream.”
Luckily enough, Cameron drew a picture of the world he dreamt of, saving him trouble a lot of trouble decades later. “I woke up super excited and I actually drew it,” continued Cameron. ” So I actually have a drawing. It saved us from about 10 lawsuits. Any successful film, there’s always some freak with tinfoil under their wig that thinks you’ve beamed the idea out of their head. And it turned out there were 10 or 11 of them. And so I pointed at this drawing I did when I was 19, when I was going to Fullerton Junior College, and said, ‘See this? See these glowing trees? See this glowing lizard that spins around, that’s orange? See the purple moss?’ And everybody went away.”
That picture leaves Cameron free to make as many “Avatar” movies as he wants, granted that “The Way Of Water” turns a profit. There are more “Avatar” sequels on the way, with “Avatar 3” shooting the same time as “The Way Of Water.” But a fourth and fifth film in the franchise may not happen if Cameron’s sequel this year fails at the box office. But considering the success of Cameron’s films, it’s hard to bet against him.
Cameron told GQ he still has a vivid dream life to this day. “I have my own private streaming service that’s better than any of that shit out there,” the director mused. “And it runs every night for free.” Is that Cameron having confidence in his subconscious mind, or sheer arrogance of a man who’s made so much money he believes everything he touches turns to gold? Movie fans find out the answer to that question when “Avatar: The Way Of Water” hits theaters on December 16. But keep this in mind: studios bet against the success “Titanic,” and it became a cultural phenomenon. The same goes for “Avatar,” too. Chances are it’s not safe to bet against “Avatar: The Way Of Water” either.