Inside New ‘Avatar’ Footage: Beasts, Hometree And Sigourney Weaver

James Cameron's producing partner, Jon Landau, gives MTV News a look at the extra nine minutes.

[movieperson id="9282"]James Cameron[/movieperson] started teasing us with talk of deleted “Avatar” footage to be included on the DVD back in December, even before his blue alien epic hit theaters. More than $2.7 billion in box-office receipts later, and much of that footage will be first seen not in home theaters but at the cinema, as a nine-minute-enhanced version of “Avatar” that arrives Friday.

Recently, Cameron spilled some details about what to expect from the special edition, including an expanded death scene for Na’vi warrior Tsu’tey as well as what he playfully calls the “alien kink” sex scene. Late last week, Cameron’s longtime producing partner, Jon Landau, gave MTV News a call to illuminate some other new scenes, explain how they choose what new footage to include and discuss the explosion of 3-D since “Avatar” first opened.

MTV: How long has it been since you watched the movie?

Jon Landau: I went away for a vacation finally this summer, and I came back and I watched the new material, and I got excited, because it’s material that is organic to the story. You don’t look at it and think it’s outside of the movie. It adds to it. It’s not superfluous.

MTV: “Avatar” was #1 for seven weeks. The special edition is getting a limited release, but are you looking at the calendar and thinking you could have another run at #1?

Landau: I don’t think we’ll be #1. This is just about appealing to two groups of people: one are fans of the movie that want to return to Pandora, and two are people that have never seen the movie. I can’t tell you how many people have said to me, “Gee, I never got to see it, and then it was out of the theaters.” It’s about servicing those two groups. It’s not about being #1. We don’t have enough screens.

MTV: Hey, Miley Cyrus’ “Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour” hit #1 on fewer screens a few years ago.

Landau: That’s not the way we’re approaching it from an advertising or marketing standpoint. This is about delivering on what we have heard from fans. What we tried to do is make the added material diversified. Some of it is backstory, some is action, some is night by luminescence, so no matter what you enjoyed, you’ll be getting more this time.

MTV: So the new footage — is this stuff that just needed some finishing touches or was it material that needed to be built from the ground up?

Landau: A lot of the stuff we had to build from the ground up. There’s the Sturmbeest hunt, which [digital-effects studio] Weta had not even started working on. Other scenes with the fan lizards — it was just one shot before, and now there’s a whole little sequence where Neytiri and Jake actually play around with them. Weta had finished maybe 50 percent of that. We went back to them and had them finish it off.

MTV: So it’s a mix of nearly finished and barely touched material.

Landau: And the stuff that was hardest to trim last time. In a Jim Cameron script, every scene has a purpose. These new scenes all have purpose. One scene talks about the history of Sigourney [Weaver] teaching at the [Na'vi] school, which is something we didn’t really do in the original release.

MTV: Cameron recently said “The Hurt Locker” could have been better in 3-D. What’s your take — can every film benefit from 3-D?

Landau: Does every film lend itself better to being in color rather than black-and-white?

MTV: I think somebody like Steven Spielberg would answer, “No.”

Landau: I don’t think you want to do “Schindler’s List” in color. I don’t think you want to do “Raging Bull” in color. But I believe it’s the same type of relationship with 3-D. We see our lives in 3-D. 3-D makes what we do as filmmakers even better. We try and create an immersive experience, and that’s what 3-D does. I always said to people that “My Dinner With Andre” would be better in 3-D.

MTV: Seriously?

Landau: Absolutely! It’ll put you in the room! It’ll put you at the table! To me, one of the most compelling scenes [in "Avatar"] from a 3-D standpoint is the scene where Neytiri throws Jake out of Hometree. It’s a dramatic scene, but the 3-D puts you in Hometree, and I become one of the Na’vi. It takes a passive experience and makes it voyeuristic.

MTV: I’ve always felt that 3-D should complement the storytelling rather than something that’s just tacked on for any number of reasons.

Landau: The screen plane has always been a subconscious barrier for the audience’s involvement with your movie. If you can make the screen plane disappear, the audience believes it is looking through a window into a world. And good 3-D is looking at a world through a window, not a world popping out of a window.

Check out everything we’ve got on “Avatar.”

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