Read James Cameron's Sworn Declaration on How He Created 'Avatar' (Exclusive)
James Cameron wants to prove that Avatar is his idea.
The director and his company, Lightstorm Entertainment, are currently fighting a handful of lawsuits -- including one from Gerald Morawski, who, two decades ago, sold Cameron some art in connection with Cameron's then-project to adapt the William Gibson short story, Burning Chrome, about a wounded war veteran who comes back into society as a partial cyborg.
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Morawski contends that after he sold Cameron four art pieces, he pitched the director on a movie about a struggle between an evil mining conglomerate and an indigenous tribe. The plaintiff now believes he's entitled to some of the $2.78 billion that Avatar grossed at the box office and recently got a judge to order Fox to turn over some financial documents.
But Cameron isn't going to lie down, and last month, he filed an extraordinary 45-page sworn declaration that details how he came up with Avatar, its themes, and even some hint about where Avatar is going in two sequels.
The document below spans more than five decades of Cameron's life, from the time in the 1960s, when as a child, other kids were out playing sports or watching TV while he dreamed of being a scientist, looking at the moons of Jupiter through a telescope and studying samples of pond water under a microscope.
Here are some other highlights from the declaration:
- Cameron says he has been pulling together elements of Avatar almost all his life. When he was in 11th grade, he did a pen drawing entitled "Spring on Planet Flora" which he says became the concept behind the alien jungle landscape on the moon Pandora, where Avatar takes place. When he was in college, he co-authored a script about a wheelchair-bound man who elects to surgically remove all external sensory input, so that he can journey through his own mind. And in the late 1970s, he co-wrote a script entitled Xenogenesis, where characters encounter strange creatures on a planet.
- Xenogenesis also deals with the idea of a sentience behind all nature, something that was also thematic in the great Polish author Stanislaw Lem's Solaris. Cameron goes into detail about Xenogenesis, which became a stop motion film. The late 1970s work could indicate where Avatar is heading. Cameron writes that the treatment and draft script "contain material that was not used in the Avatar film but may be used in Avatar sequels."
- In the early 1980s, Cameron worked on an unproduced project that was originally titled, "E.T.," but says he had to change the title to "Mother." Why? Cameron answers, "As I was writing it, I found out that Steven Spielberg was making a film called E.T. The Extraterrestrial, so I promptly changed the title of my story." The project was never produced, but Cameron says elements became incorporated into Avatar.
- Cameron draws explicit direct connections between his works. He says the Paul Reiser character in Aliens was the direct prototype of the Giovanni Ribisi character in Avatar. He says some of the military gear of Rambo II became inspiration for the heavily armed gunships in Avatar. He says the idea of a neural-net was first explored in his Terminator films. And so forth.
- Cameron identifies nature as sentient being, colonization, corporate/military antagonists, valuable minerals in an alien land, a love story, protagonist as a military man, telepresence, a hostile planet and a female scientist as some of the central elements of Avatar and details his thoughts on each of these topics. He also traces inspirational reference points on the film to Lawrence of Arabia, The Man Who Would Be King, The Emerald Forest, Medicine Man, The Mission, The Jungle Book, FernGully, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Rudyard Kipling, H. Rider Haggard and more. He repeats what he has said in press interviews that Avatar is his "most personal film."
Here's the full declaration:
by Graeme McMillan