David Thewlis felt “like a newcomer” filming Avatar 2 because he wasn’t used to working with motion capture technology.
The Harry Potter actor was classically trained at stage school and has been working in film for more than 30 years, but all his experience went out the window when he arrived to shoot the performance capture portion of James Cameron’s Avatar sequel in 2018 because he had no idea what he was doing.
“For the first time, I felt like a total newcomer, like it was my first job,” he told Total Film magazine. “I was on set having been working for 35 years on film sets and I was like, ‘So what do we do? What’s that doing here? Why is he doing that? Do we do it now?’ I felt very naive. And of course, I was, because none of the rules applied from everything I’ve learned.”
Cameron and his team had to develop brand-new technology that could blend underwater filming and performance capture as the majority of Avatar 2 is set underwater.
And Thewlis, who is playing an unknown member of the Na’vi race, admitted he is clueless about what he will look like in the finished product.
“I’ve got no idea what my scenes will be like because there are about 16 guys in the room with video cameras but they’re just shooting reference shots for Jim (Cameron) to look at later,” the 57-year-old said. “What those guys are shooting will never be on the screen, what’s being shot is obviously on these sensors… I’m fascinated to see how I’m going to look, because they sort of make them look a bit like oneself. It’s fantastic!”
The motion capture segment was completed at the end of 2018, and the live-action scenes were due to be shot in New Zealand this spring, but production was halted as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Earlier this week, Cameron and producer Jon Landau announced they had arrived in the country to begin filming, following a two-week quarantine period.
Thewlis, Kate Winslet, and Vin Diesel are new additions to the franchise, which features Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, and Sigourney Weaver. Avatar 2 is still scheduled to hit cinemas in December 2021.
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