James Cameron on the making of Avatar and his Super/Natural series

James Cameron is on a mission to go beyond what is possible. The Academy Award-winning filmmaker quickly became a visionary for his early work in the terminator franchise and Aliens. Titanic went from a film plagued with production problems to 11 Oscar wins and the first film to hit the $1 billion mark. Cameron’s Avatar dazzled the world with the use of 3D technology on its way to becoming the highest-grossing film of all time, a title it still holds today.

Despite becoming one of the most important filmmakers of the past 40 years, Cameron is an explorer at heart, and his fascination with the Earth is on display in the new National Geographic series, supernatural. Executive produced by Cameron, supernatural takes viewers inside the minds of the world’s extraordinary creatures. Thanks to scientific and technological advances, the series showcases some of the most fascinating images ever shot.

An African fish eagle catches a fish. (National Geographic for Disney+/Joe Hope)

Digital Trends participated in a roundtable discussion with Cameron about the upcoming series. He talked about discovering new science for supernaturaldesigning new creatures for Avatarand the excitement behind the search for new ideas.

Note: This interview has been abridged and edited for length and clarity.

Digital trends: You said that as people get older, they are further removed from nature. Of Avatar, you bring people back to a state of childlike wonder with what we see on screen. In supernatural, people are impressed by these breathtaking images. How did you recapture that childish wonder in supernatural?

James Cameron: supernaturalFor us as the show’s creators, it was all about attitude. We wanted to have a style. We wanted to have a subjectivity to it. We wanted to take you inside the heads and behind the eyes of these animals and see how they view life. The extraordinary senses they use and the strategies they use. They are not as intelligent as we are, but in some cases they have had millions of years to develop these incredible strategies, these alliances, these ways of acting. Much of this is new science.

Collectively – National Geographic; my company, Earthship; and the leading production house, Plimsoll, in the UK – we looked for intriguing new results from scientific research. There are, of course, thousands of scientists around the world who look into the nooks and crannies of nature to understand these strategies. So we look for exciting new ideas.

A blue alien rides a flying dragon in Avatar 2.

Of Avatarif i made a creature with my designers for Avatar and I said it could see infrared or it could process the world five times faster than we do, or it could emit or reflect ultraviolet so they could see each other flying around in the forest at night, you wouldn’t bat an eyelid. But when you think, “Oh, that’s a squirrel,” or “That’s a lizard,” something we consider familiar, we suddenly see it in a very different light, literally and figuratively. And I find that exciting.

It’s also about this less reverent style. This isn’t a stodgy, sort of classic natural history series with the narrator who keeps on thumping. We have Benedict Cumberbatch. He doesn’t just tell it; he trades it. He gets you inside what’s happening in a way that I think is very recognizable.

supernatural streams September 21 on Disney+. Avatar will hit theaters again on September 23.

Editor’s Recommendations