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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Interview With "Avatar" Director and Cast

Aired February 3, 2010 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, exclusive -- inside "Avatar".

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "AVATAR," COURTESY TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX)

ZOE SALDANA, NEYTIRI, "AVATAR": You will never be one of the people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Academy Award nominated director James Cameron speaks for the first time publicly since his film made over $2 billion at the box office, making history, breaking his own record set by "Titanic" and smashing another milestone just today. Cameron and the cast take you behind the scenes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SIGOURNEY WEAVER, ACTRESS: It's fascinating to see your human self transformed into this other being.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And to Pandora.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES CAMERON, DIRECTOR, WRITER, PRODUCER, "AVATAR": And I want you to go on this journey into this world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Fourteen years in the making. The technology didn't exist to create what was in Cameron's mind then. And now he's changed the way movie are going to be made forever.

How in the world did he do it?

How can he top this "Avatar" triumph with a sequel?

Next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Good evening.

We have quite a show for you tonight. The incredible "Avatar" -- it's been nominated for nine Academy Awards and the film has broken every box office record there is. "Avatar's domestic haul today surpassed "Titanic's." Worldwide, it's broken all of the records.

We welcome the man who created both films, director, screenwriter and producer of "Avatar," James Cameron.

Thanks, James.

We've got quite a show here planned for you.

CAMERON: I know. I know.

KING: We've got our screens and everything.

CAMERON: I know. I love what you've done with the place. It's -- it's gorgeous.

KING: We -- it's -- we've become "Avatar."

CAMERON: You have. You've been taken over.

KING: Are you surprised at its success?

CAMERON: Absolutely. And that's not just sort of, you know, false humility. I mean, we -- we thought it was going to be a commercial movie, but we didn't think it was going to do half of what it's done financially.

KING: In retrospect, what did it?

I know it's hard, because you're so close to it, but what did it?

CAMERON: Yes, it's tough. You know, look, I mean, I see a very similar pattern, in a sense, between "Titanic" and "Avatar" -- not that they're similar films, because they're not, totally different subjects. But in both cases, you have people going back over and over to see a film.

And so there has to be some kind of emotional connection to the movie that's happening and it has to be happening in all culture groups around the world, because we're doing -- we're doing well in almost every international market.

KING: The idea was born a long time ago, right?

CAMERON: Yes.

KING: Where did it emerge from?

What -- how did you come up with this?

CAMERON: Kind of from my childhood, really. I was a -- I was just a geek movie fan when I was a kid, but I loved science fiction and fantasy movies like the Ray Harryhausen films and things like that. And I was always reading science fiction. So all of these ideas were percolating for -- really, for decades. And when I sat down to write this story, which was in '95, it just all came gushing out very, very rapidly. KING: How do you react to those who say, this is about Vietnam or Iraq or Fort Apache?

CAMERON: Yes, good.

KING: Cowboys and Indians.

Is it?

CAMERON: Good stuff, yes. I mean, I think all of those interpretations are -- are valid. You know, I think there is some political messaging in the film. I think there's definitely a strong environmental message. There is comment about, you know, the -- the colonial period in North -- North America and South America.

KING: So it's fair to say?

CAMERON: Absolutely, yes. I mean, I think it would be unfair to dismiss the film as not really thinking about those things.

KING: All right. To create this, it required some monumental behind-the-scenes efforts. Let's look at some of it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "AVATAR," COURTESY TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh my God.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's it!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: It's safe to say, there's never been a movie like it and you may have changed the way movies will be made. You've probably affected 3-D forever.

CAMERON: Well, we'll see. We'll see what changes. I mean, what I would like to think will happen is that filmmakers now will have permission to do a serious film in 3-D, where previously it was thought of as kind of for kids, you know, maybe for animation, that sort of thing. And you know, go make a serious dramatic film in 3-D.

KING: Disney has got a movie coming in 3-D. And, apparently, the theaters can't push it out in time because yours has so much success, they can't get yours out and it in.

CAMERON: Well, I think -- you know, it's "Alice in Wonderland" and I think it will...

KING: Yes.

CAMERON: ...it will come out when it's -- when it's meant to. And, obviously, it will push out a -- push us out of some of the 3-D theaters. But, you know, we'll just hang around longer. It'll be fine.

KING: We aren't being too technical -- and we're going to meet your technical people. Your 3-D takes us in. It doesn't throw things at us, like "House of Wax."

CAMERON: Yes, well, part of that is just stylistic, kind of how you -- how you direct a movie, in a way. You know, if people -- if -- if the filmmaker is always bouncing a tennis ball off your forehead throughout the whole film, you're constantly reminded that you're sitting there wearing 3-D glasses.

KING: Yes.

CAMERON: I want you to forget you're wearing glasses. I want you to go on this journey into this world.

So the way we shot the 3-D, we -- we did it to kind of draw you through the screen into that world. Forget that there's -- that there's a screen there at all.

KING: How long did it take to make?

CAMERON: About four-and-a-half years.

KING: Why?

CAMERON: The first two years was R&D, developing the technology and -- and creating the world -- designing everything, drawing it, painting it. And then the two-and-a-half years of -- of production.

KING: Was there -- was there ever a time during the production where people were saying, boy, this ain't going to make it, the costs are going to be too high?

CAMERON: Look, I mean, I had...

KING: You know what goes on.

CAMERON: ...I had to keep from putting a pistol in my mouth about 20 times during the making of this film. And it really -- you know, there were times when we really thought we were off course and we found out later that we weren't in as bad shape as we thought.

But, you know, that's the nature of an experimental project. It was like the Lewis and Clark expedition -- they kind of had a general idea where they were going, but they -- they -- there's no way you could have predicted all the little twists and turns in the river along the way.

KING: How did you come up with the name?

CAMERON: I don't know. You know, it's -- when I wrote it in '95, it just popped into my head that, you know, here you've got -- you've got people projecting their consciousness into a -- a fleshly body, a biological body. And that's what, you know, the -- the Sanskrit word means -- the taking of flesh, the incarnation of a -- of a divine being, in the case of the -- of the Hindu religion.

And although our characters aren't divine beings, obviously, the idea that it is actually a fleshly incarnation.

KING: Did you think, when you have this much money -- or did the studio think, we've got to have a star?

CAMERON: Oh, yes.

KING: We've got to have a Tom Cruise.

CAMERON: A big discussion. A big discussion. You know, I wanted the guy to be young, so we were looking at younger actors. And, you know, when I found Sam Worthington, I didn't want a star, I wanted him. And so then it was just a question of getting the studio comfortable with that. And ultimately, they signed off. They agreed with me.

KING: Because sometimes an action film -- and this is certainly that, can overwhelm the star, right?

CAMERON: Absolutely.

KING: Where the action takes precedence over the star. This film has an amazing balance of both.

CAMERON: Yes, I think so. You know, you have to believe the people, then you'll believe the action. You know, it works outward from the -- from the hearts of the characters, really. It doesn't matter how big the action, the spectacle is, if you lose track of the people and what they're feeling, then you've lost the -- lost the fight.

KING: How much was shot as to what we've seen?

How much more was shot?

CAMERON: Ah, a good question. Well, we -- there was probably about another 40 minutes of the film, but we didn't complete all of that up to the level that you're seeing here. Probably complete, that you could watch as finished movie, there's maybe another eight minutes or so...

KING: (INAUDIBLE)...

CAMERON: Well, we'll stick it in the DVD.

KING: ... Four to one or something?

CAMERON: No, no. Oh, you mean like when we're just shooting on the set during the day?

KING: Yes.

CAMERON: Yes, I'd do, you know, six, seven, eight takes, that sort of thing. KING: Oh, so there is a lot of footage.

CAMERON: Yes, yes. But there's always footage on the floor in any movie.

KING: Going to have a sequel?

CAMERON: We might be persuaded.

KING: Well, but...

CAMERON: We'll have to see how much money the movie makes first.

KING: Oh, yes, because based on its income, I wouldn't do a sequel, because why follow it up?

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Are you already thinking script?

CAMERON: I haven't started thinking about the story yet, although I have a general story arc for it. But we have had some technical discussions of -- of how we would do it.

KING: The shame is you killed off a great villain.

CAMERON: Hmmm.

KING: You did.

CAMERON: Well, it's a science fiction movie. Nobody is -- nobody is ever really dead in a science fiction movie.

KING: The inventors who made the movie happen are with us. See if they can make an avatar out of me.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(VIDEO CLIP FROM "AVATAR," COURTESY TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX)

KING: James Cameron remains with us.

As you notice, we're all standing now, because we're in front of the video wall. We have this strange looking apparatus here, too.

With us is Richie Baneham, who was the animation director of "Avatar," and Vince Pace, the stereographer of "Avatar." He collaborated with James Cameron in developing this fusion camera system for use in shooting feature films in stereoscopic 3-D.

But we -- we're going to concentrate for the moment at the wall.

What are we looking at?

And would you give us, fellows, a sense of how these images were created?

CAMERON: Well, this is a -- a live action shot. And this would have been shot with this camera right here. In fact, this was probably a handheld shot where I would have had this camera right on my shoulders. And it's -- it's...

KING: All right. What part did Vince play in this?

CAMERON: Yes. Absolutely.

VINCE PACE, STEREOGRAPHER, "AVATAR":

Well, I worked with Jim to develop the camera about 10 years ago. And he wanted to build a system that could do all forms of 3-D so it could teach us what -- what worked and what didn't work. And then you see the results when we use it on "Avatar."

KING: There was only one of these cameras?

PACE: Oh, we had a bunch of them.

CAMERON: Yes.

KING: A bunch of them.

All made by Sony?

CAMERON: You know, Sony does the core technology and then Vince's team created the stereoscopic rig which allowed us to shoot 3- D.

KING: And what was your role, Rich?

RICHIE BANEHAM, ANIMATION DIRECTOR: The rubber meeting the road. We had to make it integrate, both the live action and CG element, plus the virtual camera, which is a slightly different camera rig than this. It's a -- a fully virtual CG camera that we shoot inside a -- a volume to provide Jim with the directorial tools that he -- he needs to -- to get this done.

KING: Where in Ireland did you find him?

CAMERON: Richie is a very famous animator. He worked on the "Lord of the Rings" films and helped create the Gollum character. And because of his experience...

KING: Oh.

CAMERON: ... In doing facial reality and CG, we invited him to be part of "Avatar."

KING: And where'd you find Vince?

CAMERON: Vince and I go way back.

PACE: Back to the days of "The Abyss." I used to specialize in underwater, Larry. And -- and that's where I crossed paths with Jim.

KING: What is a stereographer?

PACE: Well, it's someone who understands the -- the dynamics of stereo and how -- how to produce good images -- you know, that -- that's what their main role is.

KING: Now, most people believe "Avatar" represents a technical revolution in filmmaking. To give you a small sense, we're going to look at a side-by-side comparison of a scene involving Zoe Saldana.

Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "AVATAR," COURTESY TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX)

SALDANA: I trusted you.

SAM WORTHINGTON, ACTOR: Trust me now, please.

SALDANA: (INAUDIBLE). You will never be one of the people. (INAUDIBLE) nothing.

WORTHINGTON: (INAUDIBLE) please. Please.

SALDANA: (INAUDIBLE).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: OK, Richie, explain animation here in that scene.

BANEHAM: Well, it's interesting, because well...

KING: Explain that.

BANEHAM: That was actually -- that was a -- a pivotal moment. The night we shot that, Zoe very much set the bar from -- from an acting standpoint. And we obviously had to meet that with Neytiri.

And I think this is probably the best scene in the movie, as far as being indicative of a process being improved by adding -- we added HD cameras for reference all around the -- the actress, in order to make it, in some ways, a -- a sympathetic process for the animator, as opposed to an empathetic process.

KING: So you did the left-hand side of the screen, right?

BANEHAM: Yes. Well, we...

KING: You were the animator.

And, Vince, you were doing what there?

PACE: On there, that's -- it's all Richie and Jim. And, you know, I'm more involved in the live action, you know.

KING: OK. And you held this camera on your shoulder? CAMERON: Absolutely, yes, for the whole...

KING: You did?

CAMERON: Yes, absolutely. Yes. I love to operate it myself. The only thing...

KING: Was it heavy?

CAMERON: It's not too bad. It's about 28 pounds. And you could run with it, walk with it, crouch down with it and so on. And then there was somebody off-camera operating the -- the focus with this -- with this device right here.

KING: I thought directors used cameramen.

CAMERON: Yes, well, I have a DP who does the -- does the lighting and I like to operate the camera myself.

KING: Oh, in all your movies?

CAMERON: Oh, yes. Yes. Well, since "Titanic," you know, and all the documentaries...

KING: So you're like a camera freak?

CAMERON: I'm a camera freak, yes.

KING: Is he tough to work for?

BANEHAM: Well, I was going to say, let's be honest about it, Jim likes to do it all. He likes to get involved in the whole process.

KING: He's a control freak?

BANEHAM: Well, no, I tell you, it's -- it's a nice directorial style for -- for the likes of me. It's that Jim knows what he wants, as opposed to showing something for him to react to. So he has very much a clear vision when we get into it. And this seemed to be based on whatever we did with the visuals, however we got there, technically, it was all about telling the story and getting the best possible performance.

KING: Do you like working for him?

PACE: Oh, absolutely.

BANEHAM: Yes.

PACE: But he forces us to be transparent in the production process. You know, I mean, that's the real challenge, is you work so hard to be invisible and that's -- you know, it works out really well.

KING: James Cameron has created some unforgettable roles for women.

Sigourney Weaver tells us what it's like to be one of them, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "ALIEN")

WEAVER: Get away from her, you bitch.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE ABYSS")

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "T2: JUDGMENT")

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, ACTOR: I'll be back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "TRUE LIES")

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "TITANIC")

LEONARDO DICAPRIO, ACTOR: Open your eyes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Those were clips from some of James Cameron's blockbusters, including "Aliens," which starred Sigourney Weaver. She's part of the cast of "Avatar," too. And I talked with her earlier today from Paris.

Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Sigourney Weaver is in Paris.

Your character, by the way, in this film is human, but also a Navi avatar.

What was your reaction the first time you saw yourself...

WEAVER: That's right.

KING: ... Blue-skinned and alien-looking?

How did you feel when you saw that?

(LAUGHTER)

WEAVER: I -- I realized I've never been tall enough. Ten feet is really the right size. But it -- I think what -- I think -- I think it's a beautiful blue. And it's -- it's fascinating to see your human self transformed into this other being. It's -- I -- I'm not quite used to it yet, because my avatar looks a lot like me and I haven't quite gotten used to that yet. It still amazes me, really.

KING: Are you surprised at its success?

WEAVER: You know, I have to say, I -- you can never underestimate Jim Cameron. But also, when I read the script, which was in 2006, I thought it was the most ambitious script I've ever read. It totally took me to another world, which I think moviegoers adore.

And the story was such a classic story of this young man who -- who finds a new life -- finds something to fight for. Several of us have double lives. You know, we -- we -- we have our human lives and then we have our lives on Pandora as our avatars.

So there were so many fantastic ingredients in the story that I really thought it would be tremendously successful, especially in the hands of Jim Cameron.

KING: We've got another look, as I said, in the making of this film, a scene involving her, Sam Worthington's character, Jake, and their Navi avatars on Pandora.

Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "AVATAR," COURTESY TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX)

WEAVER: So you just figured you'd come out here to the most hostile environment known to man, without no training of any kind and see how it went?

What was going through your head?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about this one?

Run, don't run?

WEAVER: Run. Definitely run!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Wow!

When you were making it, did you realize what -- I mean, was it hard to do, physically?

WEAVER: Actually, the -- the performance capture, which had us sort of running around in these black leotards with cameras on our heads and little green dots on our faces, it -- Jim made sure that -- I think we were -- we felt very at ease with all of it. We were in a big empty space. There were a lot of technicians and computers on the side.

But the experience of working on the scenes with each other was -- was like an early rehearsal on a stage, really. He also had -- he had invented this magical camera where you could actually look in his lens and see what you would look like as your avatar in the rainforest in Pandora. So that was so extraordinary. That was the most science fiction thing in this whole experience, was somehow the -- that our experience was so simple as actors. We just connected to each other. We played the scenes. Jim was right there with us, directing us. And then somehow, the computers managed to transform all of it into this otherworldly experience for the audience.

So it was really fun, actually.

KING: Sigourney, you're -- you're used to science fiction, "Aliens"

Previously. You're used to James Cameron.

Is acting acting or is science fiction different?

WEAVER: You know, I guess I don't really think of these stories -- I've done five now, you know, the four "Alien" movies and...

KING: Right.

WEAVER: ... And this one. And, to me, they're -- they're great stories, a lot about character and adventure and courage and survival, being smart and -- and going for it. So, to me, I don't really think of them as science fiction. They do take place in the future. They do take place in another world. But I guess I grew up reading stories like this, you know, "King Solomon's Mines" and things like that.

So I -- I guess I just think of them as great classical stories and they happen to take place in the future. So I -- I think they're -- they're cool to do, as well as to watch.

KING: I'll tell you who would have loved this, one of the most creative people I've ever known or heard about...

WEAVER: Who?

KING: ... Your late great father, Pat Weaver. He would have loved this.

WEAVER: Oh, I think he would have.

KING: He would have. Yes.

WEAVER: I think he would have been blown away by -- by the -- the experience of seeing "Avatar" and how -- how ambitious it is and how satisfying it is as a -- as a movie, as an entertainment, as an experience, frankly.

But thank you. That's sweet of you.

KING: Thanks, Sigourney.

WEAVER: My pleasure.

KING: What was it like to work with her, Jim?

CAMERON: Sigourney is -- well, first of all, she -- she's -- she's a little bit humble there talking about the acting process, because for her, the acting process is all-consuming, which is what makes her great in a fantasy or science fiction context. And she just gets better on every take.

And usually I'm satisfied by take six, but she wants to go, she -- she'll -- she'll tell me -- she doesn't ask if she can have another take, she tells me we're doing another take.

KING: An evening with "Avatar" -- that's what we're doing tonight on LARRY KING LIVE.

You've never seen our show like this before.

And we'll be right back with more.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAMERON: The thing we were worried most about was this -- and this is where movies live and breathe, in the tight close-up.

The part that we had to create during the making of this film was the facial image-based performance capture technology that allowed what the actors did to 100 percent translate to what you see the characters doing.

So we came up with this idea that we would actually have a little boom -- on the end of that boom, there would be a little tiny camera and it would image the face while the actor was working. So it captured every nuance of -- of how their lips moved and how all their facial muscles moved and how their eyes moved.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Joining us now from New York is Stephen Lang. He's one of my favorite actors. He plays the head of security for the company that's mining Pandora. That -- the name is Miles Quaritch.

You came up with that name, Cameron?

CAMERON: Yes, I did.

KING: Did you like that name, Stephen, Quaritch?

STEPHEN LANG, COLONEL QUARITCH, "AVATAR": I did. It's got a little bit of -- a few barbs to it, you know.

KING: Do -- do you like being villainous?

LANG: I think it's always fun to play the villain, particularly a villain like this, who's got, I think, a lot of depth to him back story, because he's just -- he's just about a half an inch away from being a hero.

KING: That's right. And he -- he's -- he -- basically he should be the good guy, right?

He's the American.

LANG: I think in another time, in another place, in another conflict, he would be the hero.

KING: He is, of course, as we've said, the baddest of bad guys.

You want to see for yourself?

Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "AVATAR," COURTESY TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX)

LANG: You're on Pandora, ladies and gentlemen. Respect that fact every second of every day. If there is a hell, you might want to go there for some R&R after a tour on Pandora. Out there beyond that fence, every living thing that crawls, flies or squats in the mud wants to kill you and eat your eyes for Jujubes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: What was that accent, Stephen?

Where is -- where is he from?

LANG: That's a -- I -- that's a Marine accent. It's been my experience that -- that the jarhead clan almost has their own vernacular, their own accent. It's a -- I'd say there's a bit of Virginia in there, a little Tidewater, Virginia, and maybe a few other things, as well. It's made up.

KING: Do you remember the movie, "A Few Good Men," where Jack Nicholson played that incredible part?

Well, Stephen Lang did it on Broadway and he was incredible with that -- that great line, right, you wouldn't know the truth?

LANG: You can't handle the truth.

KING: Yes.

Do you have fun doing people like this?

LANG: Oh, absolutely. I mean I like any character that's got a strong dynamic and charismatic personality. Also, Jim Cameron gives you an awful lot to do -- physical tasks, working with the weaponry, working with the amp suit. It's so much easier than -- than -- than acting, as it were, when you have a physical task.

KING: Did you -- why -- how did you cast him, Jim? CAMERON: You know, Stephen came in. He -- he did -- he did one audition for me and just blew us away. He had the part before he walked out the door. You know, I mean he -- I was -- I was prepped to, you know, his -- his stage play that he had -- he had done previously, his one man show, "Beyond Glory." He had played a number of military characters. He came -- came in so ready to show me this guy. And I was kind of shocked after the reading to find out what a nice guy he was, you know, what a....

KING: You don't think --

CAMERON: -- what a sweet affable --

(CROSSTALK)

CAMERON: -- guy, because Quaritch is all business and he (INAUDIBLE) --

KING: He has what you would call presence, right?

CAMERON: Oh, absolutely, yes.

KING: Your character is -- is the human guy in the movie.

Do you -- do you have to get -- did you like him, Stephen?

Do you have to like him?

LANG: That's a great question. And the answer is, look, if I don't love them, who will?

That's how I feel about it. And I did. And, as I said, there's so many -- so many of the qualities that he personifies are good qualities. You can't doubt his courage. You can't doubt his -- his commitment. You can't doubt his sense of mission. His job is to keep people alive. I think he's very frustrated by the fact that the mission is an impossible one.

He's a very -- he's a straight line and a rigid angle in an environment of fluidity and a circular environment. So it's a very, very tough job, I think.

KING: When you say --

LANG: He also moves me.

KING: Go ahead. I'm sorry.

LANG: No, I said I find him a very moving character, as well, because, you know, just as an actor, you ask yourself what has brought him to this -- this point of darkness. His point of view -- his world view is so cynical. How did he get there?

And Jim and I talk about that and answer those questions and that's -- you know, that gives me plenty to work with, it seems to me. The one thing that he's missing, for sure -- it's completely gone, is any sense of humility. And humility is a characteristic that -- that is common to any heroic figure -- any character.

KING: Yes.

LANG: And Quaritch has none.

KING: Well said.

By the way, if you're one of the three or four people who haven't seen this movie, Stephen Lang is great.

Michelle Rodriguez, also known as Trudy Chacon, is here.

She's next as we continue our behind the scenes look at the film that has now broken every box office record on record everywhere, "Avatar".

More next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Remaining with us, James Cameron, who put all of this together; Richard Baneham, the animation director; Vince Pace, the stereographer; Stephen Lang, who plays the colonel.

And joining us now is Michelle Rodriguez. Now, James Cameron has a well-deserved reputation for creating strong female characters. This is no exception. She is the ex-Marine pilot.

Before we talk with Michelle, watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my god.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You should see your faces.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: What was it like to go flying around like that?

And were you flying around?

MICHELLE RODRIGUEZ, TRUDY CHACON, "AVATAR": No, we were actually stabilized, but it was on a rig that -- that had a bit of movement to it.

CAMERON: Yes.

RODRIGUEZ: It had a hydraulics system. I was in a -- in an actual cockpit, right?

CAMERON: Yes.

RODRIGUEZ: To -- what was that?

Was that a Blackhawk or --

CAMERON: Well, it was based roughly on that -- on that

KING: Is -- is it harder to act when you -- when the -- the technical aspects are so overwhelming?

RODRIGUEZ: You know, what was so wonderful about coming on board of this film and being a live action character, where I'm human the entire time, is that I -- I hopped on board two years after they did all the -- all hard work.

KING: Oh, you came in late?

RODRIGUEZ: Yes. Yes. Well, I wouldn't call it late, but, yes. I came into the game after, you know, he had manifested the entire planet of Pandora, all of its foliage; all of the, you know, nutrients; you know, the movement of the helicopter was already premeditated. And whenever I had a question about, you know, what that green screen outside of the cockpit window consists of, I would just tap him on the shoulder and be like, could you help me out here?

And I'd go to a screen and he'd have -- he'd play it out for me. It was all done, you know.

KING: How about the physical aspects?

Was there are a lot of that for you?

RODRIGUEZ: I got a little bit of training. I got -- got to work with -- with the -- the modified guns that they hooked up for -- for most of the military there. And I got to fly in -- in a chopper across Los Angeles.

KING: Wow!

RODRIGUEZ: Yes, he let me hold the stick lick (ph) and everything and, you know, actually fly in -- in -- in the air so that I could get used to maneuvering in a real chopper.

KING: What was it like when you saw the finished product?

RODRIGUEZ: I -- you know, I was just -- I can't really -- it's marvelous, you know?

It's just, your heart --

KING: Blown away?

RODRIGUEZ: Yes, blown away. I -- I have no words for it, really.

KING: How did you cast her, James?

CAMERON: Well, actually, Michelle was my dream choice for the character. I kind of had her pictured in my mind when I -- when I wrote her. Of course, I didn't want to tell her that when I met her, when I interviewed her. But I didn't really interview her. I really spent the whole time trying to convince her to do the movie and telling her -- telling her, you know, why it was a great idea for her in the first place.

KING: Why didn't you want to do it?

RODRIGUEZ: Little did he know that I would serve the guy coffee, you know, for a year if, you know, I could afford it. I mean my lifestyle is a little bit more than an assistant.

But I -- you know, I love your work. I think you just are incredible at translating yourself in multiple formats, you know, from sound to music to imagination. The guy gets it.

KING: Did you have to learn any technical thing?

RODRIGUEZ: You know, I spent most of my time geeking out with Jim, asking him questions about, you know, his perspective of the universe itself, the real life --

CAMERON: She's very, very curious.

RODRIGUEZ: And -- yes, I'm very curious. So, I mean -- but as far as my character goes, there really wasn't, you know, much technique to her. She's a pretty simple type of personality, you know.

KING: Really?

RODRIGUEZ: She just follows her heart, you know?

KING: But she's driven.

RODRIGUEZ: Yes, very driven.

KING: We're getting an unusual look at an extraordinary movie tonight. It is now officially, today, the number one box office ever, worldwide and domestic. He broke his own record, did James Cameron. So this is a congratulatory day for him.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: By the way, Richard Baneham and Vince Pace, the two geniuses behind all this, behind Mr. Cameron, are sitting behind us. We heard from them earlier and we'll -- I just want to establish who you all -- you're looking at, in case you just joined us.

Joining us now is Joel David Moore.

He plays Dr. Norman Spellman in "Avatar".

Your character is human but he's also a Navi avatar, right? JOEL DAVID MOORE, DR. NORMAN SPELLMAN, "AVATAR": Yes.

KING: OK.

MOORE: He's -- he's also

KING: So you had to work with a performance capture helmet?

MOORE: Um-hmm. It's in a lot of these.

KING: Explain that.

What was that like --

MOORE: And --

KING: -- for you?

MOORE: Well, it's, you know, like Cinq (ph) said earlier, it's a lot like going to black box theater, you know?

You're getting back to the roots of acting. It's really taking -- you know, you're often worried about lights and -- and camera angles and if you're blocking somebody else. You can really just get back to, you know, two people and -- and acting. And I -- I think that's good.

KING: Learning and speaking the Navi, the language of the people, was another challenge for you, obviously.

MOORE: Right.

KING: What was that like?

MOORE: Well, we spent -- man, I want to say three or four months before we started shooting, just learning the language. We'd meet with -- with a couple of people and they would tell me what to say. I mean it's such a -- a beautiful language, because it's -- it's borrowing ideas from a lot of different languages. So you can't point to it and say, you know, it sounds just like this or just like that thing.

KING: You invented a language, right?

CAMERON: We did, for the film, yes.

KING: No, I gather that.

CAMERON: Well, Paul -- Paul Frommer, who is the head of linguistics at -- the linguistics department at USC, actually created the language for us.

KING: Oh, really?

CAMERON: Yes. So it's actually a grammatically correct language. MOORE: A lot of this is -- is interesting, because people, you know, ask me to say things in Navi, as if we understand the entire language.

MOORE: And -- and I want to get these books on tapes that they're talking about, just to -- to figure it out. You know, we had to learn what we had to say in the movie. So but -- but, again, it's -- it's beautiful to listen to and -- and in the movie where we're, we're, you know, I'm -- I'm fluent in the language, so I'm teaching Sam's character, Jake Sully, how to speak the language throughout. So I -- I got a one up on him.

KING: Vince, were you there for the whole making of it?

PACE: No, I wasn't, Larry. I -- I specialized on the L.A. portion and, you know, in preparation for the film.

KING: And what about you, Richard?

BANEHAM: I was fortunate enough to be in it -- in it from beginning to end.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Did he involve himself with you, Gil?

MOORE: So much. You know, we -- he -- he ran the technical side of the -- of the set. So this was before Michelle was around. But he told me what to do. These two guys really were -- were the guys that I listened to all day long. But it's a good place to be in.

KING: Was there any training to do this part?

MOORE: To do. Well, yes, we had to -- we had to learn the language and -- (CROSS TALK)

MOORE: And I had to learn how to use the guns and that was something that this guy really likes teaching. So -- so we were all out in New Zealand.

MOORE: And they're amazing guns, because they -- you can talk a little bit about this, I mean they're not normal. They're -- they're --

KING: What do you mean not normal?

CAMERON: Well, they're just made up. They're made up weapons. So we -- we had to evoke, you know, an armor or create these new weapons, like you do on any science fiction film. But I -- you know, I like to make sure that their gun technique is good. I don't -- we don't have to teach Michelle anything. She's done enough of these hard girl gun parts, you know. She knows what to do.

MOORE: And I had --

CAMERON: And Joel was the cherry man.

(CROSSTALK)

CAMERON: We had to put him -- we had to put him through boot camp.

MOORE: In fact, he had to switch with me. I'm a left-handed. He had to switch me from being a left-hander to a right-hander, because the military -- that's how the military would teach you, to shoot with your right hand.

KING: You can't be a left-handed gun shooter?

CAMERON: No, but you can be a left-handed Navi because -- because the Navi characters had to learn to shoot the bow left-handed.

KING: Did you get to sympathize with the Navis?

MOORE: Absolutely. That's -- that's the -- I'm on the same ride that, you know, that Jake and Sig, because, you know, as an anthropologist, I came there to study this beautiful indigenous species. And part of the ride is -- you know, we're -- we're, in a way, peacekeepers. But part of the ride is -- is understanding the beauty that they are, you know, this -- this relationship that they have between animal and plant. And --

KING: And Stephen ought to feel bad trying to destroy them.

MOORE: Right. That bad guy.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Back with more of the salute to "Avatar," the number one domestic and foreign movie of all time.

Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

KING: That, of course, Zoe Saldana, who was brilliant in this movie.

We're sorry she couldn't make it today. One more clip from "Avatar," a dramatic moment involving Sam's character and the Navis' life in harmony with nature.

Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right, you're mine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: How did you decide on blue for the color and not -- not green?

CAMERON: I like -- well, green was kind of taken by the little green men and "The Simpsons" had yellow. So pretty much blue was all that was left.

KING: Did you have any say in this, Vince?

PACE: No, not at all.

KING: Did you, Rich?

BANEHAM: No, I didn't.

KING: No?

BANEHAM: The blue decision was made before I came onto it. There were a couple of drawings, though.

KING: We have a Twitter question Tweeted to KingsThings: "What does the "Avatar" team think about the possibility of extraterrestrial life?"

Stephen, what do you think?

Do you think there's life on other planets?

LANG: Oh, no question of it.

KING: No question?

LANG: I think there's got to be.

KING: OK.

LANG: Absolutely.

KING: What do you think, Jim?

CAMERON: Absolutely. I think we'll find life in this solar system, not like we see on Pandora with intelligent beings, but we'll find --

KING: Do you all think that?

Does anyone think maybe --

RODRIGUEZ: I -- I have to agree. There are just too many dimensions other than what we see, hear and smell to know right now. But I agree, for sure.

KING: Do all of you -- well, we asked Jim earlier -- do all of you think there will be a sequel? (LAUGHTER)

(CROSS TALK)

CAMERON: Put your hands up if you want a sequel.

(CROSSTALK)

CAMERON: Your hand's not up, Vince.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My hand is up.

KING: Everybody wants a sequel.

But Stephen, you were killed.

LANG: Well, my mantra is -- is nothing's over while I've still got my DNA. But --

(CROSSTALK)

LANG: We'll see.

(CROSSTALK)

LANG: We'll see what the boss thinks about that.

KING: You could clone him.

CAMERON: Sure. We could do -- we've got genetic engineering in this story. We can bring him back. Hell ya.

KING: You can do anything when you're -- well, you're a master -- you're a manipulator, aren't you?

CAMERON: No, not at all.

KING: A director is a manipulator.

CAMERON: Well, I --

KING: You're manipulating us. You're manipulating --

CAMERON: A director is a leader.

RODRIGUEZ: He is a -- he's a dream weaver.

CAMERON: I ask the actors to do something, I don't tell them to do it.

KING: Because you're taking this on your trip?

CAMERON: Yes. Yes, that's right. It's my world, you all are you just living in it.

KING: Is he -- LANG: It's true.

KING: Is he easy to work for, Michelle?

RODRIGUEZ: Yes. I -- I find him incredibly easy to work for. You know, as -- as long as you don't tick him off and -- and you don't come to set, you know, unprepared and unprofessional --

KING: Joel --

RODRIGUEZ: -- then I think that you'll have a really wonderful time working with this man. He's --

KING: Do you find him easy, Joel?

MOORE: Yes. I -- I would -- it's going to be hard to go to -- to another movie without a director that starts the bar here, because that's what's raising everything. That's what's making everybody want to come to set and give their all.

KING: And the technical people like him, as well, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wouldn't say easy was the right adjective, but I would say, you know -- amazing. And it --

KING: Demanding?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Demanding, yes, but it was an amazing experience.

KING: Stephen, do you want to add something?

LANG: Larry?

KING: Yes?

LANG: I think -- I think that Jim has a special reverence for actors because it may be the one job, aside from catering on a film set, that he doesn't think he can do.

(LAUGHTER)

LANG: But he's a -- he's a lot of fun to work with.

KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments.

And, by the way, I'm going to go to Pandora any minute now.

You'll see how I look when I get there.

Maybe later, I'll learn Navi, which is unusual for a Jewish person.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They sent me here to learn your ways.

RODRIGUEZ: What are you saying, Jake? You knew this would happen?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That's Sam Worthington.

He was supposed to make it for this taping, but he was in a cab without a cell phone.

You found him in a car, right?

CAMERON: He was living in a car when I cast him, yes.

KING: Living in a car?

CAMERON: It doesn't surprise me he doesn't have a cell phone. He's -- he's a surfer, you know?

He's a -- he's a very blue collar guy at heart. And, you know, he's very committed, a very responsible actor, but, you know, he kind of marches to his own drum and I love that about him.

KING: You found him in a -- in a what?

CAMERON: Well, in a what -- no, I mean I cast him through the normal process. You know, he -- but he -- he was very unknown here. But he was literally living in his car when he got the part to -- to, you know, and (INAUDIBLE) --

KING: You had to really like him then, huh?

CAMERON: Yes. Well, you know, I mean he wasn't a star. He wasn't well known. So we had to like him for who and -- who he was and what he brought to the character.

KING: Before we leave you, we now have the big reveal. This, apparently, is how I would look if I were a Navi of Pandora.

Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RODRIGUEZ: Ah, good one.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

CAMERON: It's frightening. KING: OK. How does that play, Vince?

PACE: It works for me, Larry. You know, "Avatar 2" all the way.

KING: What about you, Rich?

BANEHAM: I think you were more Avatar than Navi.

KING: More Avatar than Navi.

I -- I could have been in this film. I could have been in this movie.

CAMERON: You know what?

I'm -- I'm thinking the sequel could go a whole different direction.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: That's right. It could start here.

Thank you all.

Thank you all very much.

Stephen, thanks.

Thanks, thanks.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: I salute you all.

Congratulations. What a day this is for you.

We're proud that on this date, your picture eclipsed all movies --

CAMERON: That's right.

KING: You broke your own record.

CAMERON: That's right.

RODRIGUEZ: That is awesome.

CAMERON: And thanks for doing this spectacular show.

KING: Thank you.

Anderson Cooper and "AC 360" is next.

Good night.