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Zoe Saldaña Explains What It's Like To Film In A Tank Full Of Balls For Avatar: The Way Of Water

We are just a little over two weeks away from the release of the highly-anticipated sequel "Avatar: The Way of Water." James Cameron looks to recapture the magic from his 2009 movie, which not only has a certified fresh 82% on Rotten Tomatoes but also pushed the boundaries of technology and filmmaking. Before filming the original "Avatar," the legendary filmmaker went so far as to innovate 3-D technology, creating a new camera and reaching new heights with motion-capture filmmaking.

Cameron has massive plans in place for his "Avatar" series, with four sequels in the works. The director plans to release a new movie every December, two years after the previous one. The first sequel, "The Way of Water," picks up nearly a decade after the events of the first movie, following the Sully family as they run to protect themselves and meet a new water tribe of Na'vi. Many of the original cast return, including Sam Worthington (Jake), Zoe Saldaña (Neytiri), Stephen Lang (Quaritch), and Sigourney Weaver, now playing Jake and Neytiri's daughter Kiri. Newcomers to the franchise are Kate Winslet as Ronal, Cliff Curtis as Tonowari, Jamie Flatters as Neteyam, and Britain Dalton as Lo'ak.

As with the original, Cameron strove to take "The Way of Water" to new heights. Bringing back the incredible motion-capture technology from "Avatar," he took things underwater for the sequel. He required the cast to train heavily to shoot many of their scenes, which required long stints of underwater action. Saldaña recently opened up about what it was like using such unconventional shooting methods.

James Cameron's filming techniques on Avatar prove he's a master of the craft

In 2020, the official Avatar Twitter account posted a picture of stars Zoe Saldaña, Sam Worthington, Cliff Curtis, and Kate Winslet in a pool filled with small balls. The actors are all dressed in their motion-capture outfits, so it was clear that James Cameron was taking the sequels to a whole new place. During her recent appearance on The Tonight Show, Saldaña explained the story behind the picture. 

Although it looks funny, with the numerous amount of balls in the water and all over the actors' suits, Saldaña revealed their incredibly important purpose. "Well, these balls were intended in the tank so that when you put all these balls on the surface, when we're shooting 30 feet deep, we have no reflections. It doesn't affect the lighting or anything like that," the actress explained. She continued with immense praise for her director, saying, "Jim [Cameron] is a scientist. I'm telling you. He figures all these things out. And his team, he has an amazing team." While the image makes the filming process look fun, Saldaña revealed that it's far from easy. Not only did the cast have to dive deep into the water, but they needed to perform once they got to those depths. She joked that the process was like taking a bath with some incredible actors in Cameron's massive bathtub. 

Saldaña's co-star in "Avatar: The Way of Water," Kate Winslet, also gave an insight into her experience filming underwater. Talking to The Hollywood Reporter, the Academy Award-winning actress revealed that one sequence required her to hold her breath for over seven minutes.

"Avatar: The Way of Water" hits theaters on December 16, 2022.