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James Cameron Set Sigourney Weaver's Insecurities Straight While Filming Avatar: The Way Of Water With Tough Love

James Cameron refuses to mince words, even with his top talent.

"Avatar: The Way of the Water" star Sigourney Weaver (who first worked with Cameron on 1986's "Aliens") confirmed as much in a recent issue of D23 magazine (via The Direct). According to those on Twitter who have already witnessed the sequel, there's a lot to be excited about. For those who may not have even been following the film's development, it's worth mentioning that Weaver is very much involved with the film despite the death of her previous character, Dr. Grace Augustine. 

In the "Avatar" sequel, Weaver returns as Kiri, the adopted daughter of Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña). The character has been described by the actor herself as an "awkward" 13 to 14-year-old that required her to bring out an adolescent side of herself (via Vanity Fair). It has been theorized that Kiri may contain remnants of Dr. Augustine's personality and memories, which were partially transferred to the Tree of Souls during the first film (per Screen Rant). This would offer a clear and somewhat conventional explanation of why Cameron wanted the 72-year-old "Aliens" star to portray a teenager.

Though Weaver is one of a few returning to the Pandora universe in "Avatar: The Way of the Water," the actor admitted that she felt intrusive insecurities while on set — much to the apparent frustration of the film's director.

The director called her insecurity inappropriate

In a behind-the-scenes look presented in the Winter 2022 edition of D23 Magazine, Sigourney Weaver explained that she "was in agony about Kiri most of the time."

"I had no idea what was actually coming across," she said, "I couldn't keep track of it. I didn't want to be thinking about that, and [James Cameron] never said anything." While she may have been having a usual case of performance anxiety, it would also be completely understandable if she felt a sense of uncertainty playing a character nearly 60 years her junior. In any case, when actors are feeling unconfident about their work, it's not uncommon that they'll look to their director for guidance, validation, and... well, direction. From Weaver's perspective, it seems she felt she wasn't receiving any such communication but from Cameron's perspective, it seems he felt she didn't need it.

"One day, I blurted out some whiny complaint about not getting any feedback," she recalled, "and Jim just turned and said in a serious voice, 'You have to stop being insecure. It's really inappropriate for who you are, how old you are, and what you've done in your career.' So, that shut me up. I heard him loud and clear." It's ironic for the director to criticize her based on seniority while pushing her to play a minor.

While Cameron's words are characteristically blunt (per SlashFilm, he even stated regretfully in his MasterClass that he acted like a dictator on movie sets), it's worth remembering that the pair have known each other for nearly four decades.

The pair tease each other regularly

In the same issue of D23, Sigourney Weaver offered some context into her dynamic with James Cameron, acknowledging that he gives her a hard time "quite a bit." She said that when discussing the role of Kiri, Cameron teased, "'I know you can do this, because you really are immature; you are a 14-year-old.'"

"I would say the same thing about him," she jabbed. "He may be 16 years old." It's been rumored that Weaver would joke with Cameron on the set of the first "Avatar" by asserting that her performance as "idealistic perfectionist" Dr. Grace Augustine was based on the director. "I have to say I was always kind of channeling him," she has been quoted as saying during an interview (per IMDb Trivia and Movie Mistakes).

Whether or not she drew inspiration from Cameron for Dr. Augustine, she seems to have drawn support from him. "He teases me quite a bit, but I also trust him," she told the magazine. "He always knew what he needed and took the time to get us there. He listens to his actors. He really wants us to weave ourselves together with our characters." Speaking about returning to work with Cameron on the sequel, she described it as "reuniting with an old friend."