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What The Cast Of Avatar: The Way Of Water Looks Like In Real Life

In 2009, James Cameron's "Avatar" made waves by revolutionizing the use of 3D, CGI, and motion capture technology in cinema and pulling off the modest feat of becoming the highest-grossing movie of all time. The movie and its visually stunning scene paintings wowed audiences by presenting the most realistic fantasy setting to date, the paradisal planet of Pandora. Its plants, animals, and even its terrain were all meticulously created by Cameron and his team to look more realistic than any before, and in the process, ironically buried the movie's real actors beneath countless layers of computer-generated imagery. Sure, the Na'vi are gorgeously animated, but who are the actors beneath all the blue fur and Disney-sized cat eyes?

In the first film, the majority of the main characters spent at least some of the story in human form before entering their Na'vi avatar bodies. However, in "Avatar: The Way of Water,"  humans are even fewer and farther between, meaning you could easily finish the three-hour-plus movie without even knowing what its stars look like. Luckily, we here at Looper have de-rendered the textures, uninstalled the lighting programs, and scrubbed the blue away to reveal for you what the cast of "Avatar: The Way of Water" looks like in real life.

Sam Worthington (Jake Sully)

Thanks to large chunks of the first "Avatar," we've seen the actor behind franchise protagonist Jake Sully, stone-faced, brooding Hollywood hunk Sam Worthington. Though you'll recognize him from a few high-profile roles, none of them are likely from his pre-Avatar days. After a few years of working in bit parts and relatively low-budget films, Worthington hit a massive jackpot when he was cast as Sully in "Avatar." Surprisingly, his subsequent string of major roles in "Clash of the Titans," "Wrath of the Titans," and "Terminator: Salvation," to name a few, came during one of the darkest periods in Worthington's life.

It's no easy feat to transition from obscurity to international superstardom overnight, and Worthington had a tough time adjusting to his new reality. "Avatar" opened so many doors for Worthington that the actor didn't know which to go through. Worthington took to "booze and self-loathing," a lifestyle that the actor has thankfully moved past. As of the release of "Avatar: The Way of Water," Worthington is eight years sober, and with that sobriety has come a renewed focus and purpose for Worthington. Luckily, that focus is currently geared toward the future of "Avatar."

Zoe Saldaña (Neytiri)

Even with around six hours of runtime across "Avatar" and "Avatar: The Way of Water," we've never seen what Neytiri would look like as a human. Unlike so many of the other main characters, Neytiri was born a Na'vi. She has always been (and will likely always be) tall, blue, and four-fingered, but of course, the actress that brings her life is not. You've seen Neytiri actor Zoe Saldaña before in many roles. Oddly enough, her most famous character besides the blue alien Neytiri in "Avatar" is the green alien Gamora in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Saldaña has played Gamora in four MCU films so far (two installments of "Guardians of the Galaxy" and two installments of "Avengers"), and based on box office numbers, if you know Saldaña from anything, it's likely her MCU appearances. No one-trick pony, Saldaña has also played Lt. Uhura in all three of J. J. Abrams' "Star Trek" movies. Fans may also remember her from slightly smaller, if still delightful, roles in "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl," "The Terminal," and "Drumline." Regardless of other franchise obligations, past or present, Saldaña is committed to the role of Neytiri going forward, especially given her growing connection to the character as a mother.

Sigourney Weaver (Kiri)

Of all the main characters in "Avatar: The Way of Water," the one boasting the strangest and most surprising casting is Kiri, the young Na'vi girl played by 73-year-old Sigourney Weaver (who is, however, as talented and vibrant as ever). After Weaver playing human scientist Dr. Grace Augustine in the first film, she returns for "Avatar: The Way of Water" in the new role of Kiri, the biological daughter of Augustine's Na'vi avatar. Naturally, the daughter looks and sounds similar to her mother, which made casting Weaver an easy choice. Who looks and sounds more like Sigourney Weaver than Sigourney Weaver?

Of course, pinning down Weaver's most iconic role is impossible. In her long career, she has wowed on screen time and again, bringing to life one memorable character after another. Among the many Weaver movies to choose from, some of the highlights are her appearances in all four "Ghostbusters" movies, her starring role in "Gorillas in the Mist," and her many turns as Ripley, the badass lead of all four original "Alien" movies. And we would be remiss to not mention her perfectly camp performance in the cult-classic "Galaxy Quest." Weaver channeled all of that experience and ability to "unearth [her] own 14-year-old" for "Avatar: The Way of Water."

Stephen Lang (Quaritch)

If the young Na'vi Kiri, played by Sigourney Weaver, is the most surprising casting in "Avatar: The Way of Water," then Colonel Quaritch, played by Stephen Lang, is the most obvious — and not only because he spent the entirety of the first movie as his human self. With Lang's personality and storied career, he exudes big Quaritch energy. Throughout his career, he has portrayed many strong, stern, and downright scary characters (including multiple soldiers), and undoubtedly for many, Lang has come to embody the archetypal military villain.

Before Lang returned as Na'vi Quaritch in "Avatar: The Way of Water" (and therefore, before he "spent an hour kickboxing and punching the crap out of" James Cameron daily as part of their shared fitness routine) Lang built a reputation for playing intimidating characters. He terrorized teens as the Blind Man in both "Don't Breathe" movies, led the Confederacy as Stonewall Jackson in "Gods and Generals," and even played the first Col. Jessup in "A Few Good Men" on Broadway — a role later made legendary on screen by Jack Nicholson. In real life, Lang looks much like Quaritch, which is not a bad thing. For a 70-year-old to maintain that much muscle and definition, Lang is doing something right.

Kate Winslet (Ronal)

One of James Cameron's most iconic films besides "Avatar" is "Titanic," the 1997 dramatization of the infamous 1912 disaster. After "Titanic," star Kate Winslet was very open about never wanting to work with Cameron ever again (via EW). The experience of shooting "Titanic" with Cameron allegedly traumatized the young actress, a claim that Cameron himself eventually confirmed, and for decades, it seemed the pair would never again collaborate. Yet, 25 years after the release of "Titanic," Winslet is finally acting in another Cameron film, this time playing Ronal, the Metkayina spiritual leader and chieftain's wife.

Winslet claims time and personal growth brought her and Cameron back together, while Zoe Saldaña attributes Winslet's role as a simple case of "FOMO" (fear of missing out), but either way, Winslet is finally a part of the "Avatar" franchise, bringing her trademark acting finesse and depth to the voice and motion capture of Ronal. You may have seen Winslet in any number of roles, an unusually high proportion of them critical darlings. Standouts include "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and "The Reader," for which she won the Academy Award for best actress. Thanks to Winslet's casting, devoted "Avatar" fans may have cause to hope for Oscar wins.

Cliff Curtis (Tonowari)

The biggest shift in setting from the first "Avatar" to "Avatar: The Way of Water" is from Pandora's dense, dark jungles to the open seas and prismatic reefs inhabited by the Metkayina Clan. The Sully family makes the long trip to the new terrain to prevent further conflict with the RDA. There to welcome the family with open (webbed) arms are Kate Winslet's Ronal and her partner Tonowari, played by Cliff Curtis. While Curtis may not have the name recognition of actors like Winslet and Sigourney Weaver, he certainly has an excellent enough filmography to have earned it.

Recently, Curtis played Travis in "Fear the Walking Dead" and Ewan McGregor's friend, Billy, in "Doctor Sleep." Before that, fans may recognize Curtis as Searle in "Sunshine" and even further back, as the psychotic gangster Smiley in "Training Day." Curtis is a stellar (and if you ask us, underrated) actor, and his presence in the "Avatar" saga is a major boon. Unlike many of the actors who portray the Maori-inspired Metkayina Na'vi, Curtis is Maori, both in lineage and upbringing. He brings a sense of authenticity to the role of Tonowari, which Curtis told Looper is the essence of good acting.

Joel David Moore (Norm Spellman)

Compared to industry mainstays like Sigourney Weaver and Stephen Lang, actor Joel David Moore has not been around for very long, and because of that, many fans will likely recognize him from one or two major parts. The roles of the awkward Owen in "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story" and the villainous J.P. in "Grandma's Boy" first garnered Moore major notoriety. Since then, Moore has had a steady stream of roles, but none of them left quite the same mark as the two aforementioned comedies — until, that is, his role as the scientist Norm Spellman in "Avatar" and "Avatar: The Way of Water."

Moore's character, Spellman, played two important roles in the first film: First, as an expert anthropologist and xenolinguist, he helped introduce both Jake and the audience to the Na'vi and their culture. Secondly, he was one of the few human characters to express genuine empathy for the Na'vi and the rich biosphere around them, even going so far as to eschew his pacifism and fight alongside the Na'vi at the Tree of Souls. Spellman is one of the first and longest-lasting characters to play with Cameron's central theme of moral pacifism vs. necessary violence, and we're interested to see where both the character and actor go next.

Edie Falco (General Ardmore)

Move aside, Col. Quaritch. There's a new big bad in town, and she's brought to life by one heck of an actress. After the death of Quaritch at the end of "Avatar," the second film begins with his surprising resurrection in the body of a Na'vi. What is even more surprising is that he doesn't come back to lead the RDA against the Na'vi. Instead, that role is given to Gen. Frances Ardmore (confirmed via the Avatar Twitter account). Ardmore, a no-nonsense leader who is as ruthless as she is calculating, has the distinct advantage of being played by the eminently talented Edie Falco.

Falco has had a full career filled with dozens of roles that might spark recognition. However, two stand taller than the rest: Falco played Carmela Soprano in "The Sopranos" and the titular role in "Nurse Jackie." Between the two roles, she has racked up a truly awesome 13 Emmy nominations (and one more nomination for a guest role on "30 Rock"), and an equally awesome four wins. Visionary directors like James Cameron don't hire talent like Falco and place them in leadership roles for no reason, so we're likely to see a lot more of General Ardmore in future installments.

Jamie Flatters (Neteyam)

Of the many Sully children (anywhere from three to five, depending on how you slice it), Neteyam is given the most responsibility and endures the most pressure. Still, he remains steadfast through it all. Like his father, Jake, he's a true soldier to his core, and he applies the majority of his maturity and competence to the protection of his younger siblings, especially the rebellious Lo'ak (Britain Dalton). He possesses wisdom beyond his years, and to play him so capably, it's likely that young actor Jamie Flatters does as well.

Flatters is new to acting. So new that, as of this writing, he does not yet have his own Wikipedia entry. While "new" may mean inexperienced, it does not mean untalented, as evidenced by Flatters' adept portrayal of Neteyam and the swirling vortex of duty and blame that surrounds him. Acting is not an easy job, and it becomes especially difficult when your face won't even make it to the screen. Flatters' emoting will only reach fans via a proxy character (or an avatar, if you will). For it to show at all is a feat worthy of keeping Flatters on your radar.

Britain Dalton (Lo'ak)

We said it once before, and we'll say it again: Lo'ak is potentially the most meaningful character introduced in "Avatar: The Way of Water." There's no way to know exactly what James Cameron has in store for the next three (or more) films, but signs point to Lo'ak taking the mantle of franchise protagonist from his father, Jake. In the same way that Jake's bond with the toruk earned him the title of Toruk Makto and transformed him into a folk hero, Lo'ak's unique bond with the outcast tulkun Payakan — the only known tulkun willing to fight back against the RDA's encroachment — makes him a strong contender for people's champion. If for no other reason than that, Cameron's decision to cast Britain Dalton in the role of Lo'ak suggests the young actor is a star on the rise.

There isn't much on Dalton's resumé yet, mainly just a role as the young version of Nathan Drake in the video game "Uncharted 4: A Thief's End" and a seasonal arc on the Billy Bob Thornton-led legal drama, "Goliath." Luckily for Dalton, his central role in the "Avatar" franchise has landed him quality parts, if not a huge quantity of them.

Jack Champion (Spider)

It's not easy being Spider in "Avatar: The Way of Water." The teen is put through the wringer almost as soon as he's born, and it only gets worse as time goes on. The biological son of Col. Quaritch, he's a human born on Pandora and raised by the Na'vi. His physiology makes him a runt by Na'vi standards. He can't link with their critically important neural network, and he can't even breathe the air on his home planet for long. All this is just a prologue for the real trials that begin when he is captured by the RDA; tortured for information about his surrogate family, the Sullys; and made to watch as the family is ruthlessly hunted down. Needless to say, the character spends a great deal of "Avatar: The Way of Water" emoting his guts out, and it's young actor Jack Champion who so successfully releases those guts.

Like Jamie Flatters and Britain Dalton, Champion's list of credits is short, so pinpointing where you've seen him before is tough. Yet, everyone starts somewhere, and in Champion's case, he's starting nearer the top than most. Champion has opened up about the long, arduous preparation he underwent for the role of Spider, and all of it is apparent throughout the film.