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Avatar Sequels Cast Received Training To Hold Their Breath For Minutes At A Time

Say what you will about James Cameron—when it comes to underwater filmmaking, the man is not screwing around.

Currently at work filming four sequels to his 2009 megahit Avatar, Cameron has once again proven that there's seemingly no length he won't go to in the service of his art, revealing in an interview with Collider that he's essentially up and divined a way to bestow his cast with superpowers. 

Specifically, Cameron's cast on the Avatar sequels, significant parts of which will take place underwater, have been receiving training to hold their breath for up to four minutes at a time, leaving them capable of acting entire scenes submerged without the assistance of a breathing apparatus.

Underwater filming is immensely complex, especially on the high-tech scale Cameron is pursuing with his Avatar sequels. The complexities are so immense that his cast and crew are only just now getting the hang of acting out and filming the movies' many underwater scenes—but all the hard prep work has been worth it, he says. "We've basically cracked the code."

"We've done a tremendous amount of testing, and we did it successfully, for the first time, [on November 14th]," Cameron said. "We actually played an entire scene underwater with our young cast. We've got six teenagers and one seven-year-old, and they're all playing a scene underwater."

According to Cameron, the cast has been training up their undersea acting abilities for months, and the results are incredibly impressive. 

"We've been training them for six months now, with how to hold their breath, and they're all up in the two to four minute range," he said. "They're all perfectly capable of acting underwater, very calmly while holding their breath. We're not doing any of this on scuba."

It's hard to imagine many other working directors today being able to get away with a project this ambitious, or so seemingly demanding of its performers. But Avatar still stands as the all-time highest-grossing movie in the world by a massive margin, with the closest runner-up being Cameron's own Titanic.

That kind of unprecedented success buys one a lot of leeway, and Cameron's using his clout to try and make movies that are unlike anything people have seen before.

In discussing the complexities of underwater filming, Cameron also shared some details about the four upcoming entries in the series, revealing that the second and third movies will feature "a tremendous amount of water work" compared to the fourth and fifth ones. Because of this, Cameron is shooting the second and third movies at the same time, and will take a short break before going into simultaneous production on the fourth and fifth.

Long before a single frame of footage had been shot, the four Avatar sequels had release dates—but there's still a long way to go before we get to see them. The first two sequels will be released on December 18, 2020, and December 17, 2021. After three years of hibernation, the series will continue with a fourth entry on December 20, 2024, and finally conclude—presumably—on December 19, 2025.