Before it was knocked off course by The Hurt Locker at last night's Producers Guild Awards, James Cameron's Avatar was a blockbusting Golden Globe winner on a collision course with Oscar's Best Picture — so why on Pandora weren't motion-captured thespians Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana nominated for anything at Saturday's SAG Awards? "I don’t see how we could be on lots of people’s best-of lists and in the running for numerous best-picture awards if the acting wasn’t there and wasn’t top-notch," Cameron told us on the red carpet before the PGA awards. "Because actors are one of the biggest elements of a film."
Cameron worries that the narrow-mindedness of technophobic, carbon-based actors worried about being replaced by computers could be to blame for the snub: "I think it is more about a lack of information about the process, which causes a misunderstanding and makes it easy for voters to dismiss. I don’t think they understand that we don't embellish or make up portions of the performance. It’s not just a voice performance. The animators don’t create the physicality [while the] actor sits in a booth somewhere for two days and reads lines."
He continued: "Unfortunately, I think there’s a sense that CG opens a door to an after interpretation. Which is not how I work. My moment of interface with the actors is on the set. When we leave the set, that’s it. If I didn’t get what I wanted, I’m out of luck. I do not fill in performance."
Cameron feels that Zoe Saldana, seen in the film only in computer-generated Na'vi form, is especially worthy. "Every second of the performance is Zoe. To carry a film on her shoulders and to step up every day for over a year is no small task. If you think about it, she did many things for this role, from mastering an accent and learning a language to intense physical training, that are the kinds of things that earn people Oscars. And she did it all in a blank room."
Additionally, says Cameron, it's not actors who need to worry about his technology putting them out of work — it's makeup artists. "It’s replacing five hours in a makeup chair," he told us. "Actors walk in sleepy-eyed, we slap a helmet on their head, do a little range of motion calibration and, boom, they’re acting in fifteen minutes."
"Also, leotards are more comfortable than corsets or loin cloths," added his wife, Suzy Amis, who evidently has it in for costume designers.