James Cameron is no stranger to working with water. In The Abyss, the actors walked off set after an all-too-realistic drowning sequence and Titanic famously featured a 5 million gallon tank the set could be lowered into to simulate the sinking ship. Avatar 2 is going to continue that habit, with the story taking us to the underwater biomes of Pandora.
As with the first movie, Cameron is using advanced motion capture but insisted that the actors actually submerge themselves in order to accurately show underwater movement. So, as with Titanic, much of the film has been shot in a 900,000-gallon tank that can simulate ocean currents and waves.
Now, in a new interview with EW, Cameron has heaped praise on his cast for developing their breath-holding skills. The 72-year-old Sigourney Weaver is capable of holding her breath for six and a half minutes, but Kate Winslet “blew everybody away when she did a seven-and-a-half-minute breath-hold”.
As Cameron explained:
“One of my favorite memories was we had this circular tank, maybe 40 feet wide, with a big glass portal in it. I walked by one day and I see Kate Winslet walking on the bottom of the tank. She’s walking towards me and sees me in the window, and she just waves, gets to the end of the wall, turns around, and walks all the way back.“
More precisely, Winslet held her breath for 7.14 seconds, making her the record-holder for the longest on-film breath-hold. That quite handily beats Tom Cruise’s previous record of six minutes for Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (the all-time record for humans is 24.37).
Cameron justified putting his actors through this by pointing out that simulating being underwater wouldn’t look real:
“My colleagues within the production really lobbied heavily for us to do it ‘dry for wet,’ hanging people on wires. I said, ‘It’s not going to work. It’s not going to look real.’ I even let them run a test, where we captured dry for wet, and then we captured in water, a crude level of our in-water capture. And it wasn’t even close.”
And apparently, they couldn’t use SCUBA gear as the air bubbles would have interfered with the motion capture. Let’s hope that Avatar 2 was worth all this hardship. We don’t have an official title yet, but it hits theaters on December 16, 2022.