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Robert Rodriguez will direct Alita: Battle Angel for James Cameron

Based on the graphic novel.

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John Sciulli/WireImage

After he made the biggest movie ever and before he made the biggest movie ever, James Cameron spent some time working on Alita: Battle Angel, an adaptation of a popular manga series starring a far-future lady-cyborg with amnesia and mad martial arts skills.

Cameron ultimately set Battle Angel aside for Avatar — and then backburnered the adaptation indefinitely after deciding to spend this entire decade making Avatar sequels. But now Cameron has found a likeminded filmmaker to bring the manga to the big screen.

EW has confirmed that Robert Rodriguez will direct Alita for Fox, working from Cameron’s screenplay and with Cameron onboard as a producer. They’re two peas in a pod: Digital lobbyists and 3-D true believers, they both have essentially created their own studios as laboratories for the advancement of cinematic technology. (That photo of them up top comes from a 2005 panel discussion alongside George Lucas and Robert Zemeckis, where they evangelized the digital era to theater owners.) Rodriguez’s 2005 Sin City was the first successful “digital backlot” movie, a film with a world built entirely on greenscreen — a monochrome progenitor of the wild alien colorscapes of Avatar‘s Pandora.

No official word on an Alita release date, and it’s hard to estimate: Cameron takes a decade to make movies, and Rodriguez made two movies before you finished reading that last paragraph. This will be Rodriguez’ first real big-budget studio feature, although presumably the presence of Cameron will give Rodriguez enough autonomy to explore his bold independent vision and also find a role for Danny Trejo.