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Why are the Na'vi blue? Why not another color?
''I just like blue. It's a good color,'' James Cameron says. ''Plus, there's a connection to the Hindu deities, which I like conceptually.''
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Do the Na'vi need Unobtainium? Or is it just a rock to them?
''It's a rock to them,'' explains producer Jon Landau. ''But it's also sort of what enables the floating mountains. They don't know that, though — well, maybe spiritually they know it.''
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What is the Na'vi language based on?
''Paul Frommer is a linguistics expert at USC, and we hired him to create a language,'' James Cameron says. ''He riffed off the 30 or so character names, place names, and creature names that I had come up with. They had a little bit of a Polynesian/Maori influence because of some time I had spent in New Zealand and in other places throughout Polynesia. So he used some Polynesian roots — but there's also some African, there's Native American, there's even some bits from the Latin languages — and then he mixed it all up with German sentence construction, where the verb comes last. From an acting standpoint, the hard part was speaking English with a Na'vi accent. Zoë Saldana had the most lines, so we let her create the accent, and then everybody had to match her.''
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How did they make Sam Worthington's legs look so atrophied? Is it all CG?
''John Rosengrant at Stan Winston's studio took a mold from the legs of a paraplegic who had about Sam's skeletal size, and then we created rubber legs,'' James Cameron says. ''Sam's actual legs are tucked down through the chair.''
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Is it true that James Cameron has four to six hours of unused footage from the film? Will it end up on the Avatar DVD?
Actually, Cameron says that there's only about 40 minutes of usable footage that didn't make it into the film. Yes, it will be on the DVD: ''live-action stuff of Sam Worthington and Sigourney Weaver, a fair bit of stuff with the Na'vi.'' And, yes, there's more of that sex scene.
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In a battle sequence, it looks like Michelle Rodriguez is piloting an open-air helicopter, but she wouldn't be able to breathe the Pandoran atmosphere. What gives?
It's not an open-air helicopter. ''There's a bulkhead,'' James Cameron says. ''You can see it, but the problem is that there are windows in the bulkhead, and it looks like it's open. There used to be a scene where Quaritch [Stephen Lang] is riding with her and he opens the door between the two compartments and you see that there's an unpressurized compartment and a pressurized compartment. But yeah, she's obviously in a closed cab.''
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There's a rumor going around that some of the humans in Avatar are CGI creations. Any truth to that?
''There are a number of shots of CGI humans,'' James Cameron says. ''The shots of [Stephen Lang] in an AMP suit, for instance — those are completely CG. But there's a threshold of proximity to the camera that we didn't feel comfortable going beyond. We didn't get too close.''
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What's the difference between normal 3-D and RealD 3-D? And is it better to see it in one format over another?
''The differences with the types of 3-D are just the mechanics of how it gets up on the screen,'' producer Jon Landau explains. ''There's really not much difference visually, except in the type of eyeglasses you're wearing.''
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Will James Cameron ever make a 2-D film (like Titanic, pictured) again?
''Why would I do that?'' the director asks.
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Where did James Cameron get the idea for the floating mountains? Was that from a Yes album cover?
''It might have been,'' the director says with a laugh. ''Back in my pot-smoking days.''
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What is James Cameron's next project? And can I invest in it?
''We'll talk,'' Cameron says. ''How much money do you have?''
For more behind the scenes scoop on Avatar, pick up Entertainment Weekly, on sale now