Clark Collis
August 24, 2017 AT 10:00 AM EDT

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Four years after James Cameron announced his intention of making three Avatar sequels — and more than a year after he decided to make it four — the director is finally in what he describes as “full-tilt production” on the mammoth project, which will continue the story related in the original 2009 blockbuster.

“Oh, we’re in production,” says Cameron, talking to EW ahead of the release ofTerminator 2: Judgment Day 3D (in theaters Aug. 25). “We’re in full-tilt production. We’re in what we call ‘scouting,’ which basically is shooting for me. I’m on the stage all day long during the scouting process, because there are no sets or locations, other than in the virtual world, so I do all my location-scouting with a troop of actors that go through the virtual sets, and give me a sense of the scale and position, lighting, that sort of thing. Then, I’m in rehearsals with my principal cast and I start with them at the end of September.”

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That cast once again includes Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, and Zoe Saldana, who told your writer earlier this year that, after shooting more Avatar films, she would be “done” with space.

“She is kind of the Queen of Outer Space at this point, between Star Trek, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Avatar,” laughs Cameron. “Although her character does not go to space in Avatar, I should point that out. We have to go through interstellar space to get to where she is. She pretty much lives in a rain forest.”

We’re just saying that if you come up with an idea for another sequel, you might want to check on her availability before writing the script.

“A fifth sequel?” muses Cameron. “Um, yeah, she may be out. But you know what? I’m going to cross that bridge when I come to it — in nine years!

The first of those four sequels is scheduled for release on Dec. 18, 2020, with the subsequent three arriving Dec. 17, 2021, Dec. 20, 2024, and Dec. 19, 2025.

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