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Producer John Landau talks AVATAR
by Steve Weintraub | Source:

I got the opportunity to speak with “Avatar” producer John Landau at this year’s Comic-Con, I tried to find out as much information as I could about the film.

Unfortunately, the man must have been trained by the NSA, as whenever I got close to finding out something like the running time, he just started to smile and said no comment.

I asked John Landau if “Avatar’s” running time would be the same as “Watchmen” as that’s all the projector can hold, he said it isn’t the same running time! Could it be that IMAX and James Cameron have found a way to make the projector hold more film!?

Or perhaps he didn’t want to tell me the film is shorter than “Watchmen”. You can decide for yourself by watching the interview.

Avatar - Interview Jon Landau (producteur)
(Interview in French)
Écrit par David Fakrikian

La semaine dernière, Jon Landau, producteur de Avatar, était à Paris pour présenter 28 minutes du film à la presse française. Rencontre en tête à tête, et réglements de comptes avec la clique internet qui pense qu'il va "se vautrer". Baissez la tête, les balles fusent !

DVDvision : Je voudrais tout d’abord remonter 12 ans en arrière. Titanic vient de sortir, et est un succès massif. Cela vous a-t’il fait plaisir, après la difficulté du tournage, et toutes les critiques que le film s’était pris dans la presse et sur internet ?

Jon Landau : En vérité, nous n’avons pas été surpris. Nous avons toujours cru à la qualité du projet. A notre différence, la plupart de ceux qui écrivaient des choses négatives, n’avaient : 1/ pas lu le scénario, 2/ pas visité le plateau de tournage, 3/ pas vu des images.

Ils écrivaient juste en roue libre. Ceux qui avaient visité le plateau, ceux qui avaient vu les premiers assemblages de scènes, étaient plus mesurés. Maintenant, personne n’aurait pu prévoir bien sûr un succès aussi phénoménal.

On s’attendait à quelque chose type Danse avec les loups, vous savez, le film sort, est un bon succès vu la difficulté du projet, reçoit une bonne réception critique et publique, sans tout casser non plus.

DVDvision : Vous n’avez pas le sentiment que plus les choses changent, plus elles restent pareilles ? I suffit de les critiques négatives sur Avatar, qui fusent de partout (principalement sur internet), depuis que les premières images sont apparues…

Jon Landau : C’est intéressant effectivement… Jim n’est pas le réalisateur le plus prolifique de la « A list ». Steven Spielberg fait parfois deux films par an… Jim, même avant celui-ci, en réalisait au mieux un tous les 4 ans. Alors forcément, l’attention du public et des critiques, est plus concentrée.

Le facteur curiosité est obligatoirement plus grand. On sait qu’il repousse les limites techniques, une fois de plus, et pour certains, cela fait trop. Quand ils ont affaire à quelque chose qui est inconnu, ils ne savent plus comment le qualifier.

Alors ils ont tendance à dire « je ne comprend pas ce qu’il fait, et voici un million de raisons pour lesquelles ca ne peut pas marcher ! ». Alors qu’ils devraient juste attendre, et laisser le film parler pour lui-même ! C’est l’une des raisons pour lesquelles nous avons eu l’idée de l’Avatar Day.

Nous ne vous avons rien montré jusqu'à présent, alors venez voir de quoi il en retourne ! Et nous avons été très contents des réactions.


Creating the amazing world of
James Cameron's "Avatar"
Producer Jon Landau talks about making
the impossible possible in James Cameron's
$200 million-plus spectacle
By Andrew O'Hehir | Source:

A still from "Avatar"It's pretty hard not to feel conflicted about James Cameron, the Hollywood visionary and self-appointed "king of the world" whose new CGI-driven science-fiction opus "Avatar" is, by most accounts, either No. 1 or No. 2 on the list of most expensive films ever made.

On one hand, Cameron's career exemplifies the bigger-is-better tendency in American spectacle cinema, but on the other, you've got to admire his unmatched sense of showmanship and his wire-walker's penchant for drama.

After all, it's been 12 years since "Titanic," and many observers speculated that Cameron, now 55, was content producing TV series and underwater 3-D documentaries, and staying out of the young man's (and woman's) game of high-stakes Hollywood poker. But ever since the mid-'90s, Cameron and his producing partner Jon Landau have been working on "Avatar," an interplanetary morality tale that required multiple innovations in computer graphics and motion-capture animation -- and a budget that has reportedly crept north of $250 million.

So, Jon, go back to the outset. When and how did "Avatar" originate? And how did you get involved?

Well, the outset was 1995, before we ever started filming "Titanic." I was working with Jim on "Titanic," and he handed me the first script version of "Avatar" to read. I thought it was amazing, but then I was like, "How do we do that?" There was no means by which to do it. People are confused about what the hang-up was. The hang-up wasn't in creating the world, it was in creating the close-up. Ultimately that’s what movies are about.

I can see that. You could have created the world, even then, with computer graphics. But to have human or humanoid characters in that world -- that wasn't possible.

To have the Na'vi characters be engaging and emotive, there was no means to do it.

So when did you get the first inklings that this might be possible, or become possible?

We did a test in 2002 for a movie called "Brother Termite." It was a movie that never happened. But we used something called image-based facial performance capturing. Instead of putting markers on people's faces to try and capture the performance, we had our actor wear a number of cameras that were turned toward his face. We used those images to drive the CGI characters' performance. In 2005, with "Avatar," we thought, "We have to perfect that." And considering what had happened with characters like Gollum [in Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy], we thought we could.

Well, I didn't know what to expect going into the movie. But it does seem like new ground has been broken in that respect. You feel as if you're watching a performance by Zoe Saldana [who plays Neytiri, a Na'vi princess and the film's love interest], even though she's not physically in the movie.

We look at it like she is in the movie. Just like somebody might have played through prosthetics in the past. Jack Nicholson as the Joker or Eric Stoltz in "Mask," that’s Zoe. But instead of having to play through a quarter-inch of latex that actually dulls your performance, her performance was driving the CGI -- with much greater subtlety than a makeup-based character.

Now, was it part of your original intention to create this intensely textured world? The first 40 or so minutes, after the human characters reach Pandora, are so amazing. I honestly could have watched another 40 minutes of that and not gotten bored.

Yeah, Pandora is a character in the movie, just like the ship was a character in "Titanic." We needed to do what we called the Ode to the Ship, which was just them sailing out. We wanted to introduce Pandora as a character, and show the two different ways of viewing it, from a human perspective and a Na'vi perspective.

Space Odyssey
We caught up with Avatar producer Jon Landau to discuss making James Cameron's vision a reality.
By Amy Nicholson | Source:

Producer Jon Landau is credited with helping to steer Titanic to worldwide success when advance buzz had doomed it to the iceberg.

His latest project with writer-director James Cameron is even more ambitious. Yet one of Landau's biggest challenges during the four-and-a-half years of production work on Avatar wasn't just inventing a world, concocting a language, and blazing new trails in digital technology.

The hard part was not being able to share the work he and James Cameron had done to swoop audiences into the center of the fight for planet Pandora's future.

But now, finally on the cusp of the release, Landau opens up to BOXOFFICE about of one of the most-talked about films of the year—if not the decade.

Avatar is huge for exhibition. It's been the goal for this year's digital rollout—and even the future success of digital 3D itself has been linked to the success of Avatar.

I don't think you can put that burden on any one movie, to be honest. I think that Avatar is a step in the digital evolution, both cinematically from what we're able to put up on screen and what we're able to display in the theaters, thanks to digital projection. We've worked very hard to understand the strengths and the weaknesses of the technology that's available today, and make sure that we've erred on the side of the strengths.

How have you and James Cameron reacted to quotes like Jeffrey Katzenberg touting, “The day after Jim Cameron’s movie comes out, it’s a new world,” and RealD's Michael Lewis saying that the 3D industry is looking to Avatar to be its Citizen Kane?

The only pressure we have is to make the best possible version of the movie we set out to make. And I think we've accomplished that. We've also been lucky enough to share that with people—to go out there and show them scenes and clips, share with exhibitors 23 minutes of the movie—so they can see what it's like. It's not a movie that you can really talk about. It's a movie that you have to go and see—you have to experience. That's the great thing about film in general. Going into a theater and the lights being dimmed and the movie transporting you to another place: that's the magic of cinema.

As part of that magic, there's the relationship between technology and imagination. When Cameron wrote the script in 1995, he wrote it for the imagination—the technology wasn't yet even a possibility.

That's right. Jim wrote this purely for imagination—I feel like he wrote it from a dream. None of these things existed. He created that. Years ago, he worked with 3D technology when he did T2: 3D for Universal Studios. At the time, he loved the results, but hated the process because it was so cumbersome to work with. With the advent of digital technology, he can now have a 3D camera that weighs less than a Panavision camera. You can hold it, you can shoot a 3D movie the same way you can shoot one in 2D.

Then with digital projection, no longer do you have to wear the anaglyph glasses that frankly made everything look like caca. The colors are true and it changes the experience. When people have seen the Avatar footage, yes it's about technology, but it's also about philosophy in your approach to 3D. For us, 3D is not about gags coming off the screen. 3D is about creating a window into a world—almost making the screen plane disappear and letting the audience have almost a voyeuristic experience.

Tell me about shaping this vision from the ground up.

In terms of shaping the vision of the movie, it was all about story. It was all about putting up on the screen characters that the audience would want to follow into a world. People don't go to movies for worlds; they go for characters. That was our focus—to not let technology get in the way of keeping our focus on that.

Jon Landau Answers Some Frank Questions on Avatar
Producer speaks out on the trailer reception and the Delgo comparison - Video Interview

In this French interview, the questions are in French and of course his answers are in English. From his answers, you should get an idea what the questions were.

For our French-speaking visitors, his answers are subtitled in French.

I thought it was due time that one of the Avatar film-makers spoke out about the Delgo comparison and I'm glad to see Landau not backing off the questions that needed addressed. Click source link for video.

All interviews on this page are excerpts, click on the source link for the complete interviews.

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