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Madonna’s surprising influence on James Cameron’s ‘Avatar’

Photo: 20th Century Studios/Getty Images

When it comes to avatarJames Cameron has cited influences worthy of an encyclopedia. Most of them are pretty clear: Romeo and Juliet, ghost in the shellEdgar Rice Burroughs, princess mononoke and other films by Hayao Miyazaki, the Chinese Huangshan mountain range, the history of colonialism, ecology, Hinduism, 2001: a space odyssey, a dream her mother told her once. These are good inspirations, if a bit typical. Who does not have invoked 2001 by making an ambitious sci-fi spectacular? I am most intrigued by a unique reference located in the middle of a New York Times history about how Cameron and his collaborators developed the complex technology that spawned Pandora, the Na’vi-inhabited moon. Turns out his lucrative blue world got indirect help from the “True Blue” singer.

“If Madonna can be jumping up and down with a microphone in her face and put on a great performance,” said producer Jon Landau, who has worked closely with Cameron as True Liessaid to Times in 2009, “we thought, ‘Let’s replace that microphone with a video camera.’ That video camera stays with the actor while we capture the performance, and while we don’t use that image itself, we give it to the VFX company and they render it frame by frame, almost porous. by pore level.”

Knowingly or not, Sigourney Weaver, Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana and CCH Pounder were channeling the Queen of Pop by bringing their cerulean counterparts to life. And why shouldn’t they? Pretending you’re headlining Madison Square Garden would make running around a soundstage in a suit with dozens of motion capture dots on your face more enjoyable. All that’s missing are cone fasteners.

The actors Cameron transformed into bioluminescent Na’vi humanoids wore black headphones that resembled the ones Madonna popularized on her Blond Ambition Tour. Instead of the microphone placed in front of Madonna’s mouth, the avatar The cast had a small square camera that recorded their expressions up close, allowing Wētā Workshop’s effects artists to avoid the uncanny valley lifelessness that later plagued Disney’s pseudo-live action. Lion King Redo. (You can see the actors at work here.) Madonna has pioneered much of the pop scene as we know it today, and while she wasn’t the first performer to employ a hands-free microphone during concerts: kate bush other Janet Jackson ran up that hill first; I’m sure he’d be happy to take credit for the photorealism.

Maybe Landau, a music guru who manages Bruce Springsteen and produced the Madonna-Warren Beatty blockbuster. dick tracyI was making a far-fetched analogy, but isn’t it more fun to imagine Worthington grabbing his crotch and girdling himself?express yourself” to prepare for the grueling avatar shoot? Landau and Cameron are hard at work on sequels, the first of which is due out in December, and they didn’t respond to my emails asking if they’re keeping Landau’s quote from 13 years ago. Cameron, for her part, shares a birthday with Madonna, but there is no evidence that she shares his affinity to go deeper and deeper under the water. (Do you see what I did there?)

Cameron’s goal with avatarwho started writing before filming titanic, was “going beyond” what Hollywood was capable of. “I wanted to be so far in front that nobody could catch up with us”, hey said in a behind-the-scenes documentary. of course the people to have caught up, including Madonna herself. Earlier this year, she entered an avatar world of your own, for better or worse. Partnering with crypto artist Beeple, Madonna launched an NFT series called “Mother of Creation,” in which her nude digital doppelganger gave birth to butterflies, trees, and a centipede.

In short, if you love avatar, thanks to Madonna and her headphones from the early 90s. Jon Landau did it. if you hate avatarwell, like Madonna once sang“There is no point in blaming him, and you should know that I suffer the same.”

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