Joel Moore Talks Avatar, Near-Drunken Brawls With James Cameron

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Moral of the story kids: Keep your griping far from the ears of James Cameron.

Sitting down to talk with Joel Moore, a.k.a. Norm Spellman in James Cameron’s Avatar, I must admit: I was skeptical about the whole green screen thing. I mean, how hard can it be to act in an artificial environment, where almost everything has been dreamt up via special effects and, honestly, you’re mostly just providing voice work?

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Well the guy turned me around. I don’t think I quite realized the extent to which Cameron and company were employing a motion-capture process with the blue avatar creatures. It wasn’t a day off when Moore shifted to filming scenes in his ethereal blue skin; those were actually his toughest days. Maneuvering in a set dubbed the “volume,” with sensors noting his every move and posture, Moore could watch his avatar act out his behavior on a nearby screen.

Talk about trippy stuff: It wasn’t just anthropologist Norm Spellman becoming an avatar; Joel Moore literally had the experience of watching an animated body emulate his actions and emotions.

(More on Techland: Full Avatar Coverage)

Another thing I underestimated: The lengths to which Cameron educated his cast about the Na’vi, and about Pandora, in general. Cameron wasn’t messing around; he made the guys learn this stuff, right down to the vegetation. And when they started to complain one night at a bar about the exhausting shooting schedule, Cameron set them straight real quick: He had been working a whole longer than them without a day off…

But I’ll leave the rest of that story to Joel, who was in a rather good mood when we met up a week ago – and who was exceedingly gracious in walking us through all things Na’vi, Pandora, Avatar and Cameron. If you’re excited about the movie – we see it tonight by the way – you’ll dig the conversation above.

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