James Cameron Advances Stealth Avatar Oscar Campaign For Zoe Saldana


It seemed reasonable enough last week to deduce Jim Cameron's motivations behind issuing a new Avatar set photo of Zoe Saldana -- head-rigged, mo-capped and mewling in character as Na'vi princess Neytiri. Beyond its basic, "here's how we did it" purpose, the photo seemed also to suggest that CGI is only as effective as the flesh-and-blood performance underneath it. Saldana's own performance is pretty strong, and in a new conversation with his fellow Oscar-winning visionary Peter Jackson, Cameron won't let you -- or the Academy, if its members are listening -- forget it.

And of course the Academy is listening. The actors' branch amounts to the majority of its membership, and a vote for a performance-captured Saldana can ultimately be perceived as an endorsement of these roles -- not to mention the salaries they might command on films by Cameron, Jackson, Steven Spielberg and their high-concept contemporaries. But! One thing at a time: First of all, both Cameron and Jackson say, relax. Actors aren't going anywhere. Then comes the Saldana Factor, with all the Cameronesque slyness, persuasion and hubris we've come to know and love:

We couldn't accomplish the character we're doing in Avatar through any kind of makeup means. That's been explored for 30 years of Star Trek and Star Wars. But I think the thing I hope that the media can convey to audiences is that this is an actor-driven process. Neytiri, in my film, for example--she is what Zoe [Saldana] created 100 percent. Initially I thought we want to keep the technique under wraps. We don't want to pull the curtain aside and show people how we've done this; we just want to show you my magic. But I've recently changed my tune. I want people to see a side-by-side image of Neytiri in a scene and Zoe doing the scene, so they understand that it's a physical and facial performance. Zoe took months of training at archery and martial arts, so she could move a certain way and have a certain grace. It's something she created that just translated to her character.

Naturally Jackson agrees, calling anti-actor theories "ludicrous." But Cameron's the true actor's director among this pair, and even while Avatar accrues Best Picture hype by merely speaking for itself in theaters, there's obviously a little more validation to be had for himself and the technology by nudging Saldana into the awards bubble. Maybe he can pull it off, maybe he can't. But he wouldn't be King of the World if he didn't at least give it a legitimate shot.

· It's The Story, Stupid [Newsweek]


  • SunnydaZe says:

    "We just want to show you MY magic"
    And James Cameron said, "Let there be Avatar"; and there was Avatar.
    And Cameron saw that the Na’vi were good; in fact, pretty f**kin' awesome.

  • SaltySue says:

    Not gonna happen, but I'm sure Zoe is happy Cameron thought she gave a great performance. Her performance fits the role but it's not nomination worthy.

  • Brittany Kauffman says:

    Zoe did an acceptional job_ and James Cameron is a prototype!

  • Matthew D H says:

    I wouldn't mind seeing Zoe get a nomination but it really won't happen.
    That would be like seeing a Pixar film get nominated for best picture. Beauty and the Beast getting that nomination was a fluke.
    Anything with animation is looked down upon in Hollywood. Motion-Capture will never be taken seriously.

  • Torpedo says:

    When an actor can make his audience feel the Sensitivity and strength of character which he performs. If the actor is able to move it from an imaginary plane to a real plane with only the nature of his artistic power. As was the case of Zoe Saldana / Neytiri. It is a matter of consideration from James Cameron and the Academy. The work of actress Zoe Saldana merits consideration for the Oscars.

  • Sally in Chicago says:

    Glad he's championing and hiring minority women but...if this is achieved, then we should also give acting noms to Cameron Diaz and Meryl Streep for "voices" they lend to cartoon characters. I believe at one time Eddie Murphy was talked about for an acting nom for his Dunky in Shrek. Didn't happen.

  • Nick says:

    I really hope Cameron succeeds in at least getting her nominated. It is well deserved. Zoe is fabulous as Neytiri and did an awful lot of hard work preparing for and delivering her performance. On screen it speaks for itself. I've always thought she was a very good actress but she blew me away in Avatar. Go Zoe!

  • CiscoMan says:

    Follow-up question: If Zoe Saldana deserves consideration (and I think she was very good), what about the animators? Yes, Zoe was the basis of the mo-cap and the resulting animation, but surely the animators tweaked here and there, at the very least.
    If she does get nominated, doesn't the entire TEAM deserve to get nominated for the performance?

  • Karl says:

    "Motion-Capture will never be taken seriously."
    Matthew D H, People said the same thing about the internet once. I think that motion capture is amazing and that Cameron did an amazing job with Avatar and so did Zoe, you could see her get nominated or even win. Her performance in Avatar was the best thing I've seen since Depp in the Pirates-movies

  • Sally in Chicago says:

    Karl -- I wasn't impressed with Motion capture and I don't think anyone will pay to see it in ALL the movies released. We / I still like human beings on screen. In fact Motion Capture or whatever the heck that was hurt my eyes.

  • Dan says:

    I don't know about that. I can list about 200,000 people on the Avatar Facebook fan page that would beg to differ. A huge amount of people seem to be more attracted to Cameron's Na'vi than they do their own humanity. Cameron has not only successfully crossed the uncanny valley, but has passed it by miles. THAT is how good these characters are. When people say that they hate their life and such. I can't think of any characters ever that have elicited such a reaction from an audience.

  • nhogate says:

    Very few actors make me cry. The way she cried and screamed
    at Jake in the scene where her father died made me cry.
    When she held jake she made me cry. Her emotions
    were so real and strong. The way she faught, rode the
    bird, squat, leaped, everything was all her and different
    and powerful.
    Cameron Diaz and Meryl Streep did not bring their characters
    to life in any way shape or form like Zoey did in Avatar.
    Her performance was easily the best in the movie and should
    be considered for an oscar.

  • Airvenus says:

    Zoe Saldana most definitely deserves to at least be nominated for an Oscar, hands down. I fell in love with her character. To compare her performance w/ Eddie Murphy's donkey from Shrek is an insult. Eddie Murphy gave voice, yes, but he did not convey facial emotions or bodily movements at all. Those were the cartoonists.
    There's no difference of Zoe's performance than had she been dressed up in costume on say, a movie like Lord of the Rings. Netiri was ALL her. Her voice, her facial expressions, all her body movements. All that in its sum is an actor. From her hand movement towards Jake when she told him "You should not be here" to her smiling looking back at him when she was riding and flying feeling proud of him, to her anger she expressed when she yelled at him after he revealed himself. THIS is true acting. Whether she was wearing a head cap or blue paints makes no difference. And the Oscar goes to........

  • Daniel says:

    Well said Airvenus! Couldn't have said it better myself!

  • Philip says:

    Sally in Chicago obviously didn't read the whole article or doesn't understand the concept of motion capture when she suggests that an oscar for this performance would be like giving Cameron Diaz an oscar for Shrek. Zoe didn't just voice a character ... she acted every moment of that movie ... her movements and facial expressions were then captured by technology and relayed to her characters body ... but every single one of those movements, inflections and facial expressions were Zoe's and the strength of the character and it's emotional impact on the audience was all her work.

  • Yuri says:

    Not taking mo-cap seriously is one of most dumb things one can do and Hollywood is going to regret this. I say Zoe deserves nomination... why? Because it's not the same thing as simple animation! They had to play emotions, all the things in studio! We see the effects in world full of magic and sceneries, but in there in big-green box only actors had to fill everything up with imagination. It's damn easier to play when you got full scenery life arround you - but when you got a battle scene where in whole epic movie there are thousands of beasts, soldiers, robots, bullets arrows, trees, bushes, stuff like that, and in studio there is just you on green background... how dare you to tell it's an easy job?! I have great respect for Zoe and her performance! And to just think she had to fill the scenery up with images in her head just make me respect her more.
    She was very realistic, she moved in this exotic way of Na'vi, her voice was perfect, fit every emotion and when she cried it really felt like someone's cutting your heart with knife of deep sorrow, as she was so naturall...
    And I most agree with Airvenus! Comparing Zoe's performance to silly pixar movies or cartoon-animated characters with just voices of actors added is something a dumbass can do... seriously... people be reasonable... Years of training, habbit practice, archery, riding, learning languages, working on special alien accent designed specialy for this movie, developed special way of Na'vi walk, movement - this gracious form, cat-like-exotic aguility that ACTRESS had to perform! Not some band of guys who just scripted some stuff in animation progrm... it was all her work. Shame on you to compare so much effort to some silly animated movie.

  • Max says:

    Avatar doesn't blur the line between animation and live action. It obliterates it. And in this new synthesis, Zoe Saldana shines. Her performance is the most engaging I have seen in years. But people will say it is not her but the technology. It seems to me that the technology hinders her performance rather than enhances it and only an actor of exceptional craft could make it work and create a performance that seems entirely believable. Best actor all the way.

  • LAW says:

    Zoe would totally deserve an Oscar Nom. SHe gave a great performance. This movie is nothing like a typical animation. Zoe and the cast had to act just as they would in a regular movie plus do it while connected to the CGI equipment. She's great in every movie she does.

  • twills says:

    Traditionally, black women that are allowed to shine in hollywood have been beautiful, but not talented(Halle Berry) or talented but not beautiful(Oprah, Whoopi, Sherri Shepard). Black women who have the total package(Angela Basset, Zoe Saldana, Gabrielle Union, Meagan Good, Phylicia Rashad) get ignored by hollywood. Does anyone honestly think that the upper elite in hollywood can not see that Zoe Saldana did all of her acting. Of course they do! How can you be a judge in hollywood and not understand how technology works. The buzz for this movie was so big that I am sure people knew how the technology worked before the movie was in theatres. They are just buying time, because they dont want a beautiful, talented and young black woman getting any shine. In other words black women with the total package are a threat to the Julia Roberts and Scarlett Johannsen’s. Zoe Saldana did all of the acting

  • paul jackson says:

    I totally love "Avatar". This movie is not just another Hollywood shallow nonsence. It has a very sculpted premise, one that is quite in line with a new age philosophy of oneness with the nature. Cameron totally deserves the rewards and profit this film is still collecting. I hope the next "Avatar" will be coming out soon, even with a stronger message and great new adventures and characters. I am planning to get a new 3D TV next year just for that lol

  • I totally love "Avatar". This film is not just another Hollywood shallow nonsence. It has a very sculpted premise, one that is very much in line with a new age philosophy of onessess with everything. Cameron totally deserves the awards and money this movie is still collecting. I hope the next "Avatar" will be coming out soon, even with a stronger premise and great new adventures and characters. I am planning to get a new 3D TV soon just for that lol

  • Looks like Amerie is really switching up her style in her new song, Outside Your Body! Ameriie's returning to her Korean roots in her song, combining R&B with Korean pop! This intergalactic song sounds great on my playlist and I can't wait for the music video to drop!

  • RMG says:

    Twills!! This is not about race at all, this is about her getting nom, that she well deserved, she is Dominican, Puerto Rican not black .also opra and whopy are beautifull and halle is vary talented.