Was James Cameron Inspired by Octopuses for ‘Avatar 3’?

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

James Cameron took a break from shooting Avatar 3 to appear at Thursday’s National Geographic panel at the Television Critics Association conference. While there were no updates on the Na’vi, Cameron revealed a new fascination with another fascinating species: the octopus. Could these tentacled creatures have any impact on the Avatar series?

We’ll have to wait to see Avatar 3 to see the octopus’ impact on Cameron’s universe. But for now, the director explained why he’s captivated by these underwater animals, which are the focus of the latest installment of his National Geographic series Secrets of the Octopus.

“I’m endlessly fascinated by the fractal detail of nature, and my respect has only grown over time” Cameron addressed the crowd via satellite from the Avatar 3 set. “I studied marine biology back in my college days. The stories around individual octupuses exhibited incredible behavior—from opening a jar to get something inside to eat, to climbing out of a tank and making physical contact with a marine biologist in his office.”

Cameron added that he’s “always held the octopus in a very high regard.” Furthermore, these creatures are perfect for the sci-fi worlds he creates.

“As a science fiction writer, I always imagine that when that flying saucer lands on the White House lawn and the ramp comes down, [the alien] is going to be something that looks like an octopus,” Cameron said. “There are more water worlds in the universe than there are worlds like us, that have a balance between land and ocean.”

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Comparing octopuses to aliens might make them sound a little frightening—and there are plenty of other unique creatures that live under the sea. But Cameron, who is no stranger to the ocean ecosystems, says he’s not afraid of anything he may find thousands and thousands of meters below the surface.

“The only thing that freaks me out is the abominations that are happening with the destruction of the life of species, just ludicrous things that humans are doing,” Cameron said. “Using the ocean as a toilet for toxic waste, human waste—that’s what freaks me out.”

With that in mind, Cameron says he’s taken this in mind as he continues to work with Nat Geo on series like the Secrets of franchise and OceanXplorers, and even Avatar. His goal in both his daily life and in his professional career, Cameron says, is “to apply what I’ve learned over 40 years in the storytelling business to raising consciousness and reminding people how connected we need to be [with nature] and to preserve the natural ecosystems in the living biosphere of the planet.”

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Cameron continued, “When I’m working on an Avatar film, when I’m working on a National Geographic special, or when I’m working in private sector business, it’s all the same general motivation, which is to try to take my energy and apply it to the common good of the biosecurity of the planet on which we depend. We can’t live without it.”

So, with all that in mind, does Cameron now have a pet octopus? Did he bond with a special tentacled pal? Or did he return home with any great stories about the critters?

“I try not to molest animals in their natural habitat,” Cameron said. His connection is with the larger ecosystem, rather than the beings themselves. “The deep ocean is my church. I’m not religious, but that’s where I start to have religious feelings.”

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