Last Airbender villain looks beyond the first film

Potential spoiler alert: Cliff Curtis said he's ready to make two more films in the Last Airbender series, so that probably means Fire Lord Ozai won't be vanquished in the end of the first film.

"That's a trilogy, and if all goes well, I'll be back for the second and the third installment," Curtis (Sunshine) said in a group interview Wednesday while promoting the TV show Trauma at the Television Critics Association's summer press tour in Pasadena, Calif. "I'm kind of like the Darth Vader character for that franchise."

Based on the Nickelodeon series Avatar: The Last Airbender, director M. Night Shyamalan's upcoming fantasy movie goes its own way, but Star Wars is indeed the reference point.

"I think that M. Night's a really interesting filmmaker, and when he spoke to me about it, he said that one of the most influential films he ever saw was Star Wars," Curtis said. "For him, this was his Star Wars that he wanted to make, so I thought that's a really interesting way to have a look at this kind of franchise."

Curtis did not even watch the show for research. "I haven't watched the TV series to get confused by it," Curtis said. "I wanted to take his lead on what way he wanted to take the franchise. He's had to condense, I don't know how many episodes, but two or three years' worth of television episodes into three movies."

The series told stories of four groups of "benders," based on the four elements: earth, air, fire and water. Ozai's powers tend to be destructive. "The fire lord loves fire," Curtis said. "He's responsible for it. He's sharing it with the rest of the planet."

Ozai's costume was a highlight for the live-action shoot. "Outstanding, the most beautiful costume I've ever had in my career, actually," Curtis said. "It's sort of like a cross between Roman and kind of Greek, [a] gold, Roman and Greek military/samurai military [uniform]. It's really, really beautiful."

The Last Airbender opens July 2, 2010.

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