Big shock: James Cameron might NOT direct Avatar 2

As James Cameron heads into the home stretch of making sure every human being who hasn't seen his film Avatar gets to the theater, talk is naturally turning to exactly what the King of the World will be working on next. And he revealed that he might NOT direct a sequel.

We caught up with Cameron at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, where he received the fest's Modern Master award, and he said that he hasn't completely settled on his next project, but added that he certainly won't be taking another 12-year sabbatical before getting behind the camera again, as he did between Titanic and Avatar.

Battle Angel—a big-screen adaptation of Battle Angel Alita, the Japanese manga-series-turned-anime-franchise—has long been rumored to be on deck as Cameron's next film. But the writer-director revealed that while the project's still high on his priority list, it may be sidetracked in favor of a sequel (or series of sequels) to Avatar. Or possibly yet another film.

"We're still figuring that out," Cameron said. "I love Battle Angel. I've always loved Battle Angel, but a second Avatar film is a possibility, and I've got a couple of other films that I've developed over the last few years as well. So it's all still up in the air."

Cameron also explained that continuing Avatar as a franchise has been part of his game plan from the beginning. "It was embedded in my original pitch to the studio that part of the kind of business model for this is that we create all these digital assets. We essentially create a world. It exists in hard drives when you're done with the movie. And you can re-create it very quickly. When physical sets get struck, their value plummets from a $2 million set to zero in one day. But our equivalent $2 million of development for a digital set, it's still there. So the idea was maybe we don't make so much money on the first film, but we make more on the second film."

Now that Cameron HAS made so much money on the first film, what he's not sure of yet is whether he'll personally be at the helm of any Avatar sequels or overseeing the franchise as executive producer. "[It's] unknown right now," he said. "Have to look at that, and have to get a script pulled together—all that sort of thing."

At the film festival's "Directors on Directing" panel, Cameron also addressed Fox Corp. head Rupert Murdoch's recent announcement that 20th Century Fox was in "early talks" with him about Avatar sequels. "Well, there are still some deals to be made," he said with a smile. "Which will be easier now that Rupert's announced it."

Moviegoers can count on the filmmaker to continue to push the boundaries of technological advances. "I think that we spent a lot of energy on Avatar building a technology and a system for doing 3-D, for doing performance capture, for doing CG," Cameron said. "The next threshold for me is to do it all faster and cheaper and more efficiently. Do the same thing, hit the same kind of quality level, but just with a better process, a more robust process, because it was very experimental on this film. You make a lot of mistakes, and you learn from those mistakes, but we didn't always have time to implement [the lessons]."

What do you think Cameron should do next? And should he direct Avatar 2 himself?

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