During the filming of the new Avatar sci-fi blockbuster, the cast and crew were served only vegan food to better align with the principles of the film.
To this day, James Cameron’s 2009 sci-fi spectacle “Avatar” retains the all-time worldwide box office record with a stunning $2.8 billion. Beyond this unusually high take for a non-franchise picture, it’s also unique for being a box office titan built around a clear environmental message. “Avatar” takes place in 2154, where a future corporation seeks to colonize and extract rare resources from a moon across the stars named Pandora.
The actions of these capitalist colonizers come to threaten the moon’s inhabitants, the Na’vi. They’re a population of intelligent blue humanoids with a deep connection to the local environment. We’re asked to root for the Na’vi against the capitalist colonizers, and “Avatar” clearly centers the values of their ecological way of living.
What many “Avatar” fans may not know is that ecologically friendly practices weren’t merely present in the film’s narrative: they were thoroughly integrated its very production. The eco-conscious Cameron even made sure that the “Avatar” set had a strictly-enforced vegan food policy in an attempt to exemplify the film’s values.
Our species isn’t as literally connected to the environment as “Avatar’s” Na’vi and their plug-into-Eywa neural fibers. Still, humans do rely on and impact our own environment. It was thus important for Cameron to avoid being hypocritical in the production of “Avatar,” a movie with overt environmental themes. In a massive set meeting, Cameron explained to the film’s 130-or-so crewmembers that the “Avatar” films were meant to “mean something” more than making money. This focus inspired Cameron to make an unusual commitment on set. To the crew, he elaborated:
“We have to walk the walk. We have to live our lives, as the people working on this film, consistent with the message of the films. So we’re all going to eat vegan on this production.”
While cast and crew were welcome to eat meat at a nearby off-set café, Cameron arranged for all on-set catering to be plant-based. His pitch to the crew was that they wouldn’t be missing out on any of their favorites. “We’ll provide good food that’s tasty,” he recalls saying, “and it’s comfort food in the sense that it’s things you recognize — it’s pizza, it’s Italian, it’s Thai, Mexican, it’s all the things you like,” he noted, “It’s just going to be 100-percent plant-based.” The pitch worked, and the crew was willing to try his experiment in plant-based set catering.
In the aftermath of “Avatar,” Cameron’s advocacy for plant-based living continued to grow. In 2012, Cameron himself took the leap and went fully plant-based along with his family. While committing to so many massive “Avatar” sequels was undoubtedly intimidating, the director claims that vegan dietary changes have aided his health. “The fact that I’ve been eating plant-based for six years,” he explained, “I haven’t been sick one day, I haven’t been sick at all in six years.”
It’s this belief in plant-based eating’s health benefits that gives Cameron confidence in the exhausting, decade-plus project of developing, co-writing, and directing his “Avatar” sequels. The health changes he swears by have given him confidence in his own ability to handle perhaps the biggest challenge in Hollywood:
“I’m now at the age of 63 on this enormous mission to do these [‘Avatar’] films. It’s going to take me another seven or eight years to complete the entire cycle of this project and I feel strong … I started my work sort of full-tilt on the soundstage in the middle of last summer and I’ve got tons of energy and I don’t think I could be doing this if I wasn’t plant-based, not at this age. I think that’s a big factor.”
From fuelling the “Avatar” set to fuelling the director through its sequels, James Cameron’s commitment to plant-based living looks like it isn’t going anywhere.
While Cameron kept a tight plant-based set on “Avatar” and has continued to personally live vegan since 2012, it seems like “Avatar” wasn’t his last attempt to maintain a vegan production. Longtime Cameron collaborator and “Avatar” producer Jon Landau confirms they are “providing vegan meals for our crew” on the set of the sequels as well. In an interview with Fandom, the producer elaborated on the choice:
“That’s all we’re serving. We’re not forcing anyone to eat there that doesn’t want to. We’re doing it based on a plant-based initiative that we feel is important, not just from a health standpoint but from an environmental standpoint. So we’re saying, ‘Look, if we’re going to cater for you, we’re going to hold true to our values and we’re doing all plant-based catering.'”
It’s a strong and unusual commitment from a major blockbuster production, and one that speaks to director James Cameron’s commitment to the environmental values that underlie the vast franchise. From the director himself to the entire production, plant-based cuisine fuels our cinematic journeys into Pandora.
“Avatar: The Way of Water” hits theaters December 16th, 2022.
Original source: https://www.slashfilm.com