Jack Champion interview: ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’
“It’s like if I spent so much time making a gift for someone and then someone beautifully wraps it in a present box,” describes Jack Champion of watching “Avatar: The Way of Water” for the first time. The actor spent a major part of his teenage years steeped in an unconventional filming process, where the second and third films in the “Avatar” saga were shot back-to-back. His extended stay in Pandora granted him the opportunity to work alongside legendary performers and work inside one of the most unique filmmaking processes in history. Watch the exclusive video interview above.
Champion portrays Spider, a human boy and son of the villainous Colonel Quaritch (Stephen Lang). Spider was left behind when most humans retreated from Pandora and was subsequently adopted by Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana). He grows up learning the ways of the Na’vi, but finds himself caught between two worlds when humans return to the planet.
Since Na’vi are adept at swinging, climbing, and sprinting their way through a vast forest, the role had immense physical requirements for Champion. “I worked many years with my trainer,” reveals the actor, “He helped me get from a really not very fit, pudgy twelve year old, to someone who looks like they have been running around the jungle for their whole life.” He focused on Crossfit, high intensity workouts, and a massive change in diet to prepare for the movie. “As a young teenager, all I wanted to do was eat donuts and eat chips,” quips Champion.
Portraying a human character in a film where many of his co-stars would eventually be digitally altered into blue aliens meant the Champion had a heavy workload. He spent two years completing performance capture footage with the rest of the cast. But he would also need to film scenes independently so that his live-action character could be stitched into the digital realm. “I did another 2 and half years in New Zealand, of live action. In blue paint, in my loin cloth, by myself,” reveals the actor, “acting to tennis balls and foam faces.” Though the setup sounds equivalent to acting inside a vacuum, it didn’t phase the young performer. “Once you have built up that report and that bond with someone years ago, and I’ve done all my scenes already,” he explains, “I can just look back on my past acting experience.”
Champion knows he learned a great deal from observing his veteran co-stars, including Oscar nominee Sigourney Weaver. “They’re all just very calm, they know what they’re doing. And they go with their gut instinct,” he describes. Being prepared and trusting himself is perhaps the most valuable lesson he gleaned from his colleagues. “Any type of art is subjective, so you just go with your gut,” asserts Champion.