Just How Long Did It Actually Take to Film 'Avatar: The Way of Water'?

Since the first Avatar came out back in 2009, just how long did it take to film, 'Avatar: The Way of Water'? Here's what we know.

Katherine Stinson - Author

Dec. 16 2022, Published 6:56 p.m. ET

Neytiri (Zoe Saldana)
Source: 20th Century Studios

Remember the world back in 2009? Yeah, us neither. One notable event that occurred before the onset of the 2010s was the premiere of the epic James Cameron film Avatar.

Whether you loved or hated the movie, nobody could deny that the film made an impact on the moviemaking industry. So why did it take 13 years to make Avatar 2, otherwise titled Avatar: The Way of Water?

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OK, so first things first. It didn't actually take 13 years to film Avatar: The Way of Water. However, filming did take more than one year.

So how long did it take to film Avatar: The Way of Water? Here's what we know.

Jake (Sam Worthington)
Source: 20th Century Studios
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How long did it take to film 'Avatar 2'?

According to an extensive Time report, James started planning the sequels he had in mind for the Avatar franchise in 2012. He ended up writing four films' worth of stories over the span of four years, with the additional help of a writers room he assembled in 2013.

Filming on Avatar 2 officially began in 2017. You read that right. It took five years to film Avatar 2.

The same report from Time notes that Cameron truly delved his Avatar actors into the world of the story, quite literally.

Most of the cast had to film underwater sequences in a 900,000-gallon tank built specifically for the film. Kate Winslet reportedly broke the onset record for the Avatar 2 star who could hold their breath the longest underwater — she could supposedly hold her breath for seven minutes!

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The final cut of Avatar: The Way of Water is three hours and 12 minutes long. According to Vogue, the cast actually trained with a diving instructor who taught Navy SEALS how to hold their breath to prep for filming.

Avatar 2 star Zoe Saldana (who reprised her Avatar role as Neytiri, Jake's now wife), told Vogue "We studied [diving] theory and had to do these breathing exercises, so that by the time you’re ready to go and dive, you have enough oxygen in your bloodstream."

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Zoe added, "You’re training yourself to let go of that panic when you go underwater. And once you put that into practice, it’s kind of liberating.”

James actually filmed Avatar 2 and a hitherto untitled Avatar 3 project simultaneously, which was another reason why it took so long for Avatar 2 to hit theaters.

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Two of the primary filming locations for Avatar: The Way of Water included Manhattan Beach, Calif., and Wellington, New Zealand (Latlong.net actually has the latitude and longitude specifications for all of Avatar 2's filming locations!).

So is there a release date yet for Avatar 3? Hold your horses, y'all — Avatar 2 is still breaking records! (It already is one of the most expensive films ever made!)

You can watch Avatar 2, otherwise known as Avatar: The Way of Water, now in theaters.

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