It’s been 13 years since James Cameron’s original Avatar and, really, has anything changed in that time? [checks notes] OK, maybe a few things, but I should be specific about the important inflection points I’m thinking about here: Has anything changed about how celebrities roll into the premieres of blockbuster movies?
We here at Polygon love a reason to travel back in time through the power of press line photography, imagine ourselves walking the red carpets of our favorite movies, and realize that, wow, yeah, the early 2000s were a different time. The cast of Lord of the Rings really grew up since the premiere of Fellowship of the Ring. The premiere of Pirates of the Caribbean was… a moment. So on the occasion of Avatar: The Way of Water, we had to go back… We had to return to Pandora.
But here’s the twist: The lineup at the 2009 Avatar premiere doesn’t look that different from a 2022 gala. Thirteen years of monoculture has left us in pretty much the same place, with a few nuanced differences. Some famous people have moved away from the spotlight. Others are here to stay. The styles have changed, but no one at the Avatar premiere went full Keira Knightley.
The big takeaway is this: Danny DeVito had a hell of a time at the Avatar premiere.
DeVito, along with his wife, Rhea Perlman, and daughter, Lucy DeVito, rocked the blue carpet in 2009 knowing full well they were about to see a game-changer. An odd commonality between the premieres for many now-classic movies are that most of the people don’t seem to know what they’re in for. Big names do not show up outside the main cast, and the lower-tier celebrities who do often look like they were just at the supermarket.
This was Avatar! A decade-plus-in-the-making technological marvel that would go on to be the highest-grossing movie of all time! Why does no one but Danny DeVito give a shit?!?!
These guys get it. They were there. Sigourney Weaver, thriving in her return to big sci-fi movies. Cameron looking like he just ran 18 victory laps. Sam Worthington, really happy to be there. Michelle Rodriguez… hell yeah. The only one rivaling Danny DeVito on the Avatar carpet. Beaming. Killing it. Everyone in neutrals, her laying waste to the company in pink. Why wasn’t she in Avatar: The Way of Water? I blame Vin Diesel. Bring Capt. Trudy Chacón back to Pandora.
Zoe Saldaña also appears to have had a blast at the Avatar premiere, likely because half the people watching the movie wouldn’t know it was her under all that CG Neytiri makeup. Something something red carpet motion capture.
Brendan Fraser was at the end of his action-movie career run when Avatar premiered in 2009, but he was easily one of the most famous people to pay his respects to Cameron. His necklace is definitely something you’d see on Pandora. Not quite DeVito levels of enthusiasm here, but good spirit. Amazingly, he’s now in the Oscar conversation for his work on The Whale just as The Way of Water hits theaters. Fraser endured.
Masi Oka, from when Heroes was on, gracing the blue carpet. That wasn’t even a Fox show. There was no professional obligation to be there, as far as we can tell. The man just wanted to see Avatar! If he had brought his own snacks, he’d rival DeVito.
And here’s astronaut Buzz Aldrin with then-wife Lois Driggs Cannon. I can only imagine what Buzz Aldrin thought of Avatar.
How hard did Danny DeVito go for Avatar? The archives are full of step-and-repeat moments of the actor just living, but then he returns to carpet to take pictures with the cast of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. “The Gang Watches Avatar” (likely because Fox invited anyone on a popular FX show, but hey, they made the time). Some fun trivia: Always Sunny has been on for so damn long that it was already on season 5 when Avatar hit theaters, and it’s still on today. Take that, James Cameron.
Maybe Jason Alexander loves movie premieres. Maybe he has a lot of free time thanks to Seinfeld residuals. But the man was at the Shrek premiere and the Avatar premiere a near-decade apart rocking the same casual wear and it’s standing out to me. And yet not looking as thrilled to be there as Danny DeVito?
The power of Fox synergy: Get three hot young stars to come to your big movie premiere in order to soft promote their new movie. Logan Lerman, Brandon T. Jackson, and Alexandra Daddario look like they could not give less of a shit to see Jake Sully embark on the Iknimaya challenge in the Hallelujah Mountains later on that evening but, if they’re gonna sell Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief, they gotta make face!
Michael Mann and his wife, Summer, came and actually they look thrilled. Not DeVito hype, necessarily, just happy to be out of the house in order to watch a damn fine flick from a master.
Cuba Gooding Jr., another actor who was steadily on the premiere circuit from 2000-2010, walked the Avatar blue carpet with his sons. Fun fact: Mason Gooding is now a full-time actor/nepo baby who was very good in Scream 2022!
Tom Arnold experiencing real life in 3D while attending the Avatar premiere. A DeVito rival, but less grounded.
Nothing can beat Danny DeVito at the Avatar premiere. And the highs kept going into the night…
How much did Danny DeVito love the Avatar premiere? Why, he returned just this month to the premiere of Avatar: The Way of Water. A righteous man who would protect the tulkuns with all his might.