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'Avatar' Tattoo Artist Raymond Knowles Is Excited About 'The Way of Water' - Rolling Stone

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the first sequel to James Cameron’s 2009 sci-fi epic avatar it was supposed to hit theaters in 2014. It was then pushed back to 2015, then to 2016 and 2017. It was eventually scheduled to be released in December 2021 – but COVID-19 pushed it to another year. Finally, the film opens this week.

“Yes, waiting for the second was long overdue”, says Raymond Knowles Rolling Stone in a message on Facebook. “Many times over the years I thought it would never be finished and released.”

You can tell that Knowles, a 54-year-old carpenter in Edmonton, Alberta, is more interested than the average fan in seeing Cameron complete the avatar saga — four additional films in all. That’s because, over the past decade, he’s kept the faith by covering his entire body with avatar tattoos, becoming a shrine to Neytiri, the warrior princess of the blue Na’vi people portrayed by actress Zoe Saldaña.

It’s about 95% inked at this point, he says. Last fall, he completed the sleeves.

“People think I’m obsessed,” says Knowles. “So I have a weird decal on my truck and a tattoo, that’s the joke I use.” The Chevy truck he is referring to is a no less subtle homage to avatar than her skin, fully swathed in lush blue and purple, with “NEYTIRI” vanity signs and papyrus font advertisements for her woodworking business called – what else? – “Sir. Avatar.” According to his clients in Edmonton, Knowles is a nice, knowledgeable guy who does great work and will happily pose for a photo or discuss his filmmaking passion with anyone interested.Spotting his ride around town is definitely good luck.

What was about the original avatar that Knowles found so electrifying? The short answer is: all of it. “First of all, I’m a huge fan of James Cameron,” he wrote on Reddit three years ago. “For me avatar it was his best film ever. I just loved everything about it. He admires the “beautiful graphical scenery” and “the many similarities to our own planet” reflected in the alien world of Pandora.

“Of course the beautiful Neytiri,” he added in his post, “who inspired me to do everything I’ve done and intend to continue doing. My truck, my body and tons [of] collectibles. To this day I just can’t put my finger on just one thing.”

With the debut of Avatar: The Way of Water about us, Knowles says people “keep asking to see me.” He currently has tickets to three performances on consecutive nights – but the first showing, on Friday, is a special occasion with his daughter Nancy, who is now 26 and was just 13 when avatar changed Knowles’ life. While she was sometimes “awkward” about his love of the film in her teens, she was also supportive, with the two traveling to fan conferences together and once visiting Cameron’s Lightstorm studio. Together they met several avatar actors and producer Jon Landau.

It’s clear that father and daughter will watch the sequel as Cameron intended: in 3D, on the world’s biggest screen. “I will always watch avatar in IMAX theaters,” explains Knowles. “I saw the first one 11 times when it came out in 2009, and five times the second time around.” Even revisiting it in the comfort of her own home, though, she reminds him “why I fell in love with this amazing beautiful film.”

Although Knowles doesn’t hesitate to share YouTube videos on how Avatar: The Way of Water “will change movies forever”, he is careful not to get his hopes up also High. “People ask me if I’m excited about the new one,” says Knowles. He admits her answer is “yes and no”.

“It was the first one I fell in love with, like many other people,” he says. “I don’t know how Mr. Cameron will get over that with the next one and the ones after that. I’ve seen all the trailers released and yes they look amazing – goosebumps like the first one.”

The fact that he became something of an Internet celebrity and local legend while waiting for a sequel was hardly intentional, he says. He started with a few tattoos and grew from there. While it may have elicited strange looks or comments in the early days, people have come to accept that he wants to celebrate a story he finds meaningful (and knows it’s just a movie).

“Stuff like that never bothers me anyway,” he once wrote. “Having a lot of ink doesn’t change who someone is.”

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