Wonderland.

JACK CHAMPION

Launched into superstardom off the back of his break-out role in James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water, the actor discusses seeing years of hard work come to fruition on the big screen, the full-circle nature of starring in the latest instalment of the Scream franchise.

Shirt DIOR

Shirt DIOR

I find Jack Champion perched on a hotel sofa amidst the busyness of his Wonderland shoot a few weeks before the highly-anticipated release of Avatar: The Way of Water. “Avatar is my first movie, and this is your first issue as the Editor of Wonderland, so we are in this together,” the 18-year-old acting prodigy imparts in jest, with just a quiver of hesitation in his voice. Granted, I had spent the majority of the shoot bonding with Champion’s mother over the tribulations that come with her son’s overwhelming responsibilities, and indeed my own. But given the fact that the movie reached a staggering $1 billion at the Box Office a mere 14 days post-release and that you are reading this today, I’d say that the hesitation was unwarranted.

Suit GUCCI Shoes PRADA

Suit GUCCI Shoes PRADA

Grappling with bringing the emotionally complex character of Spider to life, Champion has dedicated his teen years to perfecting his debut performance. “It was crazy to see four and half years of work come to fruition on the big screen. It is just insane. Because I play a human character, I had to do my scenes twice so I did two and a half years of live-action, and then two and a half years of performance capture. Watching it for the first time made me feel everything, but a lot of it was relief that it was done. But for me, and I think my mum as well, it was mainly shock. Trinity [Bliss] on the other hand, who sat next to me, was crying the entire time. My sleeve was wet.”

This may have been a gushing reaction from Champion’s co-star, but given the film’s setting, this was more than fitting. In the second instalment of director James Cameron’s breakout sci-fi marvel, we follow Jake Skully and his family on their quest to outrun the “sky people” who have taken over the world of Pandora. During this voyage, the family seek solace amongst the Metkayina reef people resulting in a wondrous aquatic adventure unfolding on the screen. “Anytime you couldn’t literally see me in the water, I was actually on a cold, dry stage,” Champion lets on when discussing the training that prepared him for his time in the water. “They’d just dump buckets of water over my head, they’d say action, and then I’d run. Anytime I was actually interacting with water or ocean, they would build the set in a giant tank and this machine slammed the water to create the waves. So I would literally be getting wet and actually running up onto a ship. And then that would require a whole different wig, sometimes even an actual full-face scuba mask. So it was just a lot of different things that made it more challenging, depending on the shot. And that is without mentioning how I interacted with the Na’vi. They’d have an actor in a full blue tight suit with a giant pole with a foam Na’vi-looking head running alongside me and then I’d have to look up the foam face and act. So yeah, it was definitely a challenge.”

(LEFT) Suit GUCCI Watch OMEGA Shoes PRADA (RIGHT) Coat and Boots ALEXANDER MCQUEEN trousers PRADA

Suit GUCCI Watch OMEGA Shoes PRADA Coat and Boots ALEXANDER MCQUEEN trousers PRADA

To those who have watched the movie in question, the physicality of Champion’s role will come as no surprise. Gruelling in nature, the role of Spider was not to be taken on by someone faint of heart. But, that is not to say that Champion didn’t find amusement in the challenges that came attached to his role. “The longest I ever [held my breath for whilst filming] was five minutes and thirty-three seconds, which I know sounds impressive,” he beams. “But, I was so close to beating Tom Cruise. He did six minutes, famously.” He may have just missed out on shattering a famed record, but the same cannot be said for the movie’s impressive track record upon release. Honouring the first movie’s monumental legacy, Avatar: The Way Of Water stands as the third largest opening in the pandemic era, a time driven by a new-found affinity for cinema-fuelled escapism. Given these achievements, I am curious to know what Champion thinks of the tsunami of hype surrounding his performance. “I’ve heard good things. I’m trying to stay off social media regarding Avatar, just because that’s the number one thing they tell you – don’t look at reviews and comments. I’ve seen a lot of good things and you know, people have DMed me saying, ‘Hey, good job,’ which is really awesome to hear. But I am just trying to stay off of that. Ignorance is bliss!”

He may be diverting his attention from the noise of the present day, but with Avatar’s third instalment slated for a 2024 release, the actor assures me that he is taking the time to cast his focus onto Spider’s next crusade. “I know a lot more stuff happens emotionally [in the next movie]. I know we explore even more regions of Pandora and even more cultures of different groups of Na’vi. I can’t really say a lot, but everything is on an even grander scale. If you think about it, the main battle only happened from one ship, the SeaDragon, this time around. But there is a whole city of humans out there. I’m just saying, we’re just getting started.”

Jumper MARNI Trousers BOTTEGA VENETA Watch OMEGA

Jumper MARNI Trousers BOTTEGA VENETA Watch OMEGA

The third instalment of the Avatar saga may only loom in the distant future, but for those seeking another dose of Champion on screen, fret not. Catapulting from one infamous franchise to another, the actor has set his sights on his upcoming star-studded slasher project, Scream VI. Starring franchise veteran, Courteney Cox, and recent breakout success Jenna Ortega the newest feature in the cinematic series comes almost three decades after the original, with an electric buzz of anticipation orbiting it, much like the instalments that have come before it. “Acting-wise, horror movies are just really fun, there is just something awesome about being scared, screaming and running away on set. Also, I was and still am the biggest fan of Scream. My favourites are the first Scream, and then the fifth Scream is probably the best since the original. So getting the role truly is a dream come true; I can check that off of the bucket list.”

Speaking with an enthused glint, Champion’s affinity for the horror genre and the Scream universe is evident. The same fondness is of course held for the Avatar universe, and with this in mind, our attention turned to the paradox that is taking one’s primary steps into the world of acting with already-adored and established franchises as the segue. “As I said before, I was a huge fan of Scream, so [starring] in that was easy. I guess you could say I already kind of knew what I was doing. For Avatar, once I figured out that I was auditioning, I obsessively watched the first one. I’m not gonna lie, I’ve probably seen it over thirty times by now. I obsessively watched that to the point where I was correcting James Cameron during the filming process. I think in a short amount of time, I also became a huge fan of Avatar whilst I was filming it which is kind of a weird feeling.”

Full look PRADA

Full look PRADA

The endearing admiration conveyed, laced with infectious glee, is one of the few indicators of Champion’s age. When we are not embroiled in professional exchanges or reflections on his monumental career progression, his boisterous personality takes hold. From an ongoing fascination with my British accent – which he successfully mimics – to an introduction to his two dogs and beloved hairless cat named Butters, it becomes apparent that when out of the spotlight, the actor is taking pleasure in simply living out his teen years authentically and unapologetically. “I love to skate with some of my friends; we have a few skate parks near my house. I take a speaker and play some Nirvana and just skate. It’s a time to just forget who you are and do your thing,” he confesses with a smile strewn across his face.

Whether he is battling the unforgiving waves of Pandora’s vast sea or riding the ramps of his local skate park in Virginia, I’m assured that no matter where Champion may find himself, he will be doing his thing regardless.

Photographer
Simon Lipman
Fashion
Kieran Fenney
Grooming
Alex Price at Frank Agency
Words
Erica Rana
Editor
Erica Rana
Editorial Director
Huw Gwyther
Production Director
Ben CranK
Producer
Isabella Coleman
Production Intern
Frankie Baumer
JACK CHAMPION