Sitting in front of James Cameron feels surreal, but he’s as cool and easygoing as can be. It felt odd to refer to the movie-making giant as “James” during the global press junket that took place in London, England earlier this month, so I told him I’d call him, “Mr. Cameron,” to which he responded, “No, please. Call me Jim.”

The director exudes a calm confidence that usually only comes from knowing you are the best at what you do. He knows it, his fans know it, and the stars he works with know it, but some critics still needed convincing. Nothing Cameron ever does is average; we should all know that by now. Making two of the highest-grossing and most iconic films of all time—Avatar and Titanic—as well as a slew of other blockbusters like The Terminator, was still not enough for people who have endlessly questioned what took so long for him to make Avatar: The Way of Water. But quality takes time.    

Cameron is on the brink of releasing the Avatar sequel 13 years after the original. The film started production in 2017 but Cameron also shot Avatar 3 and some of Avatar 4 during the process. The time span between the two films might seem hefty to most impatient fans but the reality is that the waiting period will make sense once the public sees the results on the big screen when the film hits theaters on Friday, Dec. 16. 

Not only is Cameron bringing back the original cast including Zoe Saldaña, Sam Worthington, Stephen Lang, and Sigourney Weaver, but he’s also reuniting with Kate Winslet, and introducing a slew of new talent including Bailey Bass, Jack Champion, Trinity Bliss, and Jamie Flatters. This time around, Neytiri (Saldaña) and Jake Sully (Worthington) are facing the new challenges that come with being parents to four kids in the face of adversity and having to decide between saving their planet or saving their family. He says that idea is similar to his personal experience as a father.

“As a director, I’m always gone in different places around the world, I don’t get enough time with my kids, and so I’m just processing my issues,” Cameron tells Complex. “Which is good; I think artists should do that. They should write, paint, whatever it is, from what they know.”

Every new project Cameron is involved with has to top the previous one, and The Way of Water does exactly that. Complex sat down with the director for a brief chat ahead of the film’s release and he talked about using his experience as a father as inspiration for the story, how his admiration for the ocean inspired the film and how the ideas behind the Avatar world were born from his dreams.