On April 22nd cinema demigod and color blue fetishist James Cameron announced his next project, and it isn’t Avatar Too or Battle Angel or a documentary where he sends a camera he designed with his brother into Eyjafjallajökull. Maybe the idea of going for a highest-grossing-movie-ever-made hat trick isn’t enough of a challenge for him anymore, cause it’s not a movie at all. Next up for Cameron? Saving the world.

One tree at a time.

“I’m sorry, guys, I can’t talk about the magic orb I’ve conjured at this time.”

In conjunction with the 40th anniversary of Earth Day and the Blu-ray/DVD release of party argument du jour, Avatar, Cameron and Twentieth Century Fox have partnered with Earth Day Network and pledged to plant one million trees in fifteen different countries around the world as part of the Home Tree Initiative.

The Home Tree Initiative was officially launched this past Thursday with the ceremonial planting of a Crape Myrtle tree on the Fox lot in Century City. The skies were looking overcast as the press arrived, but, as seems fitting at this point, moments before the ceremony began the clouds parted and the sun continued to shine warmly on all things Cameron.

Can you find Cameron? Landau? Pounder? Rothmann? Jim Gianopulos? Waldo?

Representing Avatar for the festivities were producer Jon Landau, my favorite character actress who sounds like a hamburger, CCH Pounder, and the Tree of Souls himself, Cameron. Numerous people had a chance at the mic, espousing love for both Earth and Pandora. Cameron got his Lorax on and spoke for the trees (I don’t think the Thneed industry would stop him), but Fox Film Entertainment Chairman and CEO Tom Rothmann had the biggest highlight in my book when he made the bold and interesting claim that News Corp was going to be carbon neutral by the end of 2010.

I hope that Crape Myrtle is nerd enough to appreciate the pimp placement it got. Overlooking Stage 20 (Simpsons) and 21 (Star Wars) with Fox Plaza (aka Die Hard’s Nakatomi Tower) looming in the background? Well played, Crape Myrtle. Well played.

After the Crape Myrtle was jammed in the ground and pictures were posed for and shovels were signed, the press was finally loosed to inevitably ask questions that had nothing to do with the Home Tree Initiative whatsoever.

Given the well-documented rap war Devin found himself in during Avatar’s pre-release I was half-expecting Landau to poke me in the eye when he came to talk with a group of us Interwebbers, but he was quite jovial. He talked a bit about Battle Angel, but didn’t say anything we don’t already know. A little more enlightening was his discussion of what to expect from the extended version re-release of Avatar coming this summer. Coy about exact details, he did say that a much of it will add backstory – notably to Jake and to the Na’Vi school run by Sigourney Weaver’s character. There will likely be more of Jake training and more to the climactic battle. Intriguingly Landau said that they’re even toying with the idea of including some unfinished scenes, but that’s still up in the air obviously.

Unfortunately by the time Jimbo made his way over to us he was already being dogged by an assistant attempting to whisk him away to his next adventure, and I was frankly disappointed by the questions the group threw at him: rehashes of things we already know (Avatar 2 will feature oceans), things Cameron clearly won’t say (what film he’s doing next) and downright dumb fanboy nonsense (why he had metal-walkers in both Aliens and Avatar? Really? Come on, nerds). Alas, I’m a noob at this and failed to get off any of my questions in time. I was legitimately interested to ask him how he might approach the inevitable environmental message in Avatar 2. It was already heavy-handed in the first film. Was he gonna go gonzo this time around? Bring in anything new? But at least we finally got to the bottom of that nagging metal-walkers debate… “What’s wrong with metal-walkers?” That was his answer, if you were curious.

“Boy, I really hope someone asks me about metal-walkers. I’ve just been dying to discuss my feelings on the subject.”

Listening to Cameron talk during the ceremony about his memories of the first Earth Day, about becoming an environmentalist in high school, and about writing Avatar, what struck me most wasn’t his King of the World-centric attitude (I expected that), it was that the dude legitimately cares about what he’s doing here. For Fox the Home Tree Initiative is a obviously a publicity stunt for the Blu-ray/DVD release of Avatar, but for Cameron it seems like the Blu-ray/DVD release is just a stunt so he could force Fox to pony up the dough for planting a million trees. It’s not just something to make him look good.

Say what you will about Avatar (I’m mostly in Devin’s camp), I don’t see anyone planting trees because of Iron Man. Just sayin’.

I have absolutely no idea who this dude is, but he’s fucking awesome. Reporters are only supposed to look like this when they’re the boozy but handsome photographer paired with intrepid foreign reporter Ashley Judd in a steamy cable thriller.