Sigourney Weaver will be returning to star in James Cameron's forthcoming 'Avatar' trilogy. The casting confirmation, which was made on Monday (June 9th) by the director, came as quite a surprise to fans of the sci-fi flick as Weaver's character was believed to have died.

Sigourney Weaver
Weaver will be returning to star in the trilogy

But the 64 year-old actress won't be reprising her role of Dr. Grace Augustine, an exobiologist and head of the Avatar Program, she will be portraying a new character.

During Cameron's announcement, he noted that the decision to bring Weaver back to the project was made due to the pair collaborating many times over the years.

"Sigourney and I have a long creative history, dating back to 1985 when we made 'Aliens,'" the 59 year-old filmmaker said in a statement. "We're good friends who've always worked well together, so it just feels right that she's coming back for the Avatar sequels."

James Cameron
Cameron announced the casting news on Monday (June 9th) 

"Her character of Grace Augustine, as fans know, died in the first movie, so she's playing a different and in many ways more challenging character in the upcoming films," he added. "We're both looking forward to this new creative challenge, the latest chapter in our long and continuing collaboration."

This past January it was also confirmed Zoe Saldana and Sam Worthington would be reprising their roles as 'Neytiri' and 'Jake Sully' in the next three films. Stephen Lang has also been recast, but like Weaver's character he was killed off in the first instalment.

Zoe Saldana
Saldana will reprise her role as 'Neytiri'

Last December (2013) it was revealed that the next three instalments will be shot back-to-back-to-back in New Zealand, and U.S film companies, 20th Century Fox and Lightstorm Entertainment, will produce the trilogy which is estimated to cost NZ $500 million ($413 million) on live action and visual effects.

At the time Cameron said, "It's quite a thrill to be officially saying that we're bringing the Avatar films to New Zealand," adding, "we had such a wonderful experience here making the first film".

He hopes to have the first movie ready for Christmas 2016.

Sam Worthington
Worthington will return as the star of the sci-fi franchise, 'Jake Sully'