The West

Actors Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana as her digital character Neytiri.

Rockingham-raised Hollywood star Sam Worthington has signed on for three sequels to James Cameron's 2009 sci-fi blockbuster Avatar.

Worthington will again play Jake Sully, the wheelchair-bound American soldier who discovers new life among the Na'vi on the planet Pandora. His co-star Zoe Saldana will also return for three more Avatars.

The trio of movies will be shot in New Zealand, where Cameron has shifted his production base to take advantage of tax incentives and to be closer to Weta Digital, the special effects entity behind Peter Jackson's Tolkien movies and the 3-D on the first Avatar.

Cameron said he was "beyond pleased" Worthington was returning for another tour of duty.

"Jake Sully is a rare combination of passion, strength, street smarts and soul, which requires a lot from an actor," Cameron said.

"Sam brought to the role a combination of sensitivity, vulnerability and strength."

Production is expected to begin at the end of the year and the first of the Avatar sequels is scheduled to be in theatres by December 2016.

The move from Los Angeles to New Zealand will also allow Worthington to beef up his commitment to the Australian film industry after spending much of his post-Avatar career in the US and Europe.

He returned to WA for the surf flick Drift and has been in Perth recently filming Robert Connolly's family drama Paper Planes.

Worthington has also forged an alliance with Connolly to produce the mini- series The Gallipoli Story, which tells the true story of how a group of embedded journalists triggered the decision to end the World War I campaign.

The West Australian

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