M. Night Shyamalan - the writer and producer
Feature film

On January 8, 2007, Paramount Pictures' MTV Films and Nickelodeon Movies announced that they have signed M. Night Shyamalan to write, direct and produce a trilogy of live-action films based on the series; the first of these films will encompass the main characters' adventures in Book One. The film was in a dispute with James Cameron's film Avatar regarding title ownership, which resulted in the film being titled The Last Airbender. It is set for release on July 2, 2010. Shyamalan was attracted to the series because of its inspiring martial arts and spiritual theme, after being introduced to the program by his children. Filming will begin in March 2009 and take place in Philadelphia and Greenland. Producer Frank Marshall stated the film may be moved to later in 2010 or even to early 2011, and that some filming could happen in the Far East.

According to an interview with the co-creators in SFX Magazine, Shyamalan came across Avatar when his daughter wanted to be Katara for Halloween. Intrigued, Shyamalan researched and watched the series with his family. "Watching Avatar has become a family event in my house ... so we are looking forward to how the story develops in season three," said Shyamalan. "Once I saw the amazing world that Mike and Bryan created, I knew it would make a great feature film."

Avatar co-creators Mike DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko voiced their opinion within an interview regarding M. Night Shyamalan writing, directing and producing the film. The two displayed much enthusiasm over Shyamalan's decision for the adaptation, stating that they admire his work and, in turn, he respects their material. M. Night Shyamalan said he will write the second film while preparing to shoot the first. James Newton Howard, who has composed all of Shyamalan's films since The Sixth Sense, will compose The Last Airbender.

Shyamalan originally offered the roles of Aang to karate-trained Texan Noah Ringer; Sokka to Jackson Rathbone (Twilight); Katara to Nicola Peltz (Deck the Halls); and Zuko to Jesse McCartney. The casting of white actors triggered negative fan reaction marked by accusations of racism, a letter-writing campaign, and a protest outside of a Philadelphia casting call for movie extras. Rathbone dismissed the complaints, saying "I think it's one of those things where I pull my hair up, shave the sides, and I definitely need a tan. It's one of those things where, hopefully, the audience will suspend disbelief a little bit." In February 2009, Dev Patel replaced McCartney, whose tour dates conflicted with a boot camp scheduled for the cast to train in martial arts. Aasif Mandvi will play Commander Zhao, Shaun Toub will play Uncle Iroh, Cliff Curtis will play Fire Lord Ozai and Keong Sim has been cast in the role of an Earthbender.