Zoe Saldana On Avatar

Neytiri talks love, language and having fun with James Cameron…

 

James Cameron's latest leading lady, Zoe Saldana, is on a Hollywood Star Trek, and after impressing as Ohuru in JJ Abrams' blockbuster she's hoping her portrayal of Neytiri will catapult her into the stratosphere.

We sat down with her to talk about the role, the film, and working with the man himself.

 

Avatar's Love Story

"That was the one thing that I loved the most about the script was how beautiful the love story was and how Jim captured it.

"How they come to meet and fall in love and it's so beautiful - he never wanted the innocence to be lost in the way that they fall for each other.

"It's so bizarre, because that's one thing that was never pointed out in the story, because I do believe that Jake still felt like a human, even while he was in the Avatar body and he was still able to fall in love with Neytiri and it wasn't as though he was seeing her and going, "Oh this blue girl's kinda hot..."

"I think he just fell in love with the essence of her. And by us not pointing it out, I think that's what makes it more amazing."

Next: Why Neytiri Knows English[page-break]

 

Why Neytiri Knows English

"You'll learn when you see the whole movie that the humans have been there for years now. They've been there a while. So this is not the first time that a human or an Avatar has made contact with them.

"If anything, Sigourney's character, Grace, has been connecting with them for a while now.

"There was a lot of learning - it was very much like Dances With Wolves where the natives learn from the outsider and vice versa. The only thing is that never before has a human penetrated as deeply as Sam's character does."

Next: Getting ready for the role[page-break]

 

Getting Ready For The Role

It was fun! It was a lot of Epsom salt baths every night for six months. And even after that, for close to a year, but I loved it.

I knew, because this character freaked me out, the moment I read the script and as I was doing the readings with Jim and with Sam and I knew that this character was not going to be easy.

I knew the training I was going to have to do if I was going to do the part, so when Jim offered me the part, I said, "I want to start now. Today."

I was still living in New York at the time and he was, like, "woah… What do you mean?"

And I said, "I want to do everything. I want to train, because by the time we start shooting and you pick up that camera, I don't want to have to think about anything like that. I want it to all come very naturally, so I can focus on the characters and the story.

You and Sam and I working intensively as opposed to me going, 'Hold on guys, I gotta figure out how to move this tail again!'" I wanted to be ready.

As soon as I got here to LA I was working with the movement coach, because this is a foreign species that can't move like humans.

They don't nod or shake their heads, they don't move their hands like we do. I needed to dehumanize myself and that required a lot of time.

And I know the kind of process I need to work in and the amount of time that my brain needs to learn something and pick it up naturally.

I was riding horses and doing archery and martial arts and walking with a tail... Six days a week. I only gave myself one day off.

But I love that, I'm one of those people who, when I'm really excited I obsess about something. Just feed me through an IV - I don't need to pause for food!

I told this amazing martial arts master I worked with in New York that I wanted to get all my extensions back, because I was a dancer and I knew that she was going to be climbing trees and moving, squatting, using my legs and making sure those muscles were awake again.

Next: Working with James Cameron[page-break]

 

Working With James Cameron

"This is just my opinion, and I'm not undermining anyone else's experience but if you're weak, you can't take it. If you're strong you can take anything.

"And Jim is a very strong person because he's passionate, he's intense, he's detailed, he's a perfectionist.

"And these are things that I don't consider flaws in a human being. If anything, they're things I aspire to be when I grow up, so Jim was a perfect person to work with, to learn from, to want to be like.

"And yeah, you'll have your bad days, but at the same time too, if I'm not getting something right, I don't think you want to be next to me either. I'm not an easy cookie to deal with.

"For some reason I like working with people of like minds. And Sam is the same way - he's a little firecracker like that, whenever we couldn't get something, we were smashing sh*t.

"We had a punching back on set and we were kicking it every day! If it wasn't me, it was Jim or Sam, but it was a very safe environment and very respectful and Jim is not the kind of director who will boss you around.

"Jim will tell you what he wants you to do by showing you. So if somebody shows you and they can do it, it just encourages you to be like that. I have so much respect for that.

"So if you can hang, by all means do a James Cameron movie, because it's pretty fun."

For more from Zoe Saldana On Avatar, including her take on training, tracking dots and Trek, head for LG's awesome Avatar microsite.

 

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