In an exclusive interview with T3FS, Rosa Salazar, actress,Alita Battle Angel share the insides of the movie.
Q: How did you first hear about this project and when did you get involved?
A: It was about two years ago. My agent said, ‘There's this movie called Alita Battle Angel. Would you like to audition for Robert Rodriguez?’ I kind of knew a little bit about it because years ago, James Cameron had talked about making it. I read the script and it was amazing. And I really wanted to go out for it.
Q: What was it about Alita that appealed to you?
A: Well, a few things. Robert Rodriguez, who is Latino, and who I've wanted to work with for years. He's such an iconic filmmaker because he can make a film out of nothing. Like with El Mariachi. And I really love Desperado. That was the first thing I saw of his. With my mom. I was a young girl and I just fell in love with it. It was a strong emotional story, a love story with explosions and guts and guns and bar shootouts. I just really like Robert's cinematic values. And then of course there's James Cameron…
Q: Is performance capture acting very different from ‘normal’ acting?
A: Well I would say that in the beginning you think that there's a huge difference. After doing it, I would say that there's no difference at all, except that you have to accommodate all of these extra things like the wetsuit they put you in and the dots, and coming in every day and scanning into the system and having a helmet, having a boom on your head, having the extra weight, compensating for the weight and then when they take the helmet off, your head leans the other way. Like bodily things, physical things that you have to deal with and incorporate as an actor. But in terms of performance, I found out that it was very much the same.
Q: You don't have to ‘turn it up’ or exaggerate anything?
A: You don't turn it up. There's certain moments where I was seeing Alita in the animatics on the screen, because you could watch playback as the character, and there were certain things you have to overcompensate with, facially and muscle wise. If you're doing, say, a fight scene and you're stabbing and you want it to be in the character's face, you may have to kind of exaggerate those moments. But other than that, it's really just acting with all of this other world of stuff going on.
Q: It sounds like you’re already prepping to one day direct a motion capture film.
A: Yeah, I secretly am. I'm eager to learn and I feel like Robert and Jim respond to that. They want to be mentors. There are some people in this business that don't and that's perfectly fine. But Robert and Jim do. They are really generous with their wisdom.
Q: Let’s talk a little about Alita, the character. Tell us in your own words who she is.
A: Alita is… just a regular girl! In the same way that all of the mo-cap stuff kind of bleeds out when you're in it, Alita is a regular girl who happens to be made of cybernetic parts and has an insane, traumatic history. Alita's just like me. She has a whole palette of emotions. She's insecure. She's brave. She's courageous. She's strong. She's curious and she's defiant. She's powerful and she's weak. She has a real soul and I think that she bares it all the time. She doesn’t really hold anything back. She doesn't suffer fools. She doesn't pull punches. But she doesn't actually know who she is. She's learning everything for the first time. Now that she's been reawakened.
Q: And not only does she not know who she is, but she doesn’t know where she is.
A: Yeah. She’s very open and vulnerable and wakes up in Iron City, it's a post-apocalyptic trash heap. But, for those of us in the real world, if we're not careful, we could be there soon, you know? So, she wakes up and she doesn't know what the world is. She doesn't see it as nasty or horrible or violent at first. She's just wide eyed, literally, and ready to learn. And what she soon finds out is that there are menacing forces in this world. There are evil people. There are cruel people. There are people who are opportunistic, who are totally fine screwing you over and ruining your life in order to get what they need to survive. It’s like the Gold Rush – everyone's just clawing for what's theirs and Alita smacks up against that. Really, it hurts her. Because she's a soft person until these menacing forces start to trigger her memories. At first, she doesn't know anything about who she used to be. She's new. But she knows there's something there. So, when the world starts to push on her and fight her, she starts to fight back, and that’s when we find out that she's someone really extraordinary. Someone with insane capabilities. Someone with a warrior spirit and warrior training. And the more she triggers her memories, the more she starts to find out who she really is. And to me, that is a relatable story of someone going through the pitfalls of life, the trials and tribulations, and ending up on the other side knowing who they are, knowing what they'll stand for, knowing what's right or wrong. We see someone choosing. What they believe in, what they will and won’t do. She starts to remember her code of who she was.
Q: So, it's really about a girl working out who she is and her place in the world.
A: Yeah, that's it. Her place in the world, but also how she can help. Because there's a moment in the movie where, spoiler alert, she's fine to just be there. She’s thinking, ‘I could live here. I could take it.’ She's totally fine to settle. But who she is, I think, very compelling because, ultimately, she doesn't settle. Integrity is often very inconvenient.
Q: Someone else you share a lot of scenes with is Keean Johnson. What’s the dynamic between the two of you?
A: Well I'm a very, like, ‘Hello, world! I’m here!’ person. I'm loud. You know I'm there and you can probably hear me down the hall. I know what needs to be done and I want to do it. I'm very much a strong woman. And Keean is like this extremely kind, soft, young man. He’s quiet and goes with the flow. And we meet in this nice, middle ground where he looks to me for direction and advice and I look to him to be softer and I kind of take some of his happiness and some of his joyous vibe. Because I have these peaks and valleys emotionally, especially on set when you're 18 hours in. I'm very much an emotional creature. And Keean is very steady. He's got this through-line of calm in him. And I feed off of that and we sort of helped each other. So yeah, he's my buddy. I love him!