Colombiana star Zoe Saldana is the picture of elegance when Movie Fanatic meets her on a hot August afternoon in Beverly Hills. The only thing warmer than the weather outside was the Colombiana star. Saldana anchors the action thriller about a woman who witnesses her parents’ brutal murder at the age of nine and begins a lifelong mission to eliminate those responsible.
Saldana, fresh of the success of The Losers and the highest grossing film of all-time Avatar, has had many offers to play a lead character. It was the story of Colombiana that pulled at her passionate heart strings. The film is a non-stop assault of breathtaking action, a surprisingly heartfelt romance and… well, more action that takes your breath away.
The actress began her career as a ballet dancer and in every frame of the astounding action on screen in Colombiana, it is evident.
Movie Fanatic: What was the biggest appeal to Colombiana for you?
Zoe Saldana: This one came in the Luc Besson package. I’ve always said about myself, that to me it’s much more important for me to get to work with filmmakers that I’ve grown up loving and admiring. Luc Besson is definitely one of the names that was on my bucket list -- especially for the iconic femme fatale characters that he’s created. They’re strong on the exterior, but they’re so fragile and broke on the inside. I just thought that was such a beautiful comparison to someone who lives in complete turmoil and conflict. There were [other] offers, but Luc Besson took priority.
Movie Fanatic: What inspired you to get into the part?
Zoe Saldana: I re-read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo so that I could understand what it’s like to have undergone such traumatic experiences in your life and fall into this spell where you create an alternate personality. You’re a warrior or you’re this punisher. I was watching a lot of animal behavior because to me whenever she wasn’t playing any of her roles to kill her targets, when she was in the comfort of her house, she was such an omega wolf. She was such an outcast. But when she was killing, she was such a snake that you wouldn’t even want her around you.
Movie Fanatic: Sometimes critics have questioned the use of females in action scenes and whether they really can beat back someone stronger. Yet, in Colombiana, you pull it off effortlessly...
Zoe Saldana: I know enough women that whether they weigh as much as I do or are maybe just a couple pounds lighter or heavier than I am, you just need to not blink when they’re around because they can just kill you. I think we’re having a hard time distinguishing the fact that as men, because we have mothers or because we have sisters, you guys cannot deal with the reality of a woman getting hurt. Us as women, we know that we have the capability of hurting anything. So that to me is the difference. I didn’t want Luc Besson and Olivier (Megaton, director) to make her look bad ass. I wanted her to be what she is -- she’s an assassin. And I’ve been trained by people that were in the military, from Avatar to The Losers and now Colombiana, and they don’t see gender when they see a threat across from them that could possibly kill them. They see a threat. And if they have to kill this woman, this man or even a person that appears to be much, much younger than them, they have to do it. So I would say watch out. Anytime you see a skinny girl and she’s had any kind of military training, just don’t blink. She could (expletive) kill you.
Movie Fanatic: So, what's your favorite weapon you use in the film?
Zoe Saldana: I’m a .45 myself [laughs]. A .22 is too wimpy for me. I like the nine too. It’s something that I can maneuver. Because I have very small wrists it’s a weight that I can sustain and the impact won’t hurt me in my joints.
Movie Fanatic: What also was brilliant for us, is how your character does little things that other movies get so wrong. Like a woman in a fight to the death would have her hair pulled back in a ponytail instead of flowing in the wind. Did you see that the need for elegance was muted?
Zoe Saldana: It’s not believable. You're right. You see a movie about an assassin whose parents were killed when she was little, all of a sudden you’re going to see her and she’s all va-va’d up? It’s going to disrupt you trying to follow the reality of the story. Yeah, we are making a movie, you do want it to be appealing and you want people to come, whether it’s because of the tits and the ass or the story, but at least come. But you don’t want it to be so unreal that it’s going to turn people off.
Movie Fanatic: Looking at the poster, you are front and center. Does that get you excited to finally headline a film?
Zoe Saldana: I don’t know. It feels good but I don’t really think about things that way. I just want to be a part of great stories. Whether I’m part of an amazing ensemble cast or I’m leading it or the antagonist or whatever, I just want to be part of great stories that are told and for them to be relevant. So this one definitely would have a lot of pressure. I feel like anyone that is number one on the call sheet feels the pressure, but you can’t let that be the force that guides you.
Movie Fanatic: The film's central geography is Colombia and how do you think the people of that nation will react to a film depicting its violence, while still saluting its strong people?
Zoe Saldana: The movie does deal with Colombia. She is from Colombia. She’s a little girl who was born and raised in Colombia and then has to flee Colombia because of the experience that she encounters. But we’ve been addressing firmly the controversy and the concerns that the Colombian community has been having about being misrepresented once again through art, and I don’t think this film will do that. We need to give ourselves the opportunity to watch it -- because it doesn’t deal with any cartels, it doesn’t deal with any drugs. It just deals with bad guys, and bad guys, honey? Every country, every barrio, every neighborhood, every block has them all. That said, I don’t feel that we were being stereotypical. And a funny thing, toward the end, there is something to take pride in. She becomes a dark knight in a way. She becomes sort of like this heroine that feels the need to rid the world of evil people. So I don’t know. I would be proud if I was Colombian. If anything I want Luc Besson to call it Dominican, because that’s where my heritage is from [laughs]. But he said he has an affinity for Colombia. He’s been there. He loves the people. He thinks Colombian women, besides being beautiful, are fighters and they’re just women of great strive, and he just wanted it to be about Colombia.
Movie Fanatic: What did you do to unwind after a difficult day on set?
Zoe Saldana: Wine is perfect to unwind. Just a glass of wine, a bath and just... I don’t know. I wish I could sugarcoat it for you, but when I’m working, I’m working. So yeah, I’ll have a glass of wine and go out and have dinner with the cast and crew, but before I go to bed I’m reading those lines for the next day. I’m up 30 minutes before I have to get picked up -- even if it’s at four o’clock in the morning -- and I’m on that treadmill because I want to make sure that I’m healthy and aware, naturally. I don’t drink caffeine. The one thing I despise the most is when I go to the movies and I see a bunch of lazy actors making me waste my time and my money. We work in a very privileged industry and the least we can do as artists and filmmakers is do our work and do it well so that by the time it lands in your hands, you guys are taken for a ride.