It’s been a warm day on the set of Warner Bros. new action picture “The Losers,” but what else would you expect from Puerto Rico in August? After a busy morning of shooting a complicated fight gun fight scene on a busy shipping pier, the film’s one leading lady, Zoe Saldana, took some time to chat with the visiting press about latest genre outing.
At the time of the interview, Saldana was coming off her first high of 2009, the massive success of “Star Trek,” and while she knew it was special, there were still doubts among the media and public, about the year-end phenomenon known as “Avatar” which may have cemented her as a true breakout star. In “The Losers,” she stars alongside Jeffrey Dean Morgan (“Watchmen”) and Chris Evans (“Fantastic Four,” the upcoming “The First Avenger: Captain America”) in an adaptation of the comic book series of the same title. Her “mysterious” character, Aisha, joins a group of disgraced, ex-CIA agents who all have a beef to settle with another peculiar foe, Max (Jason Patric).
Sitting under a lunch tent with the Atlantic Ocean breeze cooling everyone off, Saldana is visibly pumped and in extremely good spirits as the assembled, select members of the press prepare to barrage her with questions. Saldana takes it all in stride and enthusiastically discusses being an “action” phase of her career, the camaraderie of the “Trek” crew and divulges her feelings about working with James Cameron and Sam Worthington on “Avatar.” And to think she had no idea what she was in for only four months later.
Q: What can you tell us about Aisha and her relationship with the guys on the team?
Obviously, we know that Clay’s team, their objective is to find a way to get back home. And Aisha’s objective is later revealed and it’s just as personal and it’s just as profound, but it’s compelled her to play some shady cards with the boys, especially Clay [Jeffrey Dean Morgan].
Q: Aisha has very specific motivations in the comic. Are they the same in the movie?
Very similar. In terms of the piercings and how avid she is when she’s fighting. They don’t come off. We [had] the motel fighting scene and I’m now healing and my arms were about to fall to fall off.
Q: Do you have a lot of difficult fight scenes in the film?
I do. There is a scene where they fight in a motel room and its sort of like “The Losers” version of “When Harry Met Sally.” It’s really romantic and that room, by the end of that meeting, that room is just an absolute disaster. No lamp is like standing.
Q: Can you talk about the relationship between Aisha and Clay?
They have very similar professions. They can only be stimulated by somebody that challenges them mentally and physically and Aisha is definitely down his alley. And she soon realizes that he’s hot too. I mean have you guys seen Jeffrey Dean’s little eyes? His luscious, little eyes?
Q: Jeffrey was describing the picture in the vein of a “Die Hard” or “Lethal Weapon” with lots of comedy thrown in the action. Is this even funnier than the mix in “Star Trek”?
I almost feel like they are pretty similar. Lots of witty jokes and stuff. You have a Chris Evans who is know to be a very, very funny guy and so is Columbus [Short]. And who knew that I also have a little funny part there too. It’s already dark. They are being framed, they can’t go back home. You have a very dark villain, Max, [in] that I mean this man is really evil. And if we only played the drama of the intensity of what was being experienced than you might as well slash your wrists. You’ve got to keep it light in order to keep going with the story and to really care about the characters.
Q: We’ve heard that at the end of the film there is a big stunt where your character jumps 120 feet in the air. Are you going to do it yourself?
I hope so. I think I can. My mom isn’t that keen on it. [She shows her bruises]. This is not Jane Austen. I was an athlete my whole life, but to be able to challenged not only emotionally, but try to tackle a character which would also be challenged physically, I’m in my phase of action film exploitation. After “Avatar,” for two years of being harnessed and jumping off of wires I wanted to keep exploring that. In “Star Trek” I had so much fun, but the boys had all the action. J.J. promised me in the sequel she will have at least one little fight. At least kick a guy in the groin or something.
Q: Have you been E-malling J.J. Abrams about what you are doing here so he realizes what you’re ready for?
[Expletive] yeah! If you guys could really see, we all have each other on a massive E-mail group and all the producers and J.J. and just to read the back and forth between Karl Urban and Simon Pegg and Chris Pine and John Cho. I’ve been having tons of fun. The last two years have been fun because I’ve been working with amazing actors and amazing directors. Whether they have been prolific directors or fairly new directors or highly promising like [“The Losers” Sylvain White] or J.J. I just have been having so much fun.
Q: Do you think you are lucky you’ve gotten such great characters to play?
I mean I am a sucker for vulnerable parts, but like I said, I’m in my action phase and I really enjoy. You just catch that bug. (Laughs.)
Q: What’s it like shooting in more real gritty and dirty locations as opposed to the usually sterile environment of a Hollywood soundstage?
Sometimes it’s not that cool and you wake up at 5:15 in the morning and you are working in a warehouse with no ceilings and we have to stop for rain. ‘Wait, this is supposed to be an interior scene of a warehouse, but we can’t shoot because it’s raining.’ It’s that kind of filmmaking that we’ll complain or we’ll be grumpy for two nanoseconds about it, it’s really awesome because it helps a lot for your character and having an environment that matches what you’re trying to say.
Q: How has it been like doing something so visceral as compared to “Avatar” or “Star Trek” where there is tons of CG?
Every film that I have done stands on its own grounds. There is no such thing as me being able to compare “Avatar” to this or to “Star Trek” even, because I would be cheating the filmmakers and the cast. Everything was special. “Avatar” definitely had a purpose and will also have a great place in my heart because it was the one film I got to shoot over two years. Usually we only shoot for three months and spend an amazing time with the cast and director and crew and then the films live forever with you guys, but our experience of shooting that will only live for three months and sometimes we feel cheated. To have that opportunity to work with an amazing director like James Cameron and to work with Sam Worthington who by far — he’s one of the most selfless actors I’ve met and we are literally like brother and sister now. But not incestual! It was amazing and to come here to work with bad ass actors. I mean, Jeffrey is hot. (Laughs.) He’s [expletive] hotter than he is on screen and we talk about each other’s level of hotness, because that’s the objective. Sometimes I’ll give myself a 9, sometimes I’ll give myself a 7, he’ll agree with me, he’ll disagree with me. (Laughs.) We’ll go back and forth, but I really have fun. I really have fun with the roles I’m taking and I think for women that’s very important.
Q: But you did take a break because you shot the comedy “Death at a Funeral” right?
I did. I was in my “No, no, no, must kill! Must climb!” phase and my team, my agents and managers they were like, ‘Please meet the director.’ And I’m very good friends with Clint Culpepper who was the producer and the script I really loved and I saw the [original] movie and I loved it. I didn’t even know that I needed any of that break, but I really did. It was good to wear a dress and have my hair all [made up]. (Laughs.) And it was a wonderful cast. It was a lot of fun.
Q: How long do those tattoos take to come off or do you leave them on?
[Expletive] yeah! Do you know how cool it is to go out here with them? People think they are really real and I want to go to church with them.
Q: Your arm is bandaged, what happens to it in the film?
Oh, the night before we’re supposed to end up on the pier and the docks, Jeffrey’s character and I and the rest of the team, we have a little bit of a disagreement in Jeffrey’s room in the motel.
Q: Is this the motel scene you were talking about before?
No, this is another one. There are two trash the motel room and we are both in them. She is not wearing much so of course she’s gonna get [hurt]. That’s the baggage of doing these kinds of films. Oh, right, not only do i need to be tough, I need to be sexy.
Q: This is part of like a 45 minute sequence at the end of the film all this action. The scene we saw today, with everyone coming out of the van, where is that in context of that sequence?
It’s sort of in the middle of the shoot out. At this point we’re all together and we’re just trying to get the hell out of this place, but also kill bad guys. Because he needs to be reprimanded for all the bad stuff.
To view brand new character banners, including a gun-toting one of Ms. Saldana, click here.
“The Losers” opens nationwide on April 23.