Zoe Saldana, like Andy Serkis, stands on the cutting edge of what is considered “performance” right now, and, also like Andy Serkis, she is one of the people I would point to when I make the argument that performance capture is not a special effect, but an extension of the actor in a way previously impossible.
I sat down with her once before, at the press day for “The Losers,” and that was a fun interview. This time, I walked into the room with a couple of guests, one of whom is a big, big fan of her work. It was one of the mornings I spend with the boys each week while mom’s out working, and so they accompanied me to the Four Seasons so we could record this chat. I’d just seen “Colombiana” the day before, and the only person scheduled to be interviewed here in LA was Saldana. Toshi, who had a minor religious experience when he saw “Star Trek” in the theater, was insanely excited at the idea of meeting Uhura, but when I told him that she also played Naytiri in “Avatar,” he couldn’t wrap his head around it. He was four when the film played theaters, and he was overwhelmed by it. To him, the Na’vi were real, and Naytiri was simply a beautiful strange blue alien woman. And now that he’s met her face-to-face, blushing from head to toe the entire time he talked to her, he hasn’t stopped talking about it in the 36 hours since. I think it’s safe to say she just made a lifelong fan of the boy.
I can understand the reaction. Saldana’s a real-deal action nerd. For her to have played action leads for both James Cameron and Luc Besson, she’s obviously at the top of any list of female action leads right now. These guys, perhaps better than anyone working in the industry right now, appreciate and embrace the idea of the action heroine, and they’ve got a history of creating strong, iconic leading roles for their women. I’m a big fan of the Luc Besson factory and the hyper-slick action movies they produce, and Saldana is a perfect fit to that tradition in “Colombiana.”
Just last week, I sat down with Sam Worthington to talk about his new film “The Debt,” and we talked a bit about returning to the world of “Avatar” in the near future. I brought it up with Saldana as well, and it sounds to me like she’s got a firm idea of what she wants to do in the sequel. Both Worthington and Saldana seem to be excited by the opportunity to expand that world and those characters, and I’m excited to see them do it. I think Cameron’s first movie could end up being a solid foundation for a film series that’s not really like anything that’s come before it. The things I’ve heard about what they’re kicking around so far are promising and adventurous.
And if it’s adventure you want, Saldana seems more than up to the task.
“Colombiana” opens everywhere today.