Zoe Saldana spent four years developing the character of Na'vi warrior Neytiri in Avatar, and it serves her well in her next big role, kick-ass assassin Aisha in the comic-book-inspired The Losers.
In fact, she brought her Na'vi personal trainer (stunt coordinator) on board her new movie, as well as a lot of her Na'vi moves. "I've known Garrett Warren for three or four years," Saldana said in a press conference last weekend in Beverly Hills, Calif. "He trained me, so he's the one that has beaten me up and knows exactly what my body can do at times when I didn't even know I could do it myself."
Aisha has different weapons from Neytiri, but Saldana was a quick study. "By the time we got to Puerto Rico, we basically just changed a couple of things, because I had to substitute the bow and the arrow for the guns and the knives and things like that," she said.
One of Saldana's best fight scenes in The Losers is a knock-down, drag-out fight against co-star Jeffrey Dean Morgan's Clay in a hotel room. Aisha proposes a plan to Clay to bring down his main enemy, but he's not too receptive at first.
"Throughout the entire summer while we were shooting, I was still training with Garrett, especially because we really wanted to get that fight scene to be amazing," Saldana said. "[Director] Sylvain [White] wanted it to be violent, but he always said to us, 'While they're beating the crap out of each other, they're also getting to know each other. So it's sort of like a conversation, a very violent conversation.' And Jeffrey and I really wanted to capture that."
Neither pulled punches. "There were a couple of moments there where I would have to immediately look at him and say, 'Oh, my God! Did I really hit you hard on your head?'" she recalls. "Or he would look at me and say, 'Did I slam you really hard?' And I'd just be like, 'Ugh, uh-huh!' But, it was fun. I liked it."
Saldana got so good at fighting that she was ready to add high-heeled boots to her wardrobe, but White and costume designer Magali Guidasci vetoed that.
"I have to say that I had to lose that battle to Sylvain and Magali," Saldana said. "Honestly, I'm just telling you, I could've done it in my black Gucci boots, too, but they wanted no heels. I said, 'OK. Heels or no heels, a woman can still kick a man's ass if she proposed herself to, with Louis Vuittons or flats or whatever.'"
Actually, her opponent Morgan had a say in that one too. "I didn't want a stiletto implanted in my forehead," Morgan joked during the press conference. "That might have been more my decision. 'She's wearing flats for this.'"
Saldana added: "When you're the only girl in a cast, I almost feel like you have twice as much work to do because you don't want to be singled out. You're already the only girl. So if you're the one that says 'I can't do this,' or whatever, it's going to be 'Oh, my gosh, she's wimping out because she's a girl.' So I toughed it out. I really wanted to impress the guys. I like being around men. I always feel like I can hold my own."
The Losers opens April 23.