In the sci-fi action thriller Battle: Los Angeles, actress Michelle Rodriguez plays Air Force Tech Sergeant Elena Santos, one of the first on the scene to track the aliens that are trying to obliterate the world’s human population. Even though she has to earn the respect of the Marine platoon that she comes across on the battlefield, she quickly becomes a key ally for Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart) because she has studied the aliens to figure out what makes them tick and discover how to destroy them.
At the film’s press day, Michelle Rodriguez talked about getting to be the brains of the group, having her co-stars see her as one of the guys, doing almost all of her own stunts, and how she prefers to run toward what she’s scared of and not away from it. She also talked about her desire to branch out into comedy and how she’s writing her own script that she says has a Pulp Fiction vibe. Check out what she had to say after the jump:
MICHELLE RODRIGUEZ: Yeah. It was definitely a lot of work because my character was thrown in, at the last minute. She was basically the solution to a story issue of not having anybody to explain the actual process, or what the hell was going on with the invasion. So, because of the fact that I got thrown in, literally a month before shooting, and it was a last minute kind of deal, there was a lot of training and a lot craziness, as far as researching algorithms, atmospheric interference, electromagnetic frequencies, and how this all came into play with the invasion. We have some serious monitoring mechanisms worldwide, and America is in the forefront.
What was it like to work with Aaron Eckhart?
RODRIGUEZ: He was the character. I didn’t meet Aaron until the press junket, I swear to God. As soon as I signed on and I met him, he was Staff Sergeant Nantz.
Did you get to do boot camp with all the guys?
RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, I did the three weeks. That’s where my abs in Machete came from. I just didn’t sleep with the boys, literally or metaphorically, because I didn’t want to see their hairy balls. But, I did travel over to the camp where they were sleeping, every morning, and trained with them from five o’clock in the morning to five o’clock in the afternoon. It was 110 degrees, every day, at the time. We’d run for two miles, do sit-ups and push-ups, take apart guns and put them back together, infiltrate buildings, and rehearse. It was gnarly.
With all the action roles you’ve done in the past, was this boot camp no problem for you?
RODRIGUEZ: No, it was no problem for me. I loved it!
RODRIGUEZ: I don’t mind it because I did manifest my own destiny. It’s my fault because I don’t like weak women and I don’t find it interesting to play them. I’m inspired by them, when I see them in dramas, like with Natalie Portman, in almost every movie she’s in. It’s awesome that chicks can really go there, and it’s beautiful to watch, but I don’t think I’m interested, in any way, shape or form, in embodying those creatures. I don’t find it intriguing, as far as being in the business and working. It’s not my thing. There’s something about strength that I really admire, that I failed to see a lot of when I was growing up. In the last 10 years, I was so adamant about embodying that, that I lost sight of the big picture, which is versatility and flexibility.
You are a very physical presence on screen. Were you interested in sports, growing up?
RODRIGUEZ: There is actually no regime, whatsoever. There was nothing consistent, growing up. I just love feeling myself, and moving, flexing, jumping, expressing, dancing and doing movement. I’m in tune with it. I like to express myself with my body, more so than intellectually. But, I am a geek.
In the film, the guys don’t really accept your character until she perfectly targets and shoots an alien. Was it like that for you on set, with the cast being mostly guys?
RODRIGUEZ: Nah, it was never like that.
RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, they do. I was in the boys’ trailers, playing games. I’m the tomboy friend. Everybody’s had a tomboy friend growing up, and that’s me. They see me and they recognize that, so it’s okay.
With all of the injuries that happened on this set, did the director discourage you from doing your own stunts?
RODRIGUEZ: Not at all. I think the only stunt that the stunt double really had to double me for was for the fall off of the garbage truck. I did a couple of jumps on my own. It’s fun. I love action. I love to move my body. Any chance I have to do that in my youth, I’ll definitely jump towards it, for sure. But, at the end of the day, it’s really an insurance issue and I don’t blame them for that. In a real action sequence, it’s a million a day and it’s gnarly.
Did you do any research with any female military officers for this?
RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, the P.R. rep at Camp Pendleton, Angelique, is from the Air Force. She’s awesome and really cool. She’s pretty much my main female contact over at the Air Force. They’re gonna give me a ride on one of those massive, fast fighter jets. They were like, “Don’t have any plans for the day after, honey. You’re gonna be so tired from the G-force.” And, I was like, “Woo hoo!” I’m probably doing that next month. That’s gonna be awesome.
How do you feel about possible alien invasions?
RODRIGUEZ: I think that, if aliens did exist, they would exist at a higher frequency. Being at a higher frequency, you would have to be more evolved than what we consider to be evolved. If there were aliens, I personally believe they would have to resonate at a higher frequency to be able to time travel, or to blink in and out of dimension. Taking that into consideration, I would just assume that, at a higher frequency, you wouldn’t have a human mentality about things. I think humans are stupid, in that way. We fight and kill each other. I think that’s dumb. Aliens would be smarter than that and wouldn’t approach things on that level. I can’t really fathom it being a negative thing for aliens to visit. If they did, I think it would be from a higher frequency and would mean we’ve evolved to a place where we can actually see them. Right now, we only see 4% of what exists. I’m assuming that, out of that 4%, the other 96% is probably some gnarly shit that we could be around right now and not know of because we’re too dumb to see it.
RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, I’d like to move into comedy. Right now, I’m writing. I got into the business, in the first place, to write and I just didn’t have the balls to do it. Finally, I’m like, “If I don’t get all of these crazy, insane ideas out of my brain, I’m going to be schizophrenic.” It’s really all about manifesting that. It’s like starting a whole new career. For me, it’s very scary, but beautiful, at the same time. It gives me something to look forward to.
How are you approaching the writing thing?
RODRIGUEZ: I’m 50 pages into my first script, and my buddy is gonna help me produce it. It’s really just all about feeling it out. If it sucks, it sucks. If it’s great, it’s great. I’m just following my gut.
You’re not afraid to fall on your face?
RODRIGUEZ: Not at all. I went skydiving the other day and, when they gave me a name tag, I put “fearless” on it. When I am scared of something, I run towards it, instead of away from it.
What is Underground Comedy?
RODRIGUEZ: I was in about two minutes of that. I love comedy. I want to get my feet wet in comedy. I’ve been holding a gun for so long that I’m pretty much considered a butch bitch. I’m 32 now and that clock is tickin’. I don’t want to be sour milk and watch my whole life pass away without trying something new. Underground Comedy came across my desk. My friend asked me to do a cameo in it, and I thought it would be fun because it’s dark, gnarly and incredibly unbelievable. I was like, “All right, why not? I’ll play around.”
Is what you’re writing a comedy?
RODRIGUEZ: It is more along the lines of a Pulp Fiction vibe. It’s not as exaggerated as [Quentin] Tarantino or [Robert] Rodriguez, but is definitely in the vein of, “Holy shit! Is that real or not?” Surrealism is definitely what I’m pursuing, at the moment.