Michelle Rodriguez Interview – FAST & FURIOUS

     March 25, 2009

Written by Steve ‘Frosty’ Weintraub

Opening on April 3rd is “Fast & Furious” and it’s the first sequel to the highly successful franchise to feature the entire cast from the first film. While it’s taken a number of years, you’ll finally see Vin Diesel and Paul Walkerreteam as Dom Toretto and Brian O’Conner. Of course the action wouldn’t be complete without the supporting cast, so they’ve also got Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster returning as well.

Anyway, I recently attended a very small press day for the film and got to participate in roundtable interviews with most of the cast. What’s below is the transcript of our interview with Michelle Rodriguez.

As most of you know, Michelle is in James Cameron’s next movie “Avatar”, and while she didn’t tell us too much about the story, she did tell some great stories about what it’s like to work for Mr. Cameron. Of course we also talked about coming back to the “Fast and Furious” franchise and a lot more.

Finally, here’s a link to some movie clips from “Fast & Furious” and here’s the synopsis:

When a crime brings them back to L.A., fugitive ex-con Dom Toretto (Diesel) reignites his feud with agent Brian O’Conner (Walker). But as they are forced to confront a shared enemy, Dom and Brian must give in to an uncertain new trust if they hope to outmaneuver him. And from convoy heists to precision tunnel crawls across international lines, two men will find the best way to get revenge: push the limits of what’s possible behind the wheel.

How excited were you when you heard they wanted to get the original crew back together?

MICHELLE RODRIGUEZ: I was like “Now you’re talking hotness!” (laughs) Not to be arrogant or anything because I was a part of the first one but I understand audience loyalty. When you’re introduced to something good, interesting, new and hot at the same time you probably want to follow that journey with that same crew of people. It’s just a hunch but we’ll see at the box office!

Were you hanging on that tanker for a little while, did you do any of those stunts?

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, yeah. Basically all the landing stuff, all the 20 mph stuff and then Heidi Moneymaker took off and did all the real fun stuff like the 40 mph stuff, the back flip off of the truck stuff, the jump off the truck and land on the car. You know I had to have the camel clippers—the harness—and all the cables.

Are you saying you really wanted to do the serious stuff?

RODRIGUEZ: Hell yeah, are you kidding me? In a minute. I’d love to do the serious stuff but there’s no insurance company in the world that would like—unless I had the training of like Jackie Chan or I was as powerful as like Tommy Boy, I don’t think it would happen.

How did this come about for you?

RODRIGUEZ: Well, for part two I kind of wasn’t feeling it because…actually I really feel the hit of the entire film are two people: It’s Paul and it’s Vin. You get those two guys acting, interacting together, you’ve got some good action movie—whatever it is. Being that they introduced the “Fast and Furious” franchise, you know, it’s like I just feel that the chemistry is there. The girls are just the establishing root basis to these dudes, actually. There’s really actually no other purpose for them. I always try and push the envelope and ask for some extra action—just because I’m me and that’s the point of my existence (laughs). If I can’t have fun, then what’s the point?

Did Justin give you any latitude to have some of that action?

RODRIGUEZ: He rocks. He’s just a really, you know, it’s just so great to have like a transparent, clear individual in front of you in this business because everybody’s so full of shit. You know, they’ll sit there and they’ll smile in your face and tell you “Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah!”and then behind your back they’ll be like, “Well yeah, this is what we’re actually doing. She doesn’t have to know”-kind of stuff. Justin doesn’t have that energy because he’s still untainted. He’s like a virgin! It’s great! Guys like him I don’t think will ever get damaged by such a parasitical system like commercial filmmaking in Hollywood.

So you didn’t help deflower him?

RODRIGUEZ: No, he’s awesome! He really, really understands the nature of the beast and tries to use that as a skeleton and not the full frame and full body of a project. He understands the nature of the beast but then he’ll go and add the flesh with some wonderful research with all the actors and add some humanity to the whole project and I think that that’s important when you’re making action films because there’s a difference between an action film and a really good action film. I think that that’s the line. It’s the humanitarian aspects—not the humanitarianism because nobody’s doing anything for no charity here (laughs)—but you get what I’m saying. The humane qualities—you get to see who’s behind the rebel, you get to feel who’s behind the lover.

What’s the coolest thing about working with Paul?

RODRIGUEZ: I haven’t seen a handsome boy like that in Hollywood in a long time! That is one handsome boy. Paul’s got something else going on that I can’t quite describe because it’s so majestic—but definitely I see this guy going many places.

You drive some kick-ass muscle cars in this movie, but in real life do you really drive a Prius?

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, it’s called 11 points on your license. It’s called reality, OK! I’m not looking for trouble. In LA, it’s really hard to get around without a vehicle. I know that first-hand. I’m just trying to be good for a couple of years and if I ever, you know, really feel the itch to want to race a car, I’ll just go to Germany.The Autobahn and I have some really cool Austrian friends from Red Bull! They’ve got some stuff going on over there.

How long were you on the set?

RODRIGUEZ: Uh, it was about five days or so. Six days.

Did that make the role for you more attractive or were you sad that you weren’t in more of the film?

RODRIGUEZ: Here’s the thing. Don’t fight the beast. I’m saddened because in every major Hollywood film that I’ve really seen that isn’t a sci-fi film, the strong, independent female character dies (chuckles). Or gets laid or both or dies and gets laid. But you know, it’s like at the end of the day, what can you do? You know what I mean? I’m not the writer. So all I can do is observe what’s happened in the last 50 or 60 years of filmmaking, take a note of it and try to change things in the future when I do my own projects. But this isn’t my thing. This is Vin and Paul, you know what I mean? And Vin brought me into this project. He saw me in a little movie called “Girlfight” and said I want that girl to be my girlfriend in “Fast & Furious”. It’s his fault I got boosted into this whole commercial world quickly, you know. So I kind of look at it and go I could ask you guys to keep me alive, I could ask you to test it, but then it would take away from the lead character’s whole point in the film. So you know I can pop up—you never know. It is Hollywood. I mean if in “Lethal Weapon” you can take a car through an entire business building and make it come out the other side and land on the highway, I think that many things can happen. You just never know. But as far as now, I don’t put that responsibility on anybody. I just realize there’s a gap, a void in the market and I’ll fill it myself. I don’t have to rely on “Fast & Furious” to do that for me.

How did “Avatar” happen for you? Did you have to audition?

RODRIGUEZ: Are you kidding me? I suck at auditions. I’m the worst. Any movie I think I’ve ever auditioned for I never got—except for like “Girlfight”.

How did you get it?

RODRIGUEZ: James saw me in “Girlfight”. It’s that movie, you know. It’s the only movie that I was evera lead in and I guess I did a good job. People watched it and liked it.

How much of “Avatar” are you allowed to talk about?

RODRIGUEZ: Limited, incredibly limited.

Can you talk about your character?

RODRIGUEZ: I’m basically a pilot in another planet.

What was James Cameron like as a director?

RODRIGUEZ: Are you fucking kidding me? That guy is so amazing. He thinks in 12 dimensions at all times. That’s what I love about him. You can sit there and talk for hours about the advancements in molecular science or you can sit there and talk about mythology, story building, character building. You can talk about cameras, the history of film, history of Russia, flying to another planet, you can talk about space research, you can talk about underwater adventures, you can talk about how he constructed special technology for underwater adventures, or you can sit there and talk to him about how he developed his own freaking cameras with his brother. This guy is a genius.

Have you gotten to see the footage?

RODRIGUEZ: This is the beauty of working with that technology. The majority of the time when you’re working with something that’s green screen, from my experience from watching behind-the-scenes or having my little touch of green screen in “S.W.A.T.” or something, you get to see what you’ve done immediately and have something to work off of. The majority of the time that people work in a movie with green screen, you don’t have that. You don’t have the ability to go and see what you just did. So you’re working with a golf ball, or you’re working with like an X on the wall—on a green wall—and you’re just hoping that you’ve really hit your mark interacting with this. You’re just kind of trying to remember as much of your make-believe time at the age of five as you possibly could to get you through it. With this technology that he’s got, you just go there and you see what you’re interacting with right there. It’s a mixture of live 3D footage, the props on the set, and the virtual world that he spent God knows how long creating. It’s fucking amazing. It’s hard core. I can’t even imagine anything bigger.

What kinds of projects do you want to do in the future when you’re running things?

RODRIGUEZ: Whoo…the kinds of projects where I can just say that’s hot, that’s hot, that’s hot—all of you work together and make this happen! And I’ll be a happy camper. Because here’s the thing—you’ve got people in all fields and from all walks of life who are really amazing at what they do and have dedicated most of their lives to doing that stuff. Then you’ve got people who want to do everything because they feel like they’re the jacks-of-all trades. I’m like, I’ve got a good eye, I think, and I just really would love to get really amazing people together in projects and producing and just really see things that haven’t been seen, seen by millions. I just think that it’s kind of time. There’s a lot of things that go on in people’s everyday life that never even get mentioned and are a part of history. And I just think that I could fill that generation-wide void for chicks.

I have to ask you about your clothing line.

RODRIGUEZ: Oh that’s dead, honey. We’re in a recession. I’m thinking about movies right now. I’m not even trying to hear like…because I think too big. My problem is all the money would be coming from Dubai and these guys would be like…I mean it’s just…I think really on a big scale—that’s my problem.

The way that “Lost” is going, is there any chance to come back as anything more than just Hurley’s imagination?

RODRIGUEZ: You know what? I just don’t know. Those guys are so mysterious, you know. I just never know what’s going to happen tomorrow on that show, let alone a week from now.

You have any theories on what’s going to happen?

RODRIGUEZ: I haven’t the slightest clue. I just know that after the third season, I just stopped guessing. I gave up. I was wrong about everything. (laughs) I’m tired of being wrong!

Which of the big summer movies are you looking forward to?

RODRIGUEZ: “Wolverine” coming out this summer? That’s going to be freaking hot, baby! I’m calling that one! That’s going to be a big box office hit. Hugh Jackman—you kidding me? One of the only men left? No, because we’re moving on to the future and the future’s brains, not brawn. All the people like me are holding on to dear life to all the alpha males (laughs)! We’re like feeling a scarcity here! There’s a drought! That’s why I think it’s going to be such a great hit when Vin comes back, too, because he represents a lot of that.

What are you thoughts on being in one of the most anticipated films of the year, “Avatar”?

RODRIGUEZ: You know what? I’d serve James Cameron coffee every day for four years and I would consider that college. So I don’t give a rat’s ass how people receive whatever we did. I’m just incredibly honored to have been seen by him and for him to have kept me in mind for a project that he’s had for the what—last eight years? And to call me up and say “Hey, I want you to be a part of this.” That to me—no matter what everybody says because everybody was talking so much smack about me. It’s so hard to get a job when all these people are talking shit about you in the press just because you’re growing up. You know I used to poop in my pants, too, and I learned how to use the bathroom eventually. People were so hard on me. So it’s really important for me to have individuals who get it—that know, who can see in my eyes or see me on screen and know what I’m capable of and not be scared to hire me because of some commercial hoopla that people are saying. So that was very important.

How do you assess your career?

RODRIGUEZ: I’m very happy. I wouldn’t take back anything, you know. I’m 30 years old now and I feel so happy. I’m so happy that I’m not as confused as I was in my 20s. I’m so happy that I didn’t fall into drug addiction, that I didn’t fall into these stupid, vain traps that Hollywood plants for you—kind of like the devil on a mountain tempting Jesus. You can have this whole building and I’m like yeah, all I gotta do is rip my clothes off and fuck the A-list actor right there, yeah. Nice. Next! It was tough. It was really, really tough and now I can actually look back and feel like I’ve been through the threshold and I can say that I’m reborn now. I’m like ready for a whole new level of stuff. My eyes behind the camera—I just find it a lot more attractive lately.

Were you the wild child you were portrayed to be?

RODRIGUEZ: If my career didn’t show you a little wildness then I don’t know what would! Yeah, for sure. I can understand how there’s a little curiosity there. You only get to see one percent of my real life. Yeah, but definitely, I was a real bad ass growing up.

Are you an angel now?

RODRIGUEZ: I wouldn’t say an angel but a lot more intelligent about what comes out of me and where I place it. A lot more considerate.

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