While there are few filmmakers who have managed to achieve what James Cameron has, Robert Rodriguez is certainly no slouch in the area of creatively bringing his visions to life. Their adaptation of Alita: Battle Angel (initially discussed in part one of this exclusive conversation) will serve as an intriguing look at the two of them working together, with Rodriguez serving as director and co-writer and Cameron as producer.
“To say that working with Jim is like years of masterclasses would be an understatement,” says Rodriguez. “He is simply top in the craft and is extremely generous with his time and attention, which I found staggering when you consider all that he was taking on at the time in launching his Avatar sequels. He’s an all-encompassing talent, and he really does know every job. That’s originally why we became friends and considered each other kindred spirits in that we both enjoyed taking on all sorts of different technical and creative jobs on our films and wearing many different hats. That’s about where the comparisons stop, though, because he’s on another plane of existence from us mortal filmmakers. From how he conceives of a project, designs it, builds the story, to the laser-like focus on character, trilogy arcs, mind-blowing spectacle, mixed with cutting-edge technology.
“Think about it,” he adds, “this film pushes all kinds of technological advances, and yet he was willing to make it over 10 years ago. He’s always a hundred steps ahead of the rest of us. It’s truly awe-inspiring and mind-bending, and incredibly humbling to be around the guy yet somehow at the same time empowering, because he trusts you to be on your game and gives support and when needed, lifelines of information. I could email him at any time and get back extremely thorough and thoughtful answers.”
In the aftermath of the success of Wonder Woman and, particularly, the #MeToo movement, it would seem that the crafting of strong female roles is more important than it’s ever been, which Alita would certainly represent.
“It’s not unlike what I saw happening during my own career being Hispanic,” Rodriguez notes. “When I started out 25 years ago, there just were zero opportunities for Hispanics in film, both in front of and behind the camera. No one was financing these films, because diversity seemed to the powers that be like it wouldn’t at all be lucrative or make practical business sense. It was ludicrous, but no one was willing to be first. It became necessary for me to forge my own path, cast Latins, write Latin roles, and direct Latin films, but with a wide and mainstream appeal. As diversity proved profitable over the past 10 years, we saw the rise of that, and now it’s a requirement. The same for women in film, in front of and behind the camera, there was always a dearth of films and opportunities for women. Now it’s become obvious how lucrative it can be to have both diversity and women filmmakers and female-driven stories and how we’re seeing great changes — which can’t come fast enough to make up for all that lost time.
“For me, personally,” he elaborates, “it’s been amazing to see how important female protagonists are to my 12-year-old daughter. She used to run around the house as a five-year-old saying she was Carmen Cortez – the heroine from SpyKids – and acting it out. Last year we saw Wonder Woman together, and it blew her away. We loved it. Now she already has that admiration for Alita. After we see a movie together, I ask who her favorite character is, and it’s always the female role, even if it’s not a big role. It shows how we need more role models and outstanding female characters in prominent lead roles in film.”
Alita: Battle Angel will be released on December 21st.
Images: 20th Century Fox