Sunday, July 11, 2010

Alice Braga Battles Predators and Repo Men

Interview By Brad Balfour

Maybe it's because of her Brazilian genes that Alice Braga looks good even when sweaty after a jungle trek. Braga has become the go-to girl for sci-fi action thrillers with another one coming out this year not long after Repo Men -- the recently released Predators. This time, as the bust-ass female lead, IDF sniper Isabelle takes charge -- with co-star Adrien Brody -- of a pack of errant mercs, para-military, rebels and hardcore criminals who are forced to band together in order to survive after they are mysteriously chute-dropped into an unknown tropical forest on a distant world.

Chosen because they can kill without conscience, these warriors, some trained, some not, battle a pack of 10-foot-tall Predators who are hunting them as prey. In this vast jungle, these human predators must learn who, or what, they're up against, and test the limits of their abilities, knowledge and wits in a battle of kill or be killed.

Having appeared in several films, most notably as Angélica in 2002's highly acclaimed Cidade de Deus. she landed her first U.S. blockbuster with 2007's I Am Legend. Who else has starred in two apocalyptic films about the world's end within a year -- I Am Legend and Blindness (2008) -- and survived.

Braga has learned to endure all kinds of abuse whether it's rolling around in slimy traps, or having a hand rammed into her gaping wounds. Maybe because she neither has the tough-as-nail glare of Angelina Jolie or the towering power of Uma Thurman, she suggests both intelligence and vulnerability.

Coming from a cinematic family -- her aunt is the great Brazilian actress Sônia Braga -- 27-year-old Alice Braga Moraes got started at eight-years-old being in a yogurt commercial. Besides her native Portuguese, this native of São Paulo, Brazil also speaks English and Spanish, and shows a sort of pluck that propels her career.

Q: You've done a lot of futuristic movies lately; do you have an affinity for them? Do you look for science-fiction scripts or do they happen to find you?

AB: It was a happy coincidence. It was something that my mom always loved, so I grew up watching those types of films, but it wasn’t something that I focused on. These scripts came to me; I read them, had fun with them and liked them. I really had fun because this type of film really opens a door for your imagination. It was a happy coincidence.

Q: Meeting you here, it's hard to believe they cast you as a tough "guy."

AB: Everyone tells me, “You look so much taller in the movies.”

Q: Your character is Israeli military?

AB: She is a sniper. She’s a special force lady.

Q: So are you chasing the predators? [chuckles]

AB: I’m being chased.

Q: When did you finish it?

AB: We wrapped the second week of January [2010].

Q: How was that experience?

AB: It was great, really nice, a lot of running around -- running for my life as fast as I can. A great cast and crew. The photographer, Gyula Pados, was amazing. It looks really nice and the predators are dark, and really, really, scary.

I think the fans are really going to be happy with it, at least I hope so. The director, Nimród Antal, is a fan of the films, so it was like a fan directing us. He was like a kid on set, and having that energy was really special.

Q: Was Predators a tough shoot?

AB: It was a fun shoot. It was hard because of the weather conditions -- really cold and working outdoors. But it was a blast, and I think it’s going to be interesting.

Q: What’s it like acting next to some guy in a suit?

AB: Awesome. Truly, I had so much fun because in I Am Legend they were wearing suits with dots, so it’s like Teletubbies.

I remember I took a picture when I met the guys because one of the guys who played the Predator, Derek Mears -- he also played Jason -- he’s so big, and I was next to him barefoot. He’s great. Having someone that tall, that big, with me -- and I’m like 5’3” -- that kind of vibe was great because it gives you [a sense of] that desperation.

Q: What was it like working with such different people on Predators? It has such an interesting collection of actors, like Topher Grace and Adrien Brody.

AB: It was great because I think they wanted to do something different. Having Adrien as the hero was not the obvious choice, but he did great. I thought it was a great choice just to play around with acting in an action film.

Q: It was R rated; was it ever going to be a PG-13?

AB: I don’t think they could have because there are some [really] dark scenes in it, like any other of this type of film. So I think it’s going to be hard. We never know what’s going to happen or what the studio’s going to do in the editing. But it looks really dark, and I had fun doing it.

Q: Will you get your own action figure for Predators?

AB: I hope so. We did the scanning. I don’t know if it was for action scenes or post-production things, but I really hope I have an action figure. I would love that.

Q: Do you think it one-up the old movies?

AB: I don’t know if it will one-up [the original]. I hope it adds up more than anything else. I don’t know if it ones-up the other ones. I think to become successful as the others I think it needs to add up. You cannot try to make something different because then you lose the fans. The best thing is to make a film for the fans. That’s why we’re making it.

Q: Is there a possibility to get your own franchise out of this Predators movie?

AB: I don’t know. I would love to, but I have no idea. I’m totally open for anything. People ask me, “What type of films do you want to make?” I want to make films. I have a blast when I’m on set. Seriously, I’m a kid, ask anyone that worked with me or saw me on set.

Actually, what [director] Fernando Meirelles used to do with me on Blindness is he would keep me for last so that he could keep me on set. He knew that I wouldn’t leave. So if it comes up, definitely I would love to do more action and more stuff. I’m open for any type of acting.

Q: Have you talked to Fernando recently? Do you have any idea what he’s going to do next? Are you going to work with him again?

AB: I heard that he was going to do something with a Janis Joplin story or something, but I’m not sure. I heard that at a party at midnight in São Paulo, so that’s not a trustful source.

He was doing a really wonderful TV series in Brazil about Shakespeare. He’s been writing, and I think he’s probably in pre-production or something. As I was shooting Predators I was away for the past few months so I’m not sure.

Q: If you could work on any action film franchise or remake, do you have that ideal role in your head where you could be another kick-ass character?

AB: I never thought about it. I’ve always been a small, short girl so I never thought about myself running around and kicking ass and punching and shooting. In Predators, I’m a sniper and truly, my gun was the heaviest gun on set. It’s 14 pounds and everyone is with a knife, a pistol, and I’m with a [huge] rifle.

I totally love the challenge to portray someone like that character. It would be great if something comes up as another action figure. It’s a nice challenge physically and emotionally.

Q: Your career seems to be moving not only in a sci-fi direction but in an action film mold. The world needs a really big Latina action star. They’re looking to cast Wonder Woman right now.

AB: That’s great! But Wonder Woman is not going to be Latin for sure. With my accent?

Q: Linda Carter is half Mexican.

AB: Oh yeah but she didn’t have an accent like I do. That would be great though; Wonder Woman Latina. But I did City of God and Lower City and independent projects, and then I did some dramas. It was nice to face a film like Repo Men that has some drama, is a character that has some hard background stories but at the same time is running and training and firing. It’s cool.

Q: When did you do Repo Men?

AB: Right after, actually. I was shooting Blindness in Toronto and went to LA to audition with Jude [Law, co-star of Repo Men with Forest Whitaker] on a Saturday. Then I went straight back to Toronto to finish Blindness. Then I ended up shooting Repo Men in Toronto again.

My mom always asking me, “When are you going to do a romantic-comedy without monsters?” and I’m like, “Okay, that’s coming one day. Let’s work for it.” But this is a happy coincidence.

Q: Did you think of yourself as a female Terminator?

AB: The way Beth’s going, she probably can be a Terminator because the only thing’s real are the lips.

Q: One of those scenes near the end where he’s taking the parts out of you is really sick but also sexy in its own way. It recalls the movie Crash. In filming that scene, how did you play it so that it was both passionate but kind of sick and crazy at the same time?

AB: When Miguel told me that he wanted to do that scene as a love scene I couldn’t picture it. Once we started doing it I was just trying to figure out how to play it, not to be overly painful or only love and forget the pain. I tried to stay in the middle and to just bring truth.

It’s interesting that both characters are so in love and they’re fighting for their lives, yet they’re so connected at that moment in the film. I think pain and love go together. If you’re in love, you’re going to feel pain and the passion increases the pain.

It’s hard to explain with a logical answer, but mainly I do think that’s what Miguel wanted, and I tried to put my heart into it and just bring it alive. It was fun to do it because it was so free to create anything. We are in sexual positions actually; it’s like we're making love. It was a great idea.

Q: Do you think your character, Beth, in Repo Men was plagued by a love for the surgery? Do you think she was addicted to the surgery or she was just going along trying to fix things?

AB: Miguel [Rosenberg-Sapochnik, the director,] and I spoke a lot about her past, about what she’s been through, what happened in her life, what was her background, why was she in that situation when we first see her in the film, just because I love doing that and Miguel also was really involved in the story.

We wanted to understand what kind of emotional state she would show up in. It’s just life; we created a little background, like some disease, some problem, some lack of health, addictions maybe. As soon as she started getting new ones then it became an addiction I think, because it’s kind of hard to say she had all those problems. It was mainly an addiction, but it’s hard to say that it was only that.

There was a line that ended up not in the film but is really fun. I looked at him and was like, “Did you get upgraded? Come on!” And that kind of line shows that she was always trying to keep up. It’s like us; you guys don’t have tape anymore.

We’re always upgrading, always doing something new. Everyone has the iPhone; in a week everyone’s going to have the iPad. We’re always upgrading all the time, so I feel that’s what Beth did. And it’s nice. If someone’s boring talking to you, just turn it down.

Q: How do you find the right level of empathy for a character that has so much of her body turned over to science and is a drug addict and does all those deals? How far do you go to make that character empathetic, and where do you stop?

AB: Empathetic in what sense?

Q: You want people to feel sorry for her so that you worry about her, but where do you stop? Because you also want her to be tough.

AB: I don’t know if I want people to feel sorry for her. I never felt sorry for her. I always try to not judge the characters that I portray. I try to just understand, and get meaning and belief in the characters. But I always tried to make her as human as possible.

All of us endure pain, sadness, loss. Life is not only happiness. But on the other hand, you can find love or happiness, or you can find anything else, so that’s the change she goes through her life. She’s giving up on herself when he finds her and that’s why I punch him in the face and am like, “Why? Why did you do that? You’re not going to save me right now. You’re going to go away.”

Who knows, maybe 10 guys did with her, or her family did with her, we don’t know. I just tried to create a character that was human more than anything. I think feeling pity is a really strong thing to feel for someone.

Q: Apparently, in the book version, your character had cancer which ravaged most of her body? Her husband at the time had been a doctor, so she got a discount, which is why she got so many body part upgrades -- he was just trying to keep her alive. By that time she was 74% artificial, and he couldn’t be with her anymore.

AB: [Miguel] didn’t say anything. No but I wish he did. The script was so different in a sense, so we tried to build the story and background. There were a lot of different versions of Beth and Remy’s love story in the beginning, and then it changed through the course of the film until we started shooting.

Q: Miguel said your character started out in a different relationship with Remy. What’s your reaction as an actress? You play a part a certain way, and then it’s edited and somehow it works in a completely other way that you hadn’t intended. What did you think when you see that?

AB: My mom’s an editor, so I totally understand editors, which is great -- It helps. I’m kidding. I grew up in this world. My father’s a journalist, but he directed a lot of TV shows in Brazil. I never think too much about what they’re going to do. I always try to grab the script and learn it by heart and focus on that, and whatever they want to do later they can do it. I don’t mind.

I’m passionate for the story and being part of something. That’s the most important thing. Funnily enough, in Repo Men, I prefer what I saw on the screen than what we shot. It works really nice. I don’t know how, because we had such a background in our minds –- me and Jude, Beth and Remy –- all the time that drove us through the journey towards the end of the film, and once we cut the part before they meet, where we meet them in the film, it could have gone wrong.

What is great is that it was done perfectly, and it was even better. I’m glad he took it off because the story is even sharper. I think more important than you as an actor is the storytelling. Of course as an actor you want to show your work, you want to be on screen, but being part of a nice story, it’s really special. So I do think as an actress you need to know how to understand and how to put yourself into it. Everything matters; don’t take anything for granted. Be present in the moment. That’s the best thing to do.

Q: At the end you’re still alive. Is there hope for a sequel that would include you?

AB: Maybe. I'll give you Universal’s number so you can ask them. Then I’ll give you mine, and you call me. I have no idea what they think of it. I don’t think so. I think the story’s done.

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