For Zoë Saldana, working in Avatar meant more than just learning her lines.
James Cameron‘s Avatar, a 3-D science fiction movie releases this week, and Saldana plays Neytiri, a blue-skinned alien warrior, a role for which she has been preparing since 2006.
Playing Neytiri didn’t mean just memorizing lines. Since Saldana joined the production of Avatar, she has been in training for the role, which required performance capture (wearing special suits filled with sensors to translate human movements into pixels).
“I joined the production in 2006 and we began shooting in the early spring of 2007,” explained Saldana. “So from 2006-07, I was training: six months of martial arts training, movement training, horseback riding, archery, weight training and learning a language that was created for the movie.”
Like with Star Trek XI, Saldana had to maintain a strict silence about the movie. “It was hard,” she said, of the need for secrecy, “but because it was going to be so special, in the end I was so happy to have been a part of it from the beginning.”
The performance art was something new for Saldana and took getting used to. “It was weird at first because it was new, but it was immediately replaced by the fact that I felt like I was really there,” she said. “We worked with this for so long, for over 14 months, that it grew to feel normal to me. It was just like acting on a stage, and no different from if we would have been wearing prosthetics. Just another technical thing you have to take into consideration. Once you do all the work, it’s no different in any approach that you would have towards any traditional film.”