Rosa Salazar, who plays the titular hero, says this is exactly why she wanted the part, because of these filmmakers’ efforts to not just champion empowering female characters but Latina actresses too.
“Her coming of age story is really what attracted me but also the visionaries behind it,” Salazar told Yahoo Movies UK. “James Cameron, Robert Rodriguez, these are the types of visionaries you want to bring a strong, empowered, dynamic character like this to life. They’ve been doing this for decades.
“When I got the role I felt now I am in this honour society among Sarah Connor, Ellen Ripley, Rose, Neytiri and on Robert’s side he has launched the careers of so many Latina actresses Salma Hayek, Eiza Gonzalez, Rosario Dawson, Michelle Rodriguez, so it felt like this is the right character to be doing.”
Salazar is an American actress of Peruvian descent who rarely saw herself represented on screen growing up, but it was thanks to Rodriguez’s movies that she finally believed that she could take up acting as a career.
“I didn’t see [myself] on screen unless it was Salma Hayek in Desperado which is why it’s one of my top five favourite films,” she explained. “She’s brown too, she’s like me, I can do that.
“That’s what representation is all about, that’s why we need such a wide array of perspectives.”
Director Rodriguez says that creating empowering, Latina characters is his “world view.”
“I grew up in a family of 10 kids in Hispanic families and I was perplexed, loving movies, seeing movies that didn’t have positive Latin characters, few heroes or no women heroes,” the filmmaker said. “All my early characters were based on my sister. She turned into the lead girl in Four Rooms, two that turned into the lead girl in Spy Kids – Carmen Cortez is based and my sister.
Every movie that I had, there’s always a strong female character based kind of on my sister,” he continued. “So when I read this script [I saw] my sister again and now also my daughter too.”
Jennifer Connelly, who plays Chiren, says that a big part of why she signed up is because it’s something for both boys and girls to love.
“[Alita] is a young girl becoming a woman,” she said. “I thought that was great because it’s also a movie that I think young people would enjoy seeing.
“I saw it with my teenage son, he loved it, so I think that character is great for girls.”
Keean Johnson, who plays Hugo, said that he loves that the movie breaks the stereotype of the damsel in distress as its the damsel who is doing all of the saving.
“I think what was great that in the commercials it always ends with Hugo saying ‘I’m with her.'” he said. “Very rarely do you hear that in a movie, in the kind of way of,’ don’t mess with me or my girl is going to take you out.'”
Alita: Battle Angel is in cinemas now