Exclusive Interview: Zoe Saldana on Out of the Furnace
My interview with Zoe Saldana was a little awkward. I'm not sure, because she didn't introduce anybody, but I'm reasonably confident that her entire family was watching me interview her, filling the usually empty room at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills. I caught a couple of "Mmm-hmms" in the background once in a while, and I wasn't sure if that was tacit approval or some small form of judgment of my interviewing technique. I was probably just being paranoid, but it's easy to be paranoid when you think someone's parents are watching you, trying to make sure you treat their baby right.
In any case, I did interview Zoe Saldana, ostensibly about her new film Out of the Furnace – a thriller co-starring Christian Bale and Casey Affleck, directed by Crazy Heart's Scott Cooper – but for whatever reason, probably the vibe in the room, we barely discussed Out of the Furnace at all, focusing instead on her acting methodology, her earlier characters and the eight different bottles of cranberry juice that were on the table in front of her. So yeah, about that cranberry juice…
Zoe Saldana: Do you want some cranberry water or some cranberry juice? We have plenty of cranberry…
CraveOnline: No, thank you. Is this a requirement when Zoe Saldana comes to a hotel? There must be eight bottles of cranberry juice?
No, no, here’s what we did… [Laughs] I asked for one bottle and it was very specific. I asked for one from Trader Joe’s. But they couldn’t get to Trader Joe’s so they went to Whole Foods and Bristol Farms, and bringing all these different selections, and it’s just… I like cranberry juice because it’s a very good source of nutrients for your body, but the ones that have too much sugar, I don’t like them.
I got addicted to straight cranberry juice when I was a kid. Like, no sugar at all.
Yeah. It’s tart but it’s goooooood…
Are you kidding me? For four years in a row I was doing nothing but drinking that and then my sister said you’re really going to overexhaust your kidneys. Because it’s one thing to drink one or two glasses a day [but] all I was drinking was cran-water. I would get a gallon and put some in this and just drink it and go. Then after a while I was like, “Oh, my right kidney’s always hurting,” and she was like…
“You want to give it a break then?”
We almost lost you to cranberries.
[Laughs] I know.
That would be tragic. I kind of want to spend this entire time talking about Crossroads.
Oh no! Let’s do it!
Awesome. How well do you remember Crossroads? Was that a big movie for you at the time?
I think every movie that I’ve done is major in my life, at the time, but yes it was, because I had just come out of doing Center Stage, and then I did a comedy called Get Over It…
I like Get Over It. That’s a fun movie.
Me too. And that was it. And then when I booked Crossroads, and having so much fun. Working with Tamra Davis, a woman, I felt really excited. And getting to work with the biggest pop star of that time. I learned a lot. It was really amazing.
What did you learn from Britney Spears?
To be humble. She’s a southern belle, man. Like she’s a southern girl, a southern gal. It doesn’t matter what happens in her life, or what ups and downs or whatever, that little girl is always very respectful and very pure.
Is it ever difficult to be humble when you’re starring in the biggest blockbusters in the world, and people are fawning over you? “Oh, Zoe Saldana, you’re the world’s most amazing human!”
If I ever start believing my hype I feel like I will stop being an artist and become more of a celebrity. I’m not a celebrity. I am an artist. I go to work every day, I become the characters that I am hired to do. I get so involved sometimes, and I invest so much of myself sometimes that it takes me months to get out of it, to really come back to my life. Like, a gradual introduction to my life. I feel like my family and the closest people to me are sometimes positive recipients of the effects of that, but at the end of the day I do this because I love working. It’s fun to get dressed [up]. I love fashion. I’m a girl, so I get to really have fun with it, but by the time I’m talking about a movie and promoting it, the fun part for me is over.
Who was the hardest character to shake?
Oh, Nina [Simone]. Before Nina, it was the character that I did for Avatar because I trained so long – for seven or eight months – and then we shot it for a span of two years, so that was really hard. And then I got to study animal behavior, feline behavior, and study children so much, so I remember I was a little… [laughs] I was just a little wild, but Nina was definitely something that took me a long time to shake off.
Are you going to have to do that much training for the Avatar sequels, or at this point do you just got it?
No, I’m older now, so my body is achy. [Laughs]
But no, no, no… If that amount of training is what led me to discover such a beautiful character, that I submerged myself for people to go, “Oh, that was amazing,” why would I change that formula? If I take it easy, I might run the risk of not delivering the same character.
It’s been a while. Are you still prowling around the house, in character?
Baby, it’s been seven years. Do you understand?
It’s been a while.
I’m 35. I was 27 when I started training for that movie. I was young. I’m still young…!
You are still young, damn it!
I’m still young, but remember after that I was doing more and more action movies. I did Colombiana, I did The Losers, I did Guardians of the Galaxy, so I kept training consistently, and obviously you deteriorate a little bit. So I want to demand myself the same amount of training and all the skills I learned so I can access [Neytiri], you know?