Today, North American moviegoers sit exactly one month away from the release of Iron Man 3 in theaters and the beginning of the Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Where Iron Man 3 serves as the first chapter on the road to The Avengers 2Guardians of the Galaxy serves as the last.

Writer-director James Gunn and Marvel Studios are revving up to begin principal photography on Guardians of the Galaxy this summer and have begun the casting process with a search for their human(oid) characters. Chris Pratt is playing the male lead, Dave Bautista is playing the muscle, and now Marvel has found their female lead.

THR has the scoop that Zoe Saldana is in negotiations with Marvel Studios to play Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy. Like Drax the Destroyer (Bautista), Gamora has green-colored skin. Her origins however are of alien nature; Gamora is the last of her species and an adopted daughter of Thanos. After a brutal and violent upbringing, Gamora turned against Thanos and became a key member of the Guardians team.

[Click here for a close-up of Gamora]

Of the three names reported to be starring – or in negotiations to star- in Guardians, Saldana is the most recognizable and high profile thanks to her work over the last four years. If Avatar and Star Trek weren’t big enough sci-fi film franchises, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy may do the trick. An earlier rumor indicated that Gamora, along with the other two already-cast character characters (Star-Lord & Drax) will be the focus of the film’s narrative, and that their origins and visual designs will be updated for the film.

Saldana is yet another member of the Star Trek family Disney has wooed over, with J.J. Abrams also jumping over to helm Star Wars Episode VII. Should Saldana sign, the timing couldn’t be better, with Iron Man 3 kicking off the summer, followed by Star Trek Into Darkness two weeks after. And if rumors are true that Iron Man 3 could tease or introduce the Guardians of the Galaxy, then the casting doubles as a good step on the marketing front going into this summer’s San Diego Comic-Con, and the productions of both Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy.

Saldana has proven acting chops in both sci-fi fantasy and action, and is someone who understands the geek crowd, easily winning over fans while stepping on stage at Comic-Con with James Cameron for the first unveiling of footage for Avatar back in 2009. Saldana’s used modern firearms on screen in Columbina, spears and bows in Avatar and even phasers in Star Trek, so using a big sword as Gamora should be an easy transition for the high in-demand actress.

Guardians of the Galaxy is being rewritten and directed by James Gunn and begins shooting in London this summer. It will be released in 3D. Expect many casting news reports shortly. For more:

Iron Man 3 releases May 3, 2013, Thor: The Dark World on November 8, 2013, Captain America: The Winter Soldier on April 4, 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1, 2014The Avengers 2 on May 1, 2015, Ant-Man on November 6, 2015, and Doctor Strange sometime after that.

Let me know on Twitter @rob_keyes if you approve of this casting!

Source: THR