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Guardians of the Galaxy Set Interview: Zoe Saldana's Gamora, Personality and Weapons

Gamora has a very interesting and detailed past and a lot of interesting personality traits. What was the most appealing thing to you when you signing on to play her? And what’s the most appealing thing now, looking back at the last four months of filming?

Zoe Saldana: My nephew’s 11, he’s the only person that I know that reads the Guardians [of the Galaxy], everybody else I've met, they read comics but my nephew was the closest one. I would ask him on his little [instant messenger]—so funny—and he asked me, “Who do you think Gamora is?” And I said, “She’s a warrior.” He goes, “Yeah. But not only is she a warrior, she’s an assassin and she’s very lethal but what saves her is the same thing that can doom her. She has a sense of righteousness. She’s a very righteous individual.” And that was coming from an 11-year-old boy. I was just like, “That’s it! That’s gonna be like the overall mojo of Gamora; her sense of always wanting to do the right thing.”

It’s why she compels, I guess, the Guardians to not sell the orb or she’s trying to ask them not to sell their souls for money. Because if it means that a lot of people will lose their lives then it’s not really worth it. She’s sort of the one who kind of starts going in that direction and then everybody else kind of follows. What I like the most about this movie is that we’re all starting like inmates, we’re all like lost kids. And by running away because we wanted to run away from the families that we were brought into, we end up creating a very beautiful family unit and becoming good, decent people sometimes.

We saw some of the weapons, which seemed pretty beautiful as well. In past films, you’re a good weapon wielder. What’s different and fun about the weapons in hand?

Zoe Saldana: This time around it was a sword. The sword’s heavy, my wrists are very thin, so I have this insecurity that I look wimpy with the sword. It’s so much better to have a gun. I’m more prepared, I've trained with SEALS, it’s fine. But the moment I’m with a knife, I’m just like, “Oh God! Take it, it’s too heavy! Moving on, roll sound.” But you rely on really good stunt people. I’m working with a woman, her name is Chloe, and she’s sort of the stealth Gamora and I’m the stealth-ish Gamora, and we’re definitely building a character that’s very good.

For me, it’s very important if I do action movies and I have a stunt person, to work with them. Not only by memorizing the choreography but also it’s important to study that individual and it’s imperative for that individual to study you because you’re not playing two different people, you’re playing the same person. Also, in order for the actor’s wishes to be respected in terms of characteristics that your character’s gonna have, you have to work with good and intelligent and talented stunt people that not only can carry weapons well but can also carry a personality. For Gamora, I guess it’s so easy to just not invest in the action part of it and sort of not aide the stunt team to going, “You know, that’s great. She can jump, she can land, she can definitely fight with the sword.”

But instead of looking like Jackie Chan, why don’t we give her an air of Jet Li because it’s this form of Wushu, which is his form of training. Jet Li is much more graceful than karate, which is what Jackie Chan has trained in. And I find that with women, you have to maintain some kind of grace, at least that’s my personal opinion. I was very adamant with Chloe and Steve and Thomas—the choreographers—to study the bullfighters. Because I kind of find it very seductive, the way a bullfighter can seduce a bull into surrendering to its own death without touching him at all. Just with the red, it’s a dance, it’s a very sensual dance that eventually the bull caves in, and basically runs towards this red thing and then there’s a sword meeting him behind it. He’s basically running to his own death. I thought that was very interesting for Gamora to have, she’s a woman, I’m pretty sure she knows how to use her charms to get what she needs. So, there might be a bullfighting kind of method into how she approaches an opponent.

Can you talk about Gamora’s relationship and chemistry within the group and her relationship with Drax and Star-Lord?

Zoe Saldana: She finds Quill interesting but he’s such a douche at first, he’s very immature and it’s inconceivable for her, I guess, to even have a wet dream with him in it. I think she’s intrigued by Groot, at least I am, there’s something about this—he’s such a human and he’s the most inhumane physically. A character out of all of us but he has this compassion that really—as I was reading the script, I worked with James [Gunn] in terms of, “How can we get them to kind of interact?” I know Gamora interacts very little with Groot or Rocket but there was something very interesting about Groot that what she needs is to soften herself, then Groot is definitely a subject to study. I think Drax is such a drama queen—can’t shut up. But at the end of the day, I learned to understand that I’m not the only victim. I’m not the only one that’s had it really hard. Drax has lost his family and probably in front of him like I did. There’s something, we are kindred spirits in that sense. Rocket had a lot of alterations done to his body and so did Gamora, and Quill lost his mom and he was basically taken from Terra. So, there’s a lot of things that they all have in common.

Guardians of the Galaxy - Karen Gillan Nebula Makeup Cybernetics
Karen Gillan as Nebula

How about Nebula?

Zoe Saldana: Nebula. Oh that’s I—it’s complicated. I think to me, that’s the biggest heartbreak for Gamora. It’s the fact that she wasn't able to save her sister—Fuck! Should I not be saying this? I’ll take it just that far and then I’ll pull back. I’m pulling back. Gamora and Nebula have a very, very similar paths. They were abducted from their families, their parents probably killed in front of them, so we’re Ronan's but Gamora wants to change. She’s just different, she’s never really had it in her.

I think that Nebula definitely was born with a sense of wanting to taste blood. For her, she doesn't want to move and that’s something that’s very frustrating for Gamora because there’s this big responsibility that she feels to Nebula. And Nebula doesn't see it that way, doesn't love her back with the same regard. That to me, is a bit heartbreaking. I’m one of three sisters and I’m like, “Jesus Christ, if I could marry them, I’d be the happiest person. I’d be complete, I’d be wholesome.” When I’m playing characters where there’s sibling dysfunctions, it’s a little heartbreaking.

Who’s your favorite out of all this unique ensemble?

Zoe Saldana: I think Nebula’s costume. I think my sister’s really hot. She’s wonderful, the transformation is absolutely wonderful and the ball on her, man, to shave her head. I would've been like, “Dude. I don’t know. I gotta think about that. How much are you paying me? Nah, I can’t.” Nebula, her physicality, I think she’s very beautiful. And Groot, I’m very fascinated by Dave’s [Bautista] makeup, it’s just his Drax way. We saw the trailer they showed at Comic-Con and there’s that thing in slow motion where he’s like yesterday, and this man comes with it. He comes to set and he’s gonna bring it, and you just go, “Oh my God!” But when you meet him in real life, he’s so tender, so sensitive, very soft spoken, really kind but a kick ass actor, and intense.

He seemed very moved by having been cast in the role. It seems like the kind of thing when you give the actor that opportunity, they throw themselves a thousand percent into it.

Zoe Saldana: Yeah, that’s Dave but so is Chris as well. The transformation that Chris has done is not only physical—physical is the most apparent but he’s really devoted himself to this character, to this movie, and it’s wonderful to come to work and be surrounded by people who take their jobs very seriously. Because the day that you feel like slacking, you immediately correct yourself. It’s like, “Oh we’re on day 85 of green makeup.” By the time I get to set I’m just like, “Ugh. I've worked eight hours, I've been here for eight hours doing hair and makeup by the time I get to set.” And to come to set and see happy people and people that are in character, full costume inside and out, it lets you know that you have always bring your game. So, it’s good.

With Gamora’s direct connection to Thanos, she’s kind of the anchor to the greater Marvel cinematic universe that’s been established. Is that something that was part of your process or has informed your playing of this character at all?

Zoe Saldana: If I tell you “no” will you think ill of me? I don’t read comics and I don’t follow, so I don’t know. I’ve learned now as I’m doing the movie of the importance that Thanos has with all these characters in the Marvel universe. And I thought, “She definitely does have an upper hand with a lot of the characters because she was raised by this individual.” But in terms of how deep their blood ties are, that’ll probably be put into question in the next movie because it wasn't really covered enough in this one.

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More: Guardians of the Galaxy Set Report

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Guardians of the Galaxy is directed by James Gunn and stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel as Groot, Bradley Cooper as Rocket, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, with John C. Reilly, Glenn Close as Nova Prime Rael and Benicio Del Toro as The Collector.

Guardians of the Galaxy opens August 1, 2014The Avengers: Age of Ultron on May 1, 2015, Ant-Man on July 17, 2015, Captain America 3 on May 6 2016, and unannounced films for July 8 2016 and May 5 2017.

Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes for your Marvel movie and TV news!

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