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What It's Like Working With Robert Rodriguez on Alita: Battle Angel

Alita Battle Angel Robert Rodriguez Christoph Waltz Rosa Salazar

Many, many years ago Guillermo del Toro brought the "Battle Angel Alita" manga to the attention of James Cameron and his producing partner Jon Landau and it blew them away. Cameron felt the need to make it and even flew to Japan to meet with creator Yukito Kishiro, before spending years developing it in his mind and on paper into a feature film.

The technology wasn't there however and Cameron made Avatar first, which surpassed every expectation imaginable and pulled Cameron's attention away for pre-production on a series of sequels. The initial idea is that Avatar would help pave the way for Alita: Battle Angel (the title was tweaked for the adaptation) and it in turn would help pave the way for Avatar 2 & 3 from from a tech and process standpoint, but the movie now needed a director with Cameron locked up. After dinner with his friend Robert Rodriguez one day, Cameron showed him his overly long script for Alita and Rodriguez used it, and hundreds of pages of Cameron's notes, to revise it into something filmable as a single film, cutting down its size while maintaining the key themes.

Related: The Challenge of Bringing Alita to Life in Alita: Battle Angel

And so Rodriguez, an innovative and visionary filmmaker in his own right, got the gig, adding a another totally new type of project to his resume. And the industry-leading crews at New Zealand's Weta Digital who helped bring Alita (played by Roza Salazar) and her story to life? They loved working with him.

Joe Letteri - Senior Visual Effects Supervisor, Weta Digital

Yeah, Robert's great. Because he is so open to new ideas. Like having come from a background where Robert's so used to doing things himself. Editing and scoring and even visual effects, that you can talk to him about any aspect of it. And if it's something that's new, he's not phased by it at all. It's just fits right in with, “Okay, let's try this and let's see where that takes us.”

Eric Saindon - Visual Effects Supervisor, Weta Digital

Oh, man. He is such a creative. It's insane watching his mind work because he's always working on a new thing. He showed me a trailer on his phone last night at dinner, that he’s done some new movie with his kid about an immersive VR sort of experience.

The Limit? Is that the one?

Yes, yes. He's always coming up with new ideas, and new ways to push technology, to try something new. And I love that. Because he's never restricted by just making a film the traditional way. Because he's happy to try something new every time. And this is all new for him. This whole process, was a new process for him.

Saindon is referring to The Limit, starring Norman Reedus and Michelle Rodriguez. Watch the trailer here and check out our NYCC 2018 interview with Robert & Racer Rodriguez, Michelle Rodriguez, and Andy Vick.

Alita Battle Angel Set James Cameron Robert Rodriguez

Mike Cozens - Animation Supervisor, Weta Digital

Robert is so cool.  The thing about Robert is he understands so much about a filmmaking. He's super smart and he understands so much about visual effects.  The guy can do it all himself. So, it's really great to work with him because he brings awesome vision to what we're doing. And yet he's totally personable and collaborative. So, he's got all these ideas and he wants to know what your ideas are. And it’s really exciting to be working with somebody like that. Who's like, “Hey, and what do you think about this?” And you're like, “Oh, I think, you know…” So, it's a great place to bring your ideas. And yeah, it was a really collaborative, awesome experience.

Official Alita: Battle Angel Plot Synopsis

From visionary filmmakers James Cameron (AVATAR) and Robert Rodriguez (SIN CITY), comes ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL, an epic adventure of hope and empowerment. When Alita (Rosa Salazar) awakens with no memory of who she is in a future world she does not recognize, she is taken in by Ido (Christoph Waltz), a compassionate doctor who realizes that somewhere in this abandoned cyborg shell is the heart and soul of a young woman with an extraordinary past. As Alita learns to navigate her new life and the treacherous streets of Iron City, Ido tries to shield her from her mysterious history while her street-smart new friend Hugo (Keean Johnson) offers instead to help trigger her memories. But it is only when the deadly and corrupt forces that run the city come after Alita that she discovers a clue to her past - she has unique fighting abilities that those in power will stop at nothing to control. If she can stay out of their grasp, she could be the key to saving her friends, her family and the world she's grown to love.

More: Robert Rodriguez Interview - Innovation at Troublemaker Studios

Key Release Dates
  • Alita Battle Angel (2019) release date: Feb 14, 2019
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