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Explosive Actors, Anecdotes Light Up SFIFF54’s Midnight Awards

Explosive Actors, Anecdotes Light Up SFIFF54’s Midnight Awards

“Oh, God, I hope I’m not flashing anybody,” said actor Zoe Saldana, one hand holding a mic and the other tugging on her strapless dress as she took a seat on stage at the W San Francisco hotel. Host Beth Lisick, joining her as host for 2011’s San Francisco International Film Festival’s Midnight Awards, replied, “I think that’s alright. Is everybody okay with what’s happening here? I told Zoe we were going to keep it loose.”

And loose the evening was. Using a talk-show format, SFIFF’s Midnight Awards highlighted two electric, young acting talents, Saldana of “Avatar” and “Star Trek” fame and Clifton Collins, Jr., known for his unique performances in “Capote,” “The Perfect Game” and “Extract.”

Saldana plays a young woman who becomes a deadly assassin after witnessing the murder of her parents as a child in her latest, “Colombiana,” written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen, and currently in post production. “Anybody that knows anything about Luc Besson, as a director and a producer, he’s pretty fabulous. He’s an amazing filmmaker that writes great roles. Great characters. And now the coincidence is that women happen to fill in those shoes and they happen to kick major ass in the roles that he writes.”

Lisick pointed out that Saldana seemed to be very comfortable in that type of role. Saldana agreed. “I’m from Queens, New York, so in my mind I have this notion that I’m this badass. I sort of gravitate naturally towards those roles that resemble women that I’ve known in my mind and throughout history that I’ve admired. When I was growing up as a kid, I was never the damsel in distress for Halloween. I was never a princess. I was never Juliet. I was Ellen Ripley or Sarah Connor.” She added, “I’m a very dominant alpha male deep down inside.”

Early in her career, Saldana moved from dance to acting, and in response to a question on the transition from Lisick, Saldana offered, “You have to be honest with yourself. I had been dancing for ten years and I realized that I had extended my physical ability to its fullest and I knew I didn’t have the physical talent to become a principal in any company.” She still has what she calls an “affinity for ballet.”

Her extensive physical background made an impact on her ability to take on roles, notably Neytiri in “Avatar,” a performance she pointed out following a question from the audience, was the most challenging of her career. “For Neytiri, it took me five months to get the part. It took me seven months to get her to come to life, and then it took me two years to shoot her. So, I spent the most time with her. She actually became my best friend.”

[Read the full version of this article and more from the San Francisco International Film Festival on SF360.]

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