‘Alita’ Shocker: Robert Rodriguez Cast A-Lister for Sequel That Might Not Happen

The final moments of "Alita: Battle Angel" include an unexpected casting surprise.
Alita: Battle Angel
"Alita: Battle Angel"
20th Century Fox

[Editor’s note: The following post contains spoilers for “Alita: Battle Angel”]

“Alita: Battle Angel” came in ahead of tracking at the box office to deliver a solid $41.7 million over Presidents’ Day Weekend. The opening puts the Robert Rodriguez-directed tentpole on a better course to break even, although it still faces an uphill battle because of its hefty budget of over $170 million. “Alita’s” surprise performance means a sequel isn’t entirely out of the question, and Rodriguez has been vocal about making “Battle Angel” with hopes for a follow-up movie.

As any moviegoer who has seen “Alita” knows, the film ends with a shocking casting reveal: Edward Norton is playing Nova, the villainous scientist in Zalem and the film’s big bad, who is mentioned numerous times but isn’t revealed in person until the final scene. Norton appears for all but ten seconds in “Alita,” which is strange for an Oscar-nominated actor of his stature. Norton is not alone, as Michelle Rodriguez and Jai Courtney also appear in small uncredited cameos (Rodriguez is Alita’s mentor Gelda, Courtney is motorball champion Jashugan). Rodriguez says he intentionally lined up the three talents for the sequel, even though a second “Alita” was never guaranteed and remains a question mark.

“There was almost no way to tell this story without including those people,” Rodriguez recently told ComingSoon.net. “You had to get a sense if [Alita] had been trained before by scenes with the Michelle character, you had to see Gelda at some point. They’re talking about how the game is played, Jashugin is one of the major players. He has a much bigger role later in the books. We didn’t want to just put somebody in. What if there was a sequel? We had to cast three people without really having a part for them to be basing it on to see if they wanted to do it.”

Rodriguez said that because “there was no script for a future one,” the “Alita” team decided to go to people who they knew since they had a better chance to land A-listers for cameos if they were already friends with the team. James Cameron is a producer on “Alita” and knew Courtney well since the actor appeared in a main role in “Terminator Genisys.” Rodriguez appeared in Cameron’s “Avatar” and has worked with Rodriguez multiple times. As for Norton, Rodriguez said he and the Oscar nominee go way back.

“I had known Ed for a long time and Jim knew Ed and had some businesses with him,” Rodriguez said. “He’s really smart like Jim, so we thought, that’s who we need is a mastermind type of guy to play Nova. It’s the promise of a part if there is a sequel, there might not be. If there is a sequel, you don’t want to be roped into something that you’re not going to like, but they knew us enough to trust that we’d make sure it was something cool. That was the challenge of that.”

Rodriguez continued, “That’s probably the last casting we did was those roles, because they were small enough we didn’t need to shoot them right away, and it gave us time to figure out who to go to that we really liked that would fit the role and we could fill that promise later down the road with the sequel.”

The only question remaining is whether or not “Alita” will get a sequel. “Battle Angel” is currently playing in theaters nationwide.

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