Zoe Saldana, Jeffrey Dean Morgan Interview, The LosersPosted by: Sheila Roberts
An explosive action tale of betrayal and revenge that comes to the big screen from the pages of the popular DC/Vertigo comic book series, “The Losers” centers around the members of an elite Special Forces unit sent to the Bolivian jungle on a search and destroy mission. But the team – Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), Jensen (Chris Evans), Roque (Idris Elba), Pooch (Columbus Short) and Cougar (Oscar Jaenada) – soon find that they have become the target of a deadly double cross, instigated from the inside by a powerful enemy known only as Max (Jason Patric).
Making good use of the fact that they are now presumed dead, the group goes deep undercover in a dangerous plot to clear their names and even the score with Max. They are joined by the mysterious Aisha (Zoe Saldana), a beautiful operative with her own agenda, who is more than capable of scoring a few points of her own. Working together, when they’re not arguing amongst themselves, they have to stay one step ahead of the globetrotting Max – a ruthless man bent on embroiling the world in a new high-tech global war for his own benefit. If they can take down Max and save the world at the same time, it’ll be a win-win for the team now known as The Losers.
MoviesOnline sat down with Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Zoe Saldana, and Idris Elba at the Los Angeles press conference for The Losers. They talked to us about their characters, the challenges of shooting some very intense sequences in a very action-driven story, and the possibility of a sequel.
Q: Zoe, what kind of training did you do to own the title ‘bad ass chick’? Do you think that she’ll definitely be conflicted all the way up until the end?
JDM: I’ll take this question. (Laughter)
ZS: The stunt coordinator that worked on The Losers was the stunt coordinator on Avatar so I’ve known Garrett Warren for 3 or 4 years. He trained me so he’s the one that has beaten me up and knows exactly what my body can do at times when I didn’t even know I could do it myself. By the time we got to Puerto Rico, we basically just changed a couple of things because I had to substitute the bow and the arrow for the guns and the knives and things like that. Throughout the entire summer while we were shooting, I was still training with Garrett, especially because we really wanted to get that fight scene to be amazing. Sylvain (director Sylvain White) wanted it to be violent but he always said to us, “While they’re beating the crap out of each other, they’re also getting to know each other. So, it’s sort of like a conversation, a very violent kind of conversation.” And Jeffrey and I really wanted to capture that. In terms of the conflict resolution, if there is going to be any between Aisha and Clay, I think at some point they’re going to have to have that dance. At least, that’s just me.
JDM: That’s in the script. (Laughter)
ZS: (Laughs) It’s just one but I think it’s going to happen. She starts baking cookies in the comics.
Q: Zoe, how much fun was it kicking Jeffrey’s ass and being the only female in this ensemble?
ZS: It feels likeâ€¦
JDM: (cutting her off) She didn’t kick my ass. (Laughter) It was even Steven.
ZS: When you’re the only girl in a cast, I almost feel like you have twice as much work to do because you don’t want to be singled out. You’re already the only girl. So if you’re the one that says “I can’t do this,” or whatever, it’s going to be “Oh my gosh, she’s wimping out because she’s a girl.” So, I toughed it out. I really wanted to impress the guys. I like being around men. I’ve always felt like I can hold my own. Jeffrey was absolutely amazing in the fight scene. There were a couple of moments there where I would have to immediately look at him and say “Oh my god! Did I really hit you hard on your head?” Or he would look at me and say, “Did I slam you really hard?” and I’d just be like “Ugh! Uh huh!” (Laughter) But, it was fun. I liked it.
Q: Zoe, you tend to play really strong female characters. Have you ever thought of playing someone the complete opposite of this?
ZS: Like the damsel in distress? Of course. You want to play great characters but right now I feel that Hollywood has made a living out of portraying women to be such canker sores. We just have to be rescued all the time because we’re so incompetent, when in reality sometimes art needs to reflect what’s going on in real life. In today’s society, especially in American society, women are doing so much. I’m from Queens. I’m not from that era where if I was baking cookies, I’d do it. I think that’s great, whatever. But I grew up in Queens in the 80s where women were the caretakers and they were the soldiers. I’m in that phase right now so until I burn that, then I’ll be the damsel in distress. But, right now, I like holding the gun. I like participating in the saving of the day. I think it’s really sexy. It’s kind of like my mom.
Q: For each of you, what was your most challenging scene? Was there anything that was tricky for you that you looked forward to or had a little trepidation before the scene?
JDM: I think all the physical scenes, the big fight scenes in particular, the stuff with Zoe and the stuff with Idris. We spent a lot of time choreographing those fights. Invariably, they change on the day and it’s hard stuff. We didn’t have the luxury of spending a week doing a scene. The hotel scene we shot in a day and a half. The conclusion stuff with me and Idris we shot in a day and that fight got changed at the eleventh hour after we had choreographed something for two months in Puerto Rico and then we shot it in L.A. and it was a completely different fight than we had anticipated. So, that stuff was a big challenge. It’s hard getting up off the pavement 20 times and doing it again. (Laughs)
IE: Jeffrey is trying to say that he was very scared to fight me. There was much trepidation. (Laughs)
JDM: Have you seen Idris?
Q: Idris, what made you want to make this film?
IE: I didn’t have too much information on The Losers. I’d read the script. There was an original version of the script which was about 4 years old. I read that. There were different directors attached to it. When I read it the first time, I wasn’t even aware it was a graphic novel. Then when Sylvain and Joel ( producer Joel Silver) approached me on it, I did some homework. I did my research. So, it was very much surface research though. I read some of the novels and on the internet. I didn’t really check it out too much because the script was so full of them. It had lots of information. It was a good read. I just got into it that way.
Q: Jeffrey and Zoe, your movies have come out one by one this past year. What did that feel like for you? Did you think “This is my year!”? How was it different before and after you got the leading roles in those big studio movies?
JDM: I thought my year was coming until Zoe’s year came. (Laughter)
IE: Well said.
JDM: (Laughs) Now I’m just riding her coattails.
ZS: I know that I don’t only speak for myself when I say that, as artists, you can only ask for one thing and it’s just to be able to pay the bills, living off of your art just enough to pay your bills. When you get to do that, and also you’re recognized by amazing producers and directors for all the work that you put inâ€¦ What Jeffrey has been doing -- and he’s been killing it from Grey’s Anatomy to [now] -- everything that he does mounts up. It’s like okay, one more. He steps up the ante and he conquers it, because Watchmen, I don’t know about y’all, but he was like the S-H-I-T in it. (Laughter) So, to get to work with himâ€¦it’s also as an artist, to get to work with actors that challenge you every single day, because through love and respect we did get along. We would go at it on set when we did not agree with a certain beat of a scene, but it was always the most healthy, constructive thing and you learned so much. We’re in constant schooling, every film that we do. That’s actually meant to be purposeful for our careers.
Q: Idris, first of all, how did you land on crutches? And secondly, if there is a sequel, would you rise from the flames and come back in the next one or are you completely gone for good?
IE: Actually, the answer about the crutches is one and the same, I think, because of what happened in that airplane. But, as you can see, I’m still standing. I think if there is a sequel, I’d love the opportunity to play and bring Roque back. It has to work for the storyline. Jeffrey and I were talking about this yesterday. I would want to see Roque come back and Clay and Roque unite again. That would be refreshing to me.
JDM: It wouldn’t be an easy reuniting. There’d be some fisticuffs along the way. (Laughs)
IE: But, we could do a hotel room.
JDM: We could.
IE: There won’t be too much training for Jeffrey. Without too much training, you can get up.
ZS: But Sylvain would say, “It’s like even though the plane crashed, you didn’t reallyâ€¦”
Q: Zoe, we all imagine there’s going to be a sequel to Avatar so when James Cameron is ready to do that, will you have that down or are there different things you’ll want to do with that performance?
ZS: Oh god, it’s whatever the boss says. He already knows how I like to approach [it].I need at least 6 to 7 months of training and stuff to get into Neytiri again and whatever’s going to happen is going to happen and the good thing that we all know about Jim is that -- it’s not so good sometimes because we sometimes have to wait like 10 years for it but – by the time he does come around, he gives you something that sort of changes your life or at least touches it in such a way. So, I do know that Avatar 2 is going to be just as great as the first one because Jim’s the S-H-I-T. (Laughs)
Q: You don’t feel like you have that down though even though you did learn it for 4 years?
ZS: Yes, but it does take training. It’s not something that I can just turn on and off. Everything is a learned skill. The same way it took me like 2 to 3 months to channel Aisha, you know Neytiri is going to take her time as well. I mean, there are people who kind of incarnate it. It takes a little bit of preparation.
JDM: Way to bring it back to The Losers. Nice. Good one.
ZS: Right. I brought it home. (Laughs)
JDM: You did bring it home.
Q: Zoe, it’s hard to do what you did in high heels. Was that your idea to keep the boots flatter? What did you put into your costume?
ZS: Magali (Guidasci), who is an amazing costume designer, and Sylvain had sketched out a very specific kind of flavor or tone for each of the characters, but they left enough space for us to come and incorporate our essence of how we were visualizing and incarnating these characters. I have to say that I had to lose that battle and very, very much so to Sylvain and Magali because that hotel room, honestly, I’m just telling you, I could’ve done it in my black Gucci boots too, but they wanted no heels. I said, “Okay. Heels or no heels, a woman can still kick a man’s ass if she could, if she proposed herself to, with Louis Vuittons or flats or whatever.”
JDM: I didn’t want a stiletto implanted in my forehead. (Laughs)
ZS: He did say that.
JDM: That might have been more my decision. She’s wearing flats for this. (Laughter)
Q: Idris, how would you compare the emotional connection that you develop with a character like Roque that you played over a matter of months to a character like Stringer Bell that you played over a number of years?
IE: It’s all in the writing or the words. The writers, the creators of The Wire -- and rest in peace David Mills by the way who just passed – but the writing – and all my actors here will tell you – offered the actors choices. It is about the choices and the director helps you guide those choices into what the screenplay says. So, what James wants from this, you have choices as an actor to make and the director helps you guide those choices to what James wants. Jeffrey and I had a huge challenge to make our relationship believable so that when we do have that fight at the end, you’re seeing not only two men going at it that are professionals at what they do tactically, but two men that have been together as – not Brokeback [Mountain] but – (Laughter)
JDM: Much to my sadness.
IE: And his friends and his comrades will die for each other and in that fight. So, it’s all about the words. I was very lucky to have a great scene to work with him in and, of course, Sylvain to subtly guide me and Jeffrey in that journey.
Q: Zoe and Jeffrey, you always hear actors say that love scenes are not easy, so what was tougher – the love scene or fighting each other?
JDM: The love scene, that was hard. I had a rough day that day. “I need another take!” (Laughs) “Just one more. Sylvain, c’mon! I don’t feel like she flipped her hair right on that one.” Technically, the fight was much harder. Zoe and I, the whole cast, were very comfortable around each other from day one. So, the challenging part, that fight was a huge challenge for both of us, physically and in trying also to get the tone of what we needed to accomplish in that scene, which I think we did. Yeah, the love scene, man, bring that on! I had Zoe Saldana sitting on my lap naked. Yeah, rough! (Laughs)
ZS: It helps when you get along with the actors. It helps that Jeffrey was such a gentleman and so respectful, because trust me, as a woman, try doing that with a frickin’ prick. Been there, it’s not a good day at work. You’re the only one that’s naked and you have to act like you’re not aware that you’re naked, and then, not only that, you have to flip your hair and have an orgasm. (Laughter) So, when you work with a good director and a good actor that makes it seem just like a regular Tuesday, then love scenes are like any other fight scene. They’re just awesome.
Q: What was your experience like shooting in Puerto Rico?
ZS: I will say one thing, as a half Puerto Rican woman, for us girls, it was great that it was really hot because that meant the boys would walk around with no shirts on and these boys are really cute with no shirts on.
Q: Zoe, at the end of such a physically exhausting day, what did you like to do to relax? Also, do you think you’re going to get more movies where there are action scenes like that and are you keeping in shape?
ZS: Do you want the PG-13 version? I would just have a beer with the guys. I’m a beer and wine kind of girl and I like to unwind with the boys. We were staying at this awesome hotel in San Juan and the crew, the team, the cast, we would all just go there and unwind having Sangria or a shot of whiskey or whatever, and you just hit the casinos for two hours and then you go to bed and you study your lines. It was just like any other day. (Laughs) Trust me, my mom was there the entire time too. Latinos. Yeah, I do recognize that and now I’ve decided to continue exploring. If they do, it’s not like I’m only aiming to just be like Lara Croft. I like it. Therefore, that requires certain kind of training and I do like to stay on my toes, especially lately. I do like to take care of my body.
Q: How are you going to market a film based on a graphic novel in today’s multi-platform arenas that we now have because it seems like it’s perfect for that?
IE: The important thing is it’s a great movie that has a feel good factor that takes you back to some of the film’s that we’ve known from the 80s that encompassed action and charismatic characters like the Lethal Weapons and Die Hards. The stunts were larger than life. The characters were larger than life. But ultimately, everyone had a good time. It’s a popcorn film and you enjoy it. So, in terms of marketing, I think we look at the kids. We look at the adults. It’s almost like a family movie. It’s like a game in a movie form and everyone can enjoy it.
Q: Idris, I loved the combination of the action and the comedic timing of your character. You did it so well. Did you enjoy playing the turncoat at the end?
IE: Yeah, you know, I got to beat up Jeff. I was just waiting for my opportunity. It was just a wicked opportunity to play such an interesting arc in a film. I was very blessed. We all played the love of comrades because we all knew what was going to happen in the end. We all subtly layered how do we love Roque, how do we not love Roque, how do we bond together as a team, so that when that reveal comes at the end, it works.
ZS: Yeah, it did.
Q: Were there any concerns about the A Team coming out later in the summer?
JDM: First of all, we never went in thinking about the A Team at all. We’ll let them think about us.
Q: Would you briefly like to talk about the romance that developed on the set between you and Pooch? I mean, with the dog.
JDM: I was like, “No, I don’t.” (Laughs) I adopted a little pup there that wandered out of the jungle of Puerto Rico and promptly was hit by a car. We all took care of him for a while, but he is with me. I’ve got a little piece of Losers in Puerto Rico with me at all times now.
Q: What’s his name?
JDM: Bandit or Bandito. It was Bandito in Puerto Rico but now I’ve shortened it to Bandit because I’m screaming at him all the time.
Q: What kind of dog?
JDM: Puerto Rican jungle mutt, man. (Laughs) He’s awesome. He’s really cute. He’s an awesome dog.
ZS: He has one blue eye and one brown eye. He was really shy at first. He had a little broken leg when he came back from the hospital and he would just come and he would bring him to the trailer and everybody – the crew, everybody would come and go see Bandito in Jeffrey’s trailer. By the end of the summer, Bandito was like this wolf-like [deep barking voice] “woof, woof, woof, woof” and running on set like “I’m rich, bitch!” So Bandito knew that he won the lottery. Trust me.
JDM: He did.
“The Losers” opens in theaters on April 23rd.