Michelle Rodriguez is known for her onscreen ability to sneer and kick ass, and both skills are taken full advantage of in Robert Rodriguez’s Machete, which opens today. She plays a taco-truck driver/secret revolutionary who joins with the wrongfully accused Machete (Danny Trejo) to clear his name and kill many, many people. The film’s satiric shots against the anti-immigration forces have been well-documented (and explicitly stated in its early “A Message to Arizona” trailer), but it’s all served amid a B-movie celebration of beheadings and severed limbs. We talked to Michelle Rodriguez about why a lavishly gory shoot-’em-up could be the best educational tool this issue could have, and she told us her secret plan to revolutionize the female heroine for the ’10s.
What did you like about this script?
I’m a true believer that people don’t want to [just] sit there. The kind of people that artists need to reach when they make a documentary like The Cove or Inconvenient Truth should be, in my view, the types of individuals that don’t know anything about that world and should be educated or introduced to it. But documentaries or a serious drama film doesn’t really reach those types of people that are ignorant to that stuff. Why? Because they don’t go to the theaters to be depressed. They don’t go to the theaters to hear about news or to be educated. They go to the theaters to be entertained and to have fun. What I love about Robert is that he has an innate ability to be able to translate current events and imitate life, exaggerated, in this format and nobody can tag him for it. Why? Because who’s going to take seriously an individual who tries to make a political argument about a movie where a guy is swinging on his intestines or somebody’s killing somebody with a stiletto?
How do you think people are going to react when they see the movie?
At first, sheer utter shock and then dialogue. [Laughs.]
Do you think the message is going to get through to the viewers?
Always! I think that for years comedy has been a really great avenue to ignite political conversation. Look at all those shows on Comedy Central, what’s that guy? Colbert. Oh my God, I love him! He's so great! I mean, these guys have been doing it for years and they’re really amazing at it. Look at South Park, Family Guy, these guys get away with murder. I think it does spark conversation; it does get people thinking but we have to remember, I’m constantly reminded that we are in a desensitized generation, where something can explode and kill millions of people and people will Twitter about it for three days and forget it exists. So the problem of attention span is a little bit deeper than movies and its effects on our culture, you know what I mean?
How was it working with the cast?
It was cool. Although there were a lot of people in the film, working with Robert is really amazing because he’s quick. I think every individual would trust that he’s very speedy in his capabilities and he can work out schedules. And you can be there and do a scene with somebody who’s not even there, like my scene with De Niro. I have one line that I throw to him but I was working on Battle: Los Angeles at the time, this alien flick I did in Louisiana, and I didn’t have an opportunity to be there, so I shot with a double, which sucks because I love De Niro. But I got to work with Jessica Alba, who’s amazing. God, I couldn’t believe it because I thought we were from two totally different worlds. I didn’t think that we’d have anything in common. But she’s a really cool chick. I couldn’t believe it, man. Very, very strong. And I got to work with Don Johnson, who’s amazing. I was really bugged out to see him because when I’ve seen him, it's been in old-school seventies films with Nick Nolte and then Miami Vice. His baby blues are still the same. He’s still got his dimples. The guy ages well.
What’s one misconception of yourself that irks you?
I don’t know because I don’t really pay attention. I’m that kind of girl who follows her gut and her heart, and I keep going. I don’t really stop for opinions. That’s why I’m probably a loner and don’t have a lot of friends in this business, because I don’t care what anybody thinks. But I do have a handful of friends that really care about me and love me, and that’s all I care about, is their opinions. They’ve helped me grow. That’s all I pay attention to. But their opinions aren’t public, so I don’t think you care about that.
You were talking about Battle: Los Angeles. What other projects do you have coming up?
Right now I’m just writing my butt off. When I was working with Robert, I was like, holy snap, this guy really understands the masculinity and femininity balance of one person. That is something that only a handful of people in this industry can see the potential of. I feel like there’s a type of girl that I’d like to really bring forth and give her a voice in movies and she doesn’t exist in films. You look in the eighties and it was this big movement for the working-class girl, 9 to 5, with Dolly Parton, and then you see this massive movement for the independence of the girl. Then, all of a sudden in the nineties, the girl’s strong. In all these sci-fi movies you see people like Linda Hamilton and Sigourney Weaver. Then, all of a sudden, the Angelina Jolie type comes out and breaks all of these rules where if you’re tough, you’re supposed to be butch-y, you’re supposed to be this strong character, like the kind of characters that I play. She broke those rules by being beautiful and sexy and still has that alpha-masculine attitude. And then you see someboy like Johnny Depp. His face is so beautiful, you’re thinking, “Wait a minute.” This massive shift going on between men and women where you find a metrosexual type of guy and then the geek is taking over for the alpha male who used to do all the action flicks. It’s no more Stallone, now it’s Orlando Bloom. There aren’t a lot of directors that have captured that for the woman. It’s either one way or the other. Either you’re the cynical, really smart friend in Juno, or you’re like the incredibly tough masculine girl who dies in every movie like Michelle Rodriguez. The closest thing to balance that we’ve seen is the parts that Angelina Jolie play, and a couple of other actresses. I think that we just need more of it, that’s all. So I’m going to write it. I’m going for it. That’s what I got into the business for ten years ago. I just plan on executing that now. Now that I have finished my partying and I finished learning about the industry, I think I’m ready to get my hands dirty.