Michelle Rodriguez is a tough customer - after breaking through in Girlfight she took it up a gear in the original Fast & Furious film, only to be killed off in the fourth. Now she's back, and in our exclusive interview from the film's set she talks about what Lettie's been up to since her presumed death, how she came back, and why the series has become as popular as it is...
Are you feeling a lot of pressure to top the last one?
It's going good so far. People have got a lot of expectations. To make a movie after the great success of 5, it's a lot of pressure.
Ultimately it's not about topping the last one. I'd like to keep away from that kind of pressure. (Laughs) Because I'm part of the inception team, giving birth to the first of the series and being brought back, I'm feeling a lot of pressure that way. When you do something epic like that, it's hard to top that. Basically Vin Diesel and The Rock represent the masculinity that Hollywood has lost. That's been fulfilled by British and Australian actors, rarely Americans! Blue-collar guys who come from the street and understand masculinity, they've had nothing to watch for years.
Why do you think they asked you back?
It's weird, because my return was something that Vin Diesel was being asked a lot about on Facebook. He realised that there is a massive crowd out there who are just in love with our relationship. He started fighting for that since he came back four years ago. Since he did that little teaser on Tokyo Drift. Ultimately it's the voice of the people and the new social network age that helped the studio see that there's a massive market. I think the fact 60% of our ticket sales are from the Latino population kind of helped. (Laughs)
You want to know something really intriguing? When they called me on the phone to come back to Fast & Furious - no. 4 - I was in New Zealand shooting Avatar. There were three producers on the phone and they told me that the character dies. I said, "Absolutely not - I'm not going to come back to the franchise just so you can kill off the only strong female figure. That's absurd. You can use my picture for that. I'll do a special photoshoot for you." I tried to talk them out of it. Then I said, "Why don't you do a version where you testscreen it, where I'm alive at the end?" And they said, "Yeah, yeah!" So we were on our second week and I said, "Guys, when are we going to do this little shot, which shows how I'm alive at the end? Have you even thought about this story-wise?" And basically it was a situation where I had gotten duped. Where they lied to me. "Oh, okay, let's just do it to appease her..." And then they did this stupid little shot of me in front of a greenscreen with a car, standing on top of a mountain, watching Vin's character being broken out of jail. And of course the audience would think it was stupid: "How the hell did she come back out of nowhere? What the fuck?" So it didn't work out. Vin felt bad, because I came back going, "I don't trust these clowns. I don't think they're going to keep their word." And me, I'm an actress of the audience. I don't act for studios, you know what I mean? I do it for the people. Me and suits, we don't speak the same language. (Laughs)
So Vin got really offended by that situation, and ever since that situation he's fought hard for little things. That's why he plays with that necklace throughout the whole of 4. They're talking about Letty in Fast 5. Finally he convinced the studio to do a test screening of me coming back at the end. They did it through a picture, and the idea that The Rock is surprised, it works! The audience went nuts about it. It was fucking cool! So here I am. And we're hoping to fulfill that romance that people missed.
What's the connection between the new Letty and Fast & Furious 6?
|The Rock is such a cool cat. I'm always staring at him like he's not real.|
She's tangled up with bad guy Shaw [Luke Evans] and his gang. I can't say too much, because the studio's trying to keep the lid on it. It's one of those situations where you're like, "Whoa! You guys are going full-throttle with this massive budget. What's your message?" And I think the golden nugget behind all of this is love. You're going to get explosions and jokes and people laying things on the line. I'm trying to be vague! (Laughs)
Are you a big part of the action scenes?
I would never allow myself to be on the sidelines. I've gotta have some action. We're going to have some fun in this. One thing for sure is that you're going to see me saved more in this film than in any other I've ever been in.
What do you make of The Rock?
He's such a cool cat. I'm always staring at him like he's not real. I look at him, I see an eyebrow raised, him in his underpants! Those muscles, they feel like rocks for real. I'm in awe of that guy. I can't even approach him like a real person. He's an entity. Most of my scenes are not with him, unfortunately.
Who's the rowdy one at dinner?
Tyrese. But we love that about him, man. He's got that vibe. Ocean's Eleven was that sophisticated vibe. And if you bring it down to the basics, that's what you've got with Fast & Furious. We really enjoy each other's company. You've got all the archetypes.
How long do you see it going on for?
Think about it. I'm trying to figure out where I've seen a sixth, with the same cast. These guys are feeling it out as they go, man. It is an anomaly, and we're all shocked! I've never heard a reason for the success that's rung true more than the multi-cultural cast, the fact they're walking on the other side of the track. We've never really had a film that pays respect to these people.
What about the scale of the movie?
It's crazy! In Shaw, you've got a cat who knows how systems work. He knows how to get information quick. He's trying to sell arms to foreign countries. If you know how the eye of the pyramid networks, then you're set. This character is really original, because for the first time you've got a cat who understands both sides of the track. He's got ex-military guys, but also ex-street racers, to give him a field advantage. Most military guys know jackshit about driving really fast! It's everything in one villain. More brains than brawn, really.
What's Letty been up to?
It's tough to mention, without giving everything away. Last time we saw her, she was in the United States, trying to get away from this guy she was transporting drugs for. All of a sudden the car blows up. All you see are flames and a guy shooting at the vehicle. In Fast 5 you see the closed-casket funeral, and then a picture of her and you hear that she's stealing military vehicles in Germany...