Alita: Battle Angel director Robert Rodriguez has spoken to TheIrishTimes (via ThePlaylist) in a new interview that covered how he got involved and some of the working relationship between himself and writer-producer James Cameron.

Robert reveals that one of the ways he ended up directing Battle Angel was impressing James Cameron with his ambition for the project, he tasked him to rewrite his script and he returned a month later giving him the work for free. Certainly, an impressive worth ethic that Robert has. It was also confirmed that the huge manga eyes were always part of the plan going back to Jim’s original character concept artwork.

James Cameron had intended to follow up his short-lived TV series Dark Angel with a live-action version. Instead, he abandoned his unwieldy 186-page screenplay – not to mention 600 pages of notes – passing the hefty brief to Rodriguez.

“Jim would rather put something in a drawer and not do it at all than do it incorrectly with the wrong director,” says Rodriguez. “I saw his original drawings and they took my breath away. The main character had porcelain arms and huge manga eyes, and I thought, Wow, he’s going full manga with this. And he trusted me with the version that was in his head, and he said: if you fix the script for me, you can direct. So a month later I come back and say: here you go, free of charge. And he said: all right, it’s yours.”

Robert admits that technology wasn’t ready for until recently (something echoed in our recent interview with the film’s visual effects supervisor Eric Saindon) and talks about how the performance came out along with a suggestion that he wasn’t making a movie for 20th Century Fox, but for himself and Cameron. Having Cameron has his own Terminator to seemingly protect him from the studio.

“We did worry about how it would all fit together,” he says. “We kept the line in there that she wasn’t completely human. Because even a few years ago, we couldn’t have made her look like she does. The technology just about exists now so that she isn’t completely flat-looking. And when you talk to Rosa, she’s so full of life. I thought if that can come out, if that can come across on the screen, she’ll be as relatable as the human characters. Maybe more so. It always felt like a home movie. I wasn’t making a movie for Fox. I was making it for Jim. And Jim and I are buddies. So if we liked it, that’s what we did. I felt like I had my own Terminator with me to protect me. It was pretty much like working on an independent film.”

Alita: Battle Angel is easily the most expensive film of Robert Rodriguez’s career at an estimated budget of $200 million and it was a bargain as Jim told him that it would have cost double if he had made it.

“Jim said if he had made it it would have cost twice as much,” the filmmaker says with a laugh. “So they’re getting a bargain. They’re getting it half-price.”

The movie certainly spends the final act setting up future sequels but only time will tell if 20th Century Fox and their new owners Disney will see value in pursuing more $200 million budget sequels as they’ve been having a tough time at the domestic box office. Going into the film’s fourth weekend, Alita has earned a modest $74 million (originally opened to $24 million over the three-day weekend) when it’s earned over $278 million overseas. Studios tend to look first at domestic totals as that’s where the studio sees the largest piece of the box office returns.

I’m hopeful it’ll end up getting sequels because Battle Angel was a lot of fun despite its anticlimactic ending due to setting up the next installment. A little unknown at the moment if they’ll be able to reach that magic number with Captain Marvel pulling screens away from it globally over the next couple of weeks and the domestic numbers increasingly keep dropping.

James Cameron wasn’t only mentoring Robert Rodriguez on Alita: Battle Angel, he was also working alongside friend and director Tim Miller (Deadpool), who recently helmed Paramount’s Terminator: Dark Fate and it will be interesting to see how that collaboration turns out when the film releases on November 1st.

Jim is also working on four sequels to his box office juggernaut Avatar as the fourth installment is currently in pre-production stages and is expected to film in New Zealand (I assume at Stone Street Studios in Wellington).


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