Avatar 2’s Zoe Saldaña On How Her Transformation Into Neytiri Compares To Her Prep For Guardians Of The Galaxy’s Gamora

Before Zoe Saldaña went green for Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, the actress already had a major transformation on her resume in the form of Neytiri in 2009’s Avatar. For James Cameron’s sci-fi epic, the actress took part in the movie’s new motion capture animation technology, and for the upcoming Avatar sequel, she’ll return to Pandora. As we get ready for Avatar: The Way of Water, Saldaña is contrasting both high-profile roles. 

Last week, the long-brewing Avatar sequel was given an official title, and its first footage was revealed at CinemaCon in Las Vegas. (Check out CinemaBlend’s breakdown of the first look at the next Avatar movie.) Amidst the movie’s marketing kicking off, Zoe Saldaña shared why becoming a Na'vi is quite different from her work on Marvel: 

They demand a different kind of sacrifice, but they stand very unique on their own subjective grounds. Gamora is a much more traditional approach where you wake up at 3 o'clock in the morning and you go through the whole prosthetic process. And then kind of once you see yourself and you feel Gamora on you, obviously, you transform, you know?

As Saldaña told Entertainment Weekly, when it comes to Gamora, the transformation is more palpable. She physically transforms following hours in the makeup chair super early in the morning, and then steps onto set as a green being who fits the world. Saldaña continued: 

And when it comes to Neytiri, it's more of a practice. It's months of training, not just rehearsing with your director, but training with movement coaches, and traveling to the jungle and getting to feel what it's like to make your own food with all the elements that are around you. And once you use all of that, you do bring it into what we call the volume, which is the set, when you shoot under performance-capture.

It sounds like Zoe Saldaña’s process when it comes to Avatar is a lot more mental and physical than her work with Marvel. She wears a motion capture suit on the set of James Cameron’s groundbreaking movies and has to get herself in the mindset of being a Na’vi. The indigenous beings of Pandora live life more primitively, hunting and making their own food, and flying on top of mountain banshees. That is completely different from Gamora, who pretty much lives life like a human, besides saving the universe, traveling the galaxy and so forth. 

Per Zoe Saldaña’s words, it’s safe to say the actress had much more prep on Avatar: The Way of Water than the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy Vo. 3, even though both are demanding. And not only is Saldaña returning for one Avatar sequel, the actress has also filmed a third Avatar film and reportedly already filming a fourth and fifth film. 

More Avatar films have been in the works since the first movie became a massive blockbuster. Zoe Saldaña has recently shared that the experience of returning to the franchise has been “nerve-wracking,” but she’s excited that “the wait is finally over” after so many years of speculation on the sequels. 

Zoe Saldaña has also previously revealed that she has seen 20 minutes of the second Avatar movie and she was “moved to tears” by James Cameron’s latest epic. You can see the first trailer for Avatar: The Way of Water only in theaters this weekend alongside Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. It is among 2022 upcoming movies, with a release date set for December 16. 

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

YA genre tribute. Horror May Queen. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.