10 Behind-The-Scenes Facts You Might Not Know About Alita: Battle Angel

Alita: Battle Angel cast lined up in front of Zalem

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From the moment Alita: Battle Angel brought the worlds and talents of Robert Rodriguez and James Cameron together into one cohesive whole, the results were bound to be something spectacular. The 2019 movie based on Yukito Kishiro’s manga Gunnm/Battle Angel Alita became a fan favorite, inspiring an audience to visit Iron City for the first time on the big screen, and beg for more in the process.

But even those loyal folks might not know just what when into making Alita: Battle Angel into the big ticket theatrical vision it eventually came to be known as. Which is why we’re going to run through some of the behind the scenes facts you might not know about the battle angel’s first, and hopefully not last, film in theaters.

Whether you’re a die hart Alita: Battle Angel fan, or someone who has just wandered into this particular cinematic universe, here’s some facts about the film that will probably be news to you.

Pacific Rim Guillermo del Toro holding a breastplate of armor on set

Guillermo del Toro Introduced James Cameron To Alita: Battle Angel

If there was anyone you wanted to lay the blame on for James Cameron ever getting his hands on a copy of Alita: Battle Angel’s original manga, you can thank Guillermo del Toro for that particular history-making event. Apparently, as confirmed by the man himself, del Toro introduced Cameron to the joys of Kishiro’s Gunnm in the mid ‘90s.

Not only that, but in the same Tweet that Guillermo del Toro owns up to this fact, he also says that he was helping James Cameron adapt Alita: Battle Angel in its earliest form. Of course, del Toro wasn’t a part of the final product, though his friendship with Cameron was the true victory, as the Titanic director would not only help him walk away from The Hobbit films, he’d also help recover Guillermo del Toro’s kidnapped father in a particularly harrowing hostage situation.

Alita: Battle Angel Robert Rodriguez and James Cameron on set

Alita: Battle Angel Took Decades To Become A Reality

With the dream firmly in James Cameron’s mind to make Alita: Battle Angel, he set off to work on a lot of writing, and between 600-1000 pages of notes that would come in handy for when writer/director Robert Rodriguez eventually took over the project. But even before the moment that Rodriguez was read into the Alita lifestyle, which was back in the all or nothin’ days he was filming Sin City, there was a good couple of decades that had already come in the development cycle.

As early as 1995, James Cameron was ready to make Alita: Battle Angel, but a couple of things got in the way. On top of wanting to let the special effects technology in Hollywood progress to a point where he could give the project his all, there was a special little movie that collided with Cameron’s destiny and knocked him off course: a hopeful little picture called Titanic.

Alita: Battle Angel Hugo stands teary eyed on a tether to Zalem

A Major Character Survived James Cameron's Draft Of Alita: Battle Angel

Around the time that Sin City was hitting theaters, James Cameron was still working on Alita: Battle Angel, and another project that would eventually take precedent over Alita’s story. This work eventually led to an original reel of concept art that told the story of this first planned film, which plays pretty similar to the finished film.

Though one huge difference came in the planned ending for Alita: Battle Angel, as the set piece between Alita and her now robotic boyfriend Hugo trying to make their way up to Zalem ended with his survival! Folks who have seen the film know that the current, more tragic ending to their love affair is what occurred in the final movie, but that wasn’t always the case. You can actually watch this concept art reel on the home video release, as it’s included in the special features for Alita: Battle Angel.

Avatar Neytiri flying on the back of a dragon

If It Wasn’t For Avatar, James Cameron Would Have Stuck With Alita: Battle Angel

Just as there was blame for bringing James Cameron into the fold for Alita: Battle Angel, there was also something that you can point the finger at for his ultimate departure from the manga adaptation: the 2009 blockbuster Avatar. As he was developing both the then titled Battle Angel Alita and the mysterious Project 880 simultaneously for 20th Century Fox, Cameron wasn’t sure which film would be his next.

As history tells us, Project 880 became known as Avatar, and Battle Angel Alita would be left to sit on the shelf for the time being. Initially, James Cameron had intended to follow through with his plans after Avatar was said and done. But then one film became five, and Cameron eventually entrusted Robert Rodriguez to take the world from off of his hands, after an unpaid rewrite convinced him he was the right choice.

Alita: Battle Angel Alita clutching a stuffed animal

Rosa Salazar Beat Out Some Tough Competition To Play Alita

Every director needs a cast to make their vision come to life, and Alita: Battle Angel was no exception. While actor Rosa Salazar eventually won the central part of Alita for her own, there was actually a pretty notable field of competition that was in the running at the same time.

Salazar beat out contemporaries like Spider-Man: Far From Home’s Zendaya, It Follows’ Maika Monroe, and actor/director Bella Thorne to play the role of Alita: Battle Angel’s iconic central character. So while most couldn’t imagine the film without Rosa Salazar’s pitch perfect performance in the role, there was a time we almost saw someone else taking the lead.

Alita: Battle Angel Alita prepares to open a door on an old ship

Alita: Battle Angel’s Protagonist Was Once Human

Most of the trivia we’ve provided has been all about the production path that Alita: Battle Angel has taken through its decades long journey. But there’s actually something that most fans might not know if they aren’t versed with the original Gunnm texts: Alita was actually born as a human.

Part of this backstory is actually adapted into the motion comic prequel that Alita: Battle Angel includes on its home video release, as the world before The Fall is drawn in extended detail. Born on Mars, the battle angel known as Alita was originally named Yoko, before she became a cybernetically enhanced soldier for the URM, and eventually found herself discarded onto Earth as fateful scrap.

Alita: Battle Angel Alita in full armor, on the starting line

The Plan Has Always Called For More Motorball In Alita: Battle Angel Sequels

Back when James Cameron was still the face of Alita: Battle Angel’s production hopes and dreams, he started to lay down the tracks of what the potential franchise would look like. Namely, that there would be multiple films if the fates allowed, and that one of the things that would carry over into the franchise’s next entry was the sport of Motorball.

Just as Alita: Battle Angel’s blueprint laid out a future that would adapt more of the future volumes in the manga through the medium of film, movie 2 was speculated by Cameron to possibly contain more Motorball, once Alita had been established as a character. With the battle angel now established firmly within the worlds of film and fandom, the potential future of the franchise will potentially use this plan to its full advantage.

Alita: Battle Angel Alita takes a fighting stance with Hugo rushing to stop her

Iron City’s Actual Location Was Changed For Alita: Battle Angel

In the world of Alita: Battle Angel’s cinematic incarnation, the fictional city of Iron City exists in the geographic region of Latin America, more specifically in Panama City. While there’s a huge scientific reason as to why Robert Rodriguez moved his film’s version of Iron City closer to the Equator, he also wanted to make the setting as melting pot of diversity as Panama City is.

And yet, in the original manga, Iron City is actually located in Kansas City, MO. If you’d ever wondered why the bar is named Kansas, Gunnm’s original incarnation of Alita’s hometown pretty much says it all. But, with space elevators kind of needing a spot closer to the center of the Earth’s hemispheres to really work, and Robert Rodriguez being pretty creative, history was made yet again.

Alita: Battle Angel Alita gives a thumbs up while eating a chocolate bar

Robert Rodriguez Has A Recipe For Alita’s Favorite Chocolate Bar

Fictional candy is something that can be so tempting, as it can look so delicious, and yet be totally fabricated for the purpose of a major motion picture. And yet, when it came to Alita: Battle Angel’s big scene where Rosa Salazar’s protagonist has her first chocolate bar, Rodriguez actually made the delicious looking confection for that pivotal scene.

Not only that, but Robert Rodriguez has actually detailed the process behind his delicious candy bars in the special features for Alita: Battle Angel’s home video release. All that stands between you and authentic chocolate treats from Iron City is a special mold that gives the bar its Zalem inspired design; and those can easily be found online, if you know where to look.

Alita: Battle Angel Robert Rodriguez watches Christoph Waltz and Rosa Salazar on set

Alita: Battle Angel Is Robert Rodriguez’s First PG-13 Movie

We close our rundown of behind the scenes facts pertaining to Alita: Battle Angel with something that’s pretty interesting considering the career of director Robert Rodriguez. In a filmography that runs the gamut between family fare like the Spy Kids franchise and deep fried adult favorites like From Dusk Til’ Dawn, there are only two ratings that a Rodriguez film had ever earned before Alita: PG or R.

But with Alita: Battle Angel, Robert Rodriguez earned the sweet spot of ratings, the coveted PG-13. Somehow, in a career that’s dabbled in both broad family comedies and strong, stylized violence, there’s never been a film that’s hit the crossroads of the MPA’s ratings system in the man’s legendary career. Which means that, quite possibly, the next and only time he’ll grab that sort of rating again is if Alita: Battle Angel gets that sequel fans really want.

For all of the interesting facts that have laid out the past and present of Alita: Battle Angel, there’s always room for more in the near future. But that would require Alita: Battle Angel 2 to actually go into production, or for more deep dive secrets from the history of the first film’s extensive history to come to light.

In either case, we’d be excited to dig further into Alita: Battle Angel’s secrets, which makes it a good time to revisit the film on Digital HD, 4K UHD, Blu-ray, and DVD. Or, if you’re an HBO subscriber, you can always return to Iron City through their streaming and broadcast platforms. All business is good business if Disney is to be convinced that a sequel is a good idea.

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

Mike Reyes is the Senior Movie Contributor at CinemaBlend, though that title’s more of a guideline really. Passionate about entertainment since grade school, the movies have always held a special place in his life, which explains his current occupation. Mike graduated from Drew University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science, but swore off of running for public office a long time ago. Mike's expertise ranges from James Bond to everything Alita, making for a brilliantly eclectic resume. He fights for the user.