Laz Alonso gave up a career on Wall Street to follow his dream of becoming an actor. With a memorable turn as the villain in Fast & Furious, the biggest opening ever for Universal Pictures, he clearly made the right decision. Next up for Laz is a role in the highly anticipated sci-fi adventure Avatar, written and directed by James Cameron. Even though the script is so guarded and under lock-and-key that he cannot speak about the plot at all, he did take some time, during a phone interview this past Friday, to spill some details about what it was like to audition for and work with Cameron, and what it was like filming something that is like no one has ever seen before.
Check out what he had to say below…
How did you get involved with Avatar?
I got a call. Supposedly, Jim Cameron was seeing every actor in the world for it, and I was like, “If he’s seeing everybody, it can’t be so bad. At least I know that he doesn’t have one thing stuck in his head.” They were pretty open to ethnicity. I went in, in June of ‘06, and I didn’t hear anything until November. I had forgotten about Avatar and then, all of a sudden, I got a call from my agent, who said, “You’re one of three, and you’re his top choice, so you’ve gotta go in and nail it.” I actually did my final test with Jim manning the camera. The casting director was reading the scene with me while Jim was directing me, and we shot some big scenes. We shot one of my most emotional moments of the film. I literally played with Jim Cameron for two hours. When I left there, I was like, “Even if I don’t get it, I had so much fun. I was in the room with Jim Cameron and he was directing me. I already got the role.” Sure enough, when we finished, he said, “Listen, man, I have to see two other people today, so I’m not going to say yes, but we’re going to move forward with this.”
Had you gotten to read the script, by that point?
He only gave me the scenes that he wanted me to read. I didn’t have a chance to look at the script and really arc out the character, so I had to just be instinctual with it. After the audition, he said, “Go upstairs and sign out the script.” I literally had to give them my ID, and there was this whole process where I signed all these legal documents. He said, “Here’s my home number and here’s my cell number. As soon as you finish reading it, call me. I don’t care what time of the day or night it is. I want to know what you think of it, and if it’s something that you like.” And, I was thinking to myself, “Are you freakin’ kidding me? You’re joking right? Damn, I’ve got James Cameron’s home number!” It reminded me of that episode of Entourage, when Vinnie Chase got Aquaman. It was a surreal moment for me, and it’s a moment that I’ll never forget.
Did you actually call and tell him what you thought of it?
I called him and told him how much I loved the script. I asked for his email address and I sent him a breakdown of the character, the arc, his motivations and his history. I just made this whole character outline. And, he was like, “Listen, man, you already have the part, but this work you’ve done is amazing.”
What can you say about the film and who you play in it?
Unfortunately, I can’t say anything because that was part of what we signed. None of us are allowed to talk at all about the script or what the story is about. All I can say is that the technology is something that no one has ever seen or used before. We were being filmed by 197 cameras, simultaneously, in real time. It was something that took two and a half years to do, and when you see it this December, you’re going to know why it took that long. It is just unrivaled by anything that my eyes have ever seen in cinema. It blew me away, when I saw some of the finished scenes.
How does it affect your performance when you’re dealing with all of that technical stuff going on?
It affects the beginning and the end of the day because there’s a huge process that you have to do. It literally takes over an hour to prepare and get synced in with the technology that they were using, in addition to make-up and all the other stuff you have to do. There’s a whole ritual that takes place, but once you get on set with Jim, you literally get transported into a different place. Once you’re there, you’re there, and you don’t leave for the next 15 hours, until you wrap. Working with him, you work long hours, but then you get to set the next morning and he’s cut the scene that you did the day before, and you realize that he never got any sleep. You’re a foot soldier and this guy is at war, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, when he finds something that he’s passionate about, and he’s passionate about this movie. That’s why I know the movie is going to do well.
How does it feel to think about the fact that, not only are you in one of the most anticipated films of the year, but it’s also one of the most anticipated sci-fi films of the last decade?
I believe in my heart that Avatar is going to be the revolutionary sci-fi movie for this generation, in this era. I am always the guy who doesn’t like to oversell because, in this business, you can get so excited about something and, if it doesn’t pan out, you have egg on your face. But, this is one movie that I feel very, very confident selling, standing at the top of a mountain and screaming at the top of my lungs how great this movie is, because I’ve seen it with my own two eyes.
So there you have it. Very few details, but quite a bit of hype for the film. Hopefully it will live up to expectations!
What to you think of what Alonso said about Avatar? Does it get you more excited for the film?
More: Avatar Movie Review