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ZOE SALDANA - MIDAS TOUCH

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Zoe Saldana - Midas Touch

By Frank Ariveso

 Zoe Saldana breathes a huge sigh of relief at the mention of the upcoming third Guardians of the Galaxy movie, which director James Gunn only revealed the day before. “It’s the greatest,” she squeals. “To be promoting the second, knowing there’s going to be a third, it’s an amazing validation.” Like there was ever any doubt. Guardians of the Galaxy was one of the highest grossing movies of 2014, bringing in nearly a whopping $800 million at
the box office. And the follow-up has grossed even more topping $859 million at the time of this writing. Plus, there’s the Saldana Midas touch. With Guardians, Avatar and Star Trek, she’s part of the biggest sci-fi franchises known to man. Where Zoe Saldana goes, big returns follow. But now a married mom of three young boys, the actress is beginning to question her intergalactic leanings. Promoting the Marvel blockbuster, which sees her lethal weapon character, Gamora reteam with Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill and Bradley Cooper’s Rocket to save the universe from another gargantuan threat, Zoe admits it might be time to come down to earth. And recent roles in Ben Affleck’s gangster saga, Live by Night, are testament to this change in direction. That doesn’t mean Saldana’s done with kicking butt. Open and warm, the 38-year-old chats about her initial reservations over the latest Guardians epic and explains her fears of “one hit wonders.” She also chats motherhood, balancing it all, her partnership with artist husband Marco Perego and why her attitude toward men has drastically changed. Saldana lives in LA with Perego and their twin boys, Cy and Bowie, 2, and two-month-old, Zen.

STRIPLV:  Chris Pratt talked to me about the difference in attitude on set from the first to the second movie, when everyone expected you to fail to the pressure that’s on now because of the huge success. How was it for you?

SALDANA:  I was very nervous. I was nervous because sequels can be dangerous. And we all were feeling the pressure. I think the first couple of days, we all had moments of, “Can we do this again?” “What was the secret ingredient? Do you know, does anyone? Should we just leave it there, not mess with it?” There were a lot of nerves. And we probably should have been coming back really cocky, slapping each other’s backs. When something hits so well, how can you go better? Could we go better? That was scary. This danger of throwing away what we had just for another roll of the dice. The stakes were huge. Are huge. And once we were in it, all that fear melted away. James was in charge, and his vision was present and trustworthy, and I just hopped on the ride and went with it. So it was very different from the first. Way different. Different planet, different.

STRIPLV:  Fans really loved Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2.

SALDANA:  The key word here is “more.” More stunts, more action, a lot more jokes. Which is saying something because there was a lot in there, to begin with. We knew their personalities so much more; we could grow with them, laugh with them. There’s more love, more affection. More tears. Just everything was heightened and bettered; I didn’t know this was possible because the first was such a beautiful, perfect package of originality and heart. James Gunn, never underestimate this man because he is the best of the best.

STRIPLV:  I like where you took Gamora.

SALDANA:  She’s come a long way from the first movie. Which is impressive as it takes off basically right after it ends. She was an escape artist, always had one foot out the door before, that was her primary concern at all times, that’s how she lived her life. Until she found a core and a reason to be within this unusual family and Gamora is the moral center, she’s the one who keeps them together. The matriarch. Much like, very similar to my role within this group. It’s my lot in life, to wrangle these guys, keep them disciplined. She makes out as she hates it, but really, she’s happy. She belongs, which is a first for her.

STRIPLV:  Speaking of family, things get heated with Gamora and Nebula, which fans including myself were really looking forward to seeing.

SALDANA:  Me too, I was super excited to see how Gamora and Nebula’s relationship played out because there’s a lot going on there. Sisters with a very fractious bond in that they despise each other, hate everything the other represents and they can also seriously throw down. They’re matched, and we get to dive into their history, discover the root of their demons, discover why they are the way they are. But instead of catty remarks and some hair-pulling, they try to hurt each other mercilessly and kill each other. Which isn’t that how sisters behave? (Laughs)

STRIPLV:  Did Gamora’s roles as a mom feel comparable to your own at home, now that you have three little ones?

SALDANA:  Yes, I can see that. But Gamora has big big stupid kids; I have gorgeous little infants who are far better behaved. And that’s saying something. I have two-year-old twins who like to say no, a lot.

STRIPLV:  How is life with such a young family?

SALDANA:  I haven’t slept in two years. (Laughs) I barely have one eye open right now. It’s wonderful, more than I could have wished for but it’s also fucking hard. You know, the twins, they’re completely in sync. They eat at the same time, they poop at the same time, two for the price of one. The little one is on his own schedule, it’s challenging, and I’m loving the challenge and loving the love. But it’s exhausting, and I’ve never known this kind of exhaustion.

STRIPLV:  You’ve got maybe a dozen movies in the pipeline, how do you do it all? Most people would crack up.

SALDANA:  I am in a very fortunate, lucky position because there are so many mothers and fathers who are doing it by themselves and succeeding and triumphing. My family are amazing, huge support system, we have great people working with us, we have all that to help us achieve our goals and dreams, which I want to be this example to my kids of never letting go of your dreams. The people who do it without support, without family, they are heroes. They are ultimate, fighting superheroes. My husband is my guiding star. He makes it happen for me. While I’m committed to these jobs, he flies out with the boys to wherever I am, flies back, flies forth, he has made it so doable and so comfortable, and I’m blessed to have him on this journey. It’s all about planning. And it’s about both of our careers because yes, right now I have certain commitments but then it’s about laying mine aside, and now it’s Marco’s turn, and I’ll travel and go, do whatever is necessary to make things smoother for him and his work. It’s about meticulous planning and understanding and having that comfort that both of us have each other’s back. That’s what you do when you’re in a partnership.

STRIPLV:  How do the twins find life on set? Do they understand what’s happening? Do they get it?

SALDANA:  They do. More than I thought they would. When Mommy’s green, that means she’s going to work. They understand Gamora is work. I say to them, I have to go to work and they go, “Mommy Gamora, Mommy go green. Mommy Hulk.” They perk up.

STRIPLV:  So they think you’re the Hulk?

SALDANA:  They love the Hulk. For some reason, they’ve connected with him. We’re doing Avengers now, and they see Mark (Ruffalo), and in their logic, they see green, and they think Gamora and Hulk are from the same family. And now when I raise my voice, it’s “Mommy going Hulk.”

STRIPLV:  Doesn’t that scare them because Hulk is scary?

SALDANA:  I thought it would. (Laughs) I thought I could use it to my advantage, but I think they find it funny more than threatening.

STRIPLV:  Being exposed to this side of blockbuster and filmmaking, it’ll be so blasé to them.

SALDANA:  I hope not. There’s still this feeling of enchantment which I’m glad it hasn’t become boring and normalized for them because I don’t want to start them on that foot. I’d hate for what they see on film sets between the make-up and costumes, for that to burst their imagination bubble and interfere with that sense of wonder.

STRIPLV:  You’re known for your actions roles, but we’re seeing you more and more in more human dramas like Live by Night, and I Kill Giants. Is that an intentional move?

SALDANA:  I want to portray more vulnerability, human vulnerability. I need to come back to earth more often; I feel like I’m always floating in space. I’ve been there for well over a decade. And loved every minute. Action, sci-fi that has been my zone and will stay that way. But it might be nice to bask in the everyday. Be in the norm. Saying that it’s hugely important to me to play these kick ass, sci-fi roles as an example for young women because there still aren’t that many parts in that genre for females who aren’t a romantic foil. That’s massively important to who I am as an actor. I need to do what I can in that respect because as a young girl watching myself; I was so hungry for that representation. I wanted to see girls kick butt and now, I get to kick butt and I want
to continue kicking butt, not only for myself but for them. I like setting that example. I’ll never stop.

STRIPLV:  Has motherhood changed how you tailor your choices?

SALDANA: My attitude has done a total 180 when it comes to the choices that I make and the change in my life, my sons, my husband, has something to do with it. I’m surrounded by the greatest men. I’ve got a houseful of men, which is the complete opposite to my upbringing, all females. I feel like I’m learning so much about men now that I never knew before being surrounded by them. And especially at this initial stage of development. My husband, his approach, and outlook on life is so beautiful and worldly and not sexist in the least, the total opposite. My boys are my light. Before that, I think my approach came from my uncomfortableness in a way, always this need to be better (than a man), to beat them and that bred this desire to be strong and aggressive, strong to me was aggressive and intense. But now that I’m raising men, all men, which I never really considered would happen, with a wonderful man, it’s made me readdress my perspective, that perhaps it doesn’t always have to be so emotionally and physically forceful. Strength comes in many forms; strength comes in quiet, strength comes in physiological resilience. I’ll always love to kick ass, that will never change, but there can be varying shades.

STRIPLV:  How is Avatar 2 going?

SALDANA:  Production started in August. Fabulous things are worth the wait, and knowing what James is capable of, it is worth the wait. James loves this story, he loves these characters but most of all, he adores the fans. He does it for them and wants to deliver the absolute utmost to them. And I’m enjoying going back to Pandora.

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