Zoe Saldana is making the transition from B movies to A-list stardom. Come on over and—just this once—she'll tell you all about it.
This feature originally appeared in Complex's April/May 2005 issue.
Any bomb expert will tell you that the second before a device is going to explode—the very instant the wrong wire has been cut, the clock runsout or the trigger flipped—there’s a strange moment of calm. And, though it’s hard to define, most will tell you there’s something exciting in that moment, a rush that only they know for having witnessed it firsthand. To some degree, that’s what it’s like sitting down with Zoe Saldana. Sure, her name might not be familiar to you yet, but with credits including major roles in The Terminal, Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl, Drumline and Crossroads, she’s clearly about to blow up herself.
But take note: Not only will her name soon join the ranks of Hollywood elite, this may well be the only interview of hers you’re likely to read. “I’m sorry,” she says the second the tape recorder is turned on. “I hate these things. I think of them as like a job interview. I go through all those same emotions as you might in that situation and either I talk too much,or I say the wrong things, or I don’t speak enough. If I had my way, this would be the last one I ever do. I don’t get off on the whole celebrity thing—and seeing my pictures on magazine covers does nothing for me.”
Um, so, this is just a guess, but you’re not an E! channel watcher, are you?
No. I love Court TV, though. Forensic Files, City Confidential on A&E, I love things like that. Oh and right now I’m really hooked on Pornucopia—you know those late-night sex shows on HBO. It’s so interesting.
Any of it turn you on?
It turns on my mind. I mean, well, yeah, I guess it does stimulate me physically.
Would you ever get involved in any of what you see?
I don’t know. Maybe I could do like a sex cooking class or something. Knowledge is really what turns me on, like did you know that Chihuahuas have a psychological syndrome in which they adjust their size to match what they see? In their own heads they can be as small as a coffee cup or as big as you, it all depends on what they’re facing. That’s why they’re such little shits; they have this syndrome that gives them delusions of grandeur. I was so turned on by that. Knowledge is sexy.
Your main training was as a ballet dancer. Let’s talk about male dancers.
Love them. Love to hate them. They were the first crushes in my life...
I could do like a sex cooking class or something. Knowledge is really what turns me on.
...And you got to see what they were working with.
Yeah, but it’s not for you. Well, sometimes. Most of the time. That’s kind of frustrating.
Are they hung like mules or is it just the pants?
I don’t know. I’m not really a penis observer. I don’t hate the penis. Okay, I do actually. But I don’t remember them. What I do know is that a dancer’s body, whether it be male or female, is the most beautiful thing on the earth.
Ashton Kutcher plays your love interest in your next movie, GuessWho? What was it like kissing him?
Let’s see, what was it like kissing Ashton? It was like nothing. You’re given direction, you stand on your marks, they say action, you start making out with your boy, the director says cut, you step back, laugh at each other again. Maybe under different circumstancesit could be sexy, but in that environment it’s anything but a turn-on.
With him around, though, were the paparazzi everywhere?
Yeah, but I’m not that accustomed to it, so it wouldn’t even occur to me what they were about. I don’t know what I thought the guy parked across the street with the three-foot telescoping lens was up to, but because that’s not my life, paparazzi wouldn’t be my first guess.
Who of your many costars has attracted the most paparazzi?
I’d say Britney. She gets stalked 24/7 in a way I can’t even imagine. I think being around that is part of what makes me so wary of fame and interviews and attention and giving up privacy.
Guess Who? is a modern version of the controversial 1967 film Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner. Have you ever brought somebody home who shocked your parents?
Oh my God, yeah. I’ve brought some weirdos home. It got to the point where they’d just ignore me. I’d be like, “Mom, this is so-and-so,”and she wouldn’t even react. For starters, I’m very multicultural when it comes to race. I’ve had everything in my home, so at this point I guess with my mom it’s just whether they have track marks on their arm or not, or if they’re missing any teeth. Even then, toothless, they still might be welcome, it’s a matter of how they came to it; if it were a birth defect I think that’d be okay. My parents would deal with it.
I’ve run around naked in the East Village. I don’t even remember doing it. It wasn't that long ago, either.
So would Ashton be your type?
I don’t know. I never thought about it that way. He would definitely be the kind of guy I’d call and go out with with a whole bunch of people. He has really good energy. I make friends with most people I’m in movies with.
How many of these people have you met out for a drink, post-filming? You’ve worked with Bernie Mac, Steven Spielberg, Jerry Bruckheimer, Tom Hanks, Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Nelly and Sisqó.
I don’t think any of these people live in New York, but some of them call me when they’re in town, absolutely. Tom and I have lunch all the time. Jerry sends for me in his private jet, but I’d just as soon fly coach. Spielberg, I golf with him in Texas. For real, though, I definitely keep in touch with a lot of them, especially because we have friends in common.
Early on in your career you were stuck doing bad movies. Now it seems like you’re mostly in these massive star-studded blockbusters. What was that transition like?
I’ve grown so much. I’m not a hypocrite. Those were all choices I’ve made. And once I agree to do them, once I say “yes,” I don’t ever regret what I do, so I don’t really see any one as being better than another.
But surely there’s a difference between acting across from Sisqó and Tom Hanks.
I don’t know, it was just as amazing doing Crossroads as it was working with Spielberg. I’m sorry, I tend to be defensive about that because I get so many shitters. People go, “Aren’t you happy you did Terminal and not another Crossroads?” And I just want to go, Yeah, but go fuck yourself.
Currently you’re working on a movie called Dirty Deeds. What can you tell us about that?
It’s about this high school tradition in this small town where you have to complete a list of dirty deeds before homecoming. I’m not going to give away the good ones, but some of the simpler ones are “drink a beer in front of a cop” or “steal your mom’s underwear.”
So what’s the dirtiest deed you’ve done in real life?
I’ve run around naked in the East Village. I don’t even remember doing it. Maybe I purposely blocked it out of my mind. Me and a group of friends were getting a little dare happy, and after we’d done every single possible challenge we could think of we decided to take off all of our clothes in the middle of November and run around the block. It wasn’t that long ago, either. I think I was 20.
Thank God the Paparazzi hadn't taken interest in you yet. Can you imagine?
ADDITIONAL CREDITS: (STYLING) Lisa Von Weise/Katy Barker. (HAIR) Andre Rodman. (MAKEUP) Nick Barose. COVER IMAGE: Dress by Jennifer Nicholson / garters by La Perla / stockings by Victoria's Secret. FIRST IMAGE: Dress by Jennifer Nicholson / ring is Saldana's own. SECOND IMAGE: Dress by Tufi Duek / stockings by Fogal. THIRD IMAGE: Top by Tufi Duek / bottom by J. Lo / necklace by Soledad. FOURTH IMAGE: Dress by Jennifer Nicholson / shoes by Tufi Duek. FIFTH IMAGE: Dress by Jennifer Nicholson / garters by La Perla / stockings by Victoria's Secret / shoes by Agent Provocateur. SIXTH IMAGE: Dress by Sass & Bide / boots by Michel Vivien / jewelry courtesy of Objets Du Desir Jewelry Gallery.