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COLOMBIANA

About The Film
Producer Luc Besson is well known for his films featuring strong, powerful, but emotionally damaged women. The latest entry in this oeuvre is Colombiana, starring Zoe Saldana as an assassin focused on avenging the murder of her parents. "When Luc approached me to star in the movie, I asked him what it was about. He said, ‘It's as if Mathilda (from Léon/The Professional) is all grown up and became an assassin,'” says Saldana. "That was it; I was in. It hit all the beats of a classic revenge film, but it was also compelling and very moving.”

Besson wrote the screenplay with Robert Mark Kamen – "my accomplice since The Fifth Element,” he notes – for the full-on action movie with a feminine hero. "It is a continuation of Nikita and Léon,” he explains. "I have often created bruised feminine characters in disagreement with the society in which they are forced to live. Their everyday life is usually caught between love and violence, which will make each of these women striking heroines. I found it degrading for women to be considered ‘the weaker sex,' and it's important to me to give them beautiful roles. I wanted to investigate and to take as far as possible the psychology of the central figure. Colombiana tells the rich and moving story of a heroine, which still remains rare in action movies.”

To prepare for the role, Saldana says she went to Luc Besson film school. "I watched La Femme Nikita and Léon and The Fifth Element repeatedly, because I wanted to understand what all of these women have in common,” she says. "In the end, what they have in common, of course, is the Luc Besson factor. It's like they're a composition of one individual, but at different stages of their lives. I wanted to see if it was possible to create another extension of this individual, but layering it to make it unique and completely autonomous.”

Saldana says that she has been fortunate to work with filmmakers, like Besson, who take extra care with the female roles in their films. "You're never one-dimensional or ‘the chick in the flick' – they envision and then write female characters that resemble the women in their lives. I get the impression that Luc must have been raised by great women, or maybe it's that he likes to see women represented more appropriately in art.”

Besson further explains that he enjoys turning the sexual politics of action films on its head. "I find it interesting to explore the ‘manliness' in female characters and the femininity in men,” he says. "The same story with a man would not have attracted me.”

The story begins when Cataleya is a young girl, witnessing her parents' murder. "It happens five feet away from where she's standing,” says Saldana. "Something changes within her, and at her tender age, she grows up in quantum leaps.”

Young Cataleya is played by Amandla Stenberg. Saldana says that she collaborated with the young actress. "It was important for me to study Amandla and her mannerisms. She's setting the tone; you see her first in the movie. It was great to watch her – there are so many things we have in common and tapped into about our character. She blew me away. She was so beautiful and so present, but the killer was there, on the prowl. I thought, ‘I better bring my game, because she is bringing it.'”

Young Catelaya is Stenberg's first film role. "She's very strong, and secretly, kind of emotional,” she says of her character.

That strength – and ability to hide her emotions – is what makes her such an effective killer as an adult, says Saldana. "She's focused on one purpose: to find the people who killed her family,” she says. "She's not even thinking about what she's going to do after that; she doesn't take it that far. She just has all these ghosts haunting her and she can't stop. It's a little intimidating; if I were standing next to her, she would make me very nervous because she's so still.”

"Zoe is not only beautiful, she is also intelligent and good-hearted; she is filled with humanity and a great willpower,” says Besson. "She was immediately seduced by her character. Zoe was for me the best choice, because we have not seen yet what she is capable of – even after Avatar, where her incredible acting was covered by special effects.”

Saldana says that her character informed the research she did and how she fights. "She's trained by her uncle, a thug. Her training would be less graceful, more animal and volatile. She's a Molotov cocktail of weapon and fight training, picking up secondhand what her uncle picked up along the way. So I went to all of the experts that have trained me before, for other movies, and explained what I was looking for – here I am, this skinny little thing, talking to these retired veterans, these old ‘Dirty Harry' types, telling them we couldn't do the training they were used to – we had to cut every corner to make her look like a street fighter.”

Cataleya's uncle, Emilio, is played by Cliff Curtis. "He's reluctant to train her, at first,” he says. "He does not want to bring her into that life, and I think he knows that it will end badly. At the same time, it is clear that this is a girl who knows her mind and will not take no for an answer. In the end, he agrees to take her on – on his terms.”

As Cataleya begins taking out her targets one by one, she leaves a trail of bodies that attracts the attention of the FBI – even if they aren't quite sure what they're looking for. Lennie James joins the cast as Agent Ross, an FBI agent who believes he's tracking down a serial killer known as the Tag Killer. For him, this case is the one that has consumed all others and Ross is obsessed with bringing the killer to justice.

"It's a chase story, but an unusual one,” says James. "From my character's point of view, it's a story of a cop chasing a serial killer. But Catelaya is not your typical killer, and Ross is not the typical FBI agent. Everything I needed to play him was right there in the script – it was just a matter of trying to figure out how he thinks.”

Jordi Molla plays Marco, a chief lieutenant to Don Luis – the mob boss who ordered the murder of Cataleya's parents. "Jordi is a very subtle actor – every take he does is different,” Megaton notes. "It's easy to see why he's so famous in Spain – he's a very good actor.”

Michael Vartan rounds out the cast as Danny, Cat's sometime boyfriend. But he knows nothing about her – not even her real name. (All he knows is that she's a knockout.) "He's really falling for her and wants to know more about her,” Vartan explains.

But that innocent curiosity becomes dangerous for Cat – letting her guard down for only a moment could become her undoing. "He takes her picture – an innocent picture – that unintentionally puts the many people chasing her on her trail.”

Directing the film is Olivier Megaton, who previously directed Transporter 3 for Besson. Saldana says he brought just the right mix of story and action to Colombiana. "I'd seen a film called Exit that Olivier directed, and I was blown away by the way his brain perceives story. He always had a strong opinion – and so did I – but we always were able to find common ground because we had a great trust and respect for each other.”

"Colombiana is an action movie beginning to end, but there's also huge, emotional drama,” says Megaton. "It's a story of a little girl who becomes a killer, motivated only by revenge – and then becomes more human again, only to discover that she is no longer a little girl.”

To make the film, Megaton commandeered a small, tight, Paris-based crew that traveled to the fi

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