Alita: Battle Angel represents a landmark collaboration between two of the best filmmakers working today. Originated (and produced) by James Cameron, the movie has Robert Rodriguez writing and directing a story that adapts Yukito Kishiro’s beloved Manga. In a devastated future world, society is split between the haves, who exist on the shining city of Zalem, floating above the Earth’s surface, and the have-nots, who must eke out a hardscrabble living in the Iron City, a place where Zalem dumps its garbage. It’s here that cyborg scientist Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz) discovers the frame of a mechanoid young woman. As Alita (Rosa Salazar) figures out who she really is and what she’s meant for, the world will never be the same again.
Keean Johnson plays Hugo, the young man who becomes an important part of Alita’s life.
Struggling with his own quest to better his life, Hugo has the street smarts to help her cope with a confusing world but might not be as prepared as he thinks for everything that surrounds Alita. Johnson makes his film debut Battle Angel, and here talks working with Robert Rodriguez after being a fan of his previous movies, the staggering scale of the sets and getting to do some of his own stunts…
Filmy Sansaar – How did you first get involved in Alita? Was it just a standard audition? Was it something that you found out about?
Keean Johnson – I first heard about this from my agent in December of 2015 and I just got called to go in. I was such a huge fan of both James Cameron and Robert Rodriquez. I thought, ‘wow, this is pretty big time. I would love to just have the opportunity to audition for it!’ I went in, read for the role. And I didn’t hear anything for three or four months until I got a call from my manager. They said, “Robert really likes your tape.” And they told me he’d like to meet me. I met with Robert the first time, and I was so incredibly nervous. He seemed to think that I did a good job despite that. Then I came in for a second meeting with Robert and this time I thought, ‘okay, I met the guy. Now I can really show him without being nervous at all.’ And the second audition went really great. A month later I was told I’d go to Austin, and going to test for the role with Rosa, me amongst four or five other guys. So, I auditioned. I put my best foot forward. Rosa and I hit it off right away, and I think Robert and I just clicked and it worked out: I was in Alita!
Filmy Sansaar – How did you react then when you actually got the part?
Keean Johnson – I had to wait for 36 days, I think. The most agonizing email refreshing, every hour on the hour. I got an email from Robert and the subject said, “Guess What?” and then in the body was a photo of Yukito Kishiro’s Alita and it was the moment where Hugo is kissed by Alita. And it was just a photo that was it. I sent it to my team and they said, “Well we actually haven’t heard yet, we’re sure this is a yes, but we’re going to call right now.” Finally, I got the call and it was definitely a very intense milestone moment. I just started packing my bags and was on a flight within five or six days, ready to work for five months.
Filmy Sansaar – In your own words, who is Hugo and sort of how does he fit into the story?
Keean Johnson – Hugo’s a kid who’s just been torn apart by Iron City for years and he’s learned how to adapt, how to actually thrive there. But all he wants to do is get out and when he meets Alita, he sees a moment where this place becomes interesting for once. I think that she metaphorically helps him to learn who he is or who he wants to be. He’s someone who’s learned from a very young age that no one’s going to hand him anything and he’s gotta get everything himself. And he sometimes he has to do things that he’s not particularly proud of, but it’s all for what he thinks is the greater good.
Saajan Verma “Sanjay” is a Founder of FilmySansaar.com. He has worked for many producers and directors in Indian Film Industry. He is a good Hindi writer and his interest towards film industry has leaded to startFilmySansaar.com. Sanjay is a cool guy from small town landed at Mumbai and working in various fields in Bollywood. He has good knowledge in all the sections on film making, graphic designing and media production.
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