Warning: Major spoilers follow for "Avengers: Infinity War." If you're not among the moviegoers who saw the film during its record-breaking opening weekend, but still plan to see it, you may want to stop reading now.
In the months leading up to the release of "Avengers: Infinity War," Marvel had been billing the superhero bonanza as something of an end point for many of the franchise's current story lines. And many fans read that one way: Not everyone would make it out alive.
Still, there's a moment deep into the drama that delivers one of the biggest shocks of the film: Ultra-villain Thanos (Josh Brolin) sacrificing his own daughter, Gamora (Zoe Saldana) — one of the Guardians of the Galaxy and more than just a friend to Peter "Star-Lord" Quill (Chris Pratt) — to retrieve the soul stone, and therefore coming that much closer to completing his mission of wiping out half the universe.
Though "Infinity War" ultimately leaves the fate of many of heroes up in the air (including new arrivals to the Marvel Cinematic Universe like Black Panther, Spider-Man and Doctor Strange), Gamora's death feels more … permanent.
The Times caught up with Saldana on the film's opening day to talk endings, "Avatar" and playing against Brolin.
How did it feel watching "Infinity War" for the first time? Were you surprised by anything?
I was surprised by all the other stories that were not a part of the story that I shot. A lot of Gamora's involvement in this whole event takes place with certain characters [namely, the Guardians of the Galaxy], so obviously, she would be completely impervious to whatever is going on outside of that. So, for me as an actress, I was kind of like that as well.
But I knew [about] and I was very happy with the twist that they were doing. I just kept asking, "OK, am I going to...are you guys going to, you know...is Gamora going to...?" [Laughs] Which I think is the question so many actors [in the film] were having anyway.
How did you first find out about Gamora's fate? When did you read that script?
I learned very early on. The producers called me and they told me. And of course there's a shock to your system. I'm so grateful, this run has been amazing, but you're so not even ready for that. But then once some of the things were discussed, I understood that it just makes sense. In order for you to understand the degree of evil that lies within the core of Thanos, you have to circle in on his own children. So I completely understood. I loved being a part of this unforgettable journey.
Who else knew, and who did you talk to about it?
I think my husband and that's it [Laughs]. In the cast, they all knew. We all read both scripts. And even though we know that there are changes being made constantly, there were [some] solid, solid events that had everything to do with plot.
In many ways, the relationship between Thanos and Gamora becomes the emotional center of "Infinity War." What was it like working with Josh Brolin?
If I'm absolutely honest, it was a little… I mean he is a young man, he's only like 10 years older than I am. And he's one of the original "Goonies," so...[Laughs] That is such a staple of my childhood, so there was a part of me that was child-like excited and then also another part of me going in my mind like, "My dad's handsome!" [Laughs] Because it is Josh Brolin. But there's so much respect for his journey and how he's made certain choices for himself.
He's thought really hard to separate himself from being a child star and the son of famous parents. He's created his own journey for himself. I really admire him. This is a man that has overcome adversity, and he stands as a true gentleman, a professional in his craft, superinvested and committed.
Gamora asks Star-Lord to kill her rather than let Thanos take her. Did she really expect Star-Lord to deliver on his promise?
Yes, of course. If he loves her. He tends to do what she says a lot. [Laughs]
I did like that emotional beat between Star-Lord and Gamora, because in the "Guardians" world, she's the Abbott to his Costello. He's such a humorous character that lives off of telling everyone that he doesn't take anything seriously. And she's the exact opposite: She's uptight, she's grumpy. So we get to see this kind of levity but also this sincere and genuine commitment that they have for each other that we haven't seen in the other movies.
I love the fact that ["Guardians of the Galaxy" director] James Gunn has always protected Gamora and Quill's relationship. But I thought it was really wonderful for audiences to see [in "Infinity War"] that the show that they put on [when other people are around] is not really what happens behind closed doors. That they really love each other, that they really listen to each other. That he actually is capable of making a promise and keeping it.
Can you tell us anything about whether Gamora will be making an appearance in the "Infinity War" follow-up due next year?
I don't know. [Laughs] For the sake of the devoted fans out there — we don't want to rob them of an amazing experience. It's all for them that we do what we do and we also protect what we do.
Was it sad to say goodbye to Marvel after all these years?
Yes and no. It was sad, of course, because I think that we all suffer from FOMO. There is a fear always of missing out, but I'm so happy that I got to play a part in the Marvel Universe, and I also got to play a character that — it has been brought to my attention — is seen as a great role model for young women. And also for young boys. I live for that, that's why I do what I do. So I guess I'm going to cry all the way to "Avatar," you know?
Speaking of, how far into production is "Avatar 2" [due for release in 2020], and how many sequels will there be?
We are just about finishing motion capture production on the [second and third] movies, and then after that, they go straight into pre-production for the live-action part that will shoot for six months in New Zealand. So we're kind of only halfway done. [Laughs] It's wonderful. We're not complaining. We get to drive every day to Manhattan Beach and go to Pandora with our favorite director and my most favorite role model in this town.
I know I can speak for Sam Worthington right now, we are exhilarated — we get to be up against Sigourney Weaver and Stephen Lang, and we're working with an amazing cast who are finally getting the opportunity to work with James Cameron. We are having a lot of fun.
Do you have any comment on James Cameron's comment about Marvel fatigue?
No. [Laughs] My advice for people is to read full articles and not just believe a soundbite. Because usually, soundbites are very mean-spirited and they're just done for the intention of getting more likes and more views — it's not really with the intention of educating and informing the public. So for all those educated intellectuals out there that like to stay current with news, just read the full article and you will understand where James Cameron was coming from. I know that all the Marvel producers did because they read it.