BY Duane Wells

December 19 2009 2:25 AM ET

In this film you play Grace, this tough, hard-edged botanist who
doesn’t seem to suffer fools gladly. Describe Grace’s journey in the
film.

I think when you meet Grace she’s hoping to have Jake’s
brother Tommy, who’s a very, very promising scientist, arrive and help
her crack this mystery about Pandora so she can get the company ... or the
corporation ... to stop mining and protect this world that she loves so
much. Then it turns out that Tommy’s dead and been replaced by this
ex-marine Jake [Sam Worthington] who clearly doesn’t have a scientific
bone in his body, and I think she’s furious.

And so in the
course of the story ... [Grace] gets thrown together with Jake again and
again and I think they both fall in love with Pandora. And in the end
[Jake] really ends up teaching Grace how to fight because she’s in this
sort of holding pattern — she can’t leave Pandora, but she’s continuing
to work for this company she hates.

Where would you place Grace in the spectrum of strong female roles you’re portrayed?

Well,
I would think pretty close to Dian Fossey [Gorillas in the Mist]
because Dian could be very, very tough on people and tough on herself,
and I think Grace is the same way.

Your costars Sam
Worthington and Zoe Saldana both had to train almost nonstop because
of the physical demands of their respective roles in Avatar. Did you
have to train equally as intensively for the scenes in the film when
you‘re in avatar mode?

No, I didn’t. I don’t have to do quite as much as Sam and Zoe ... flying and swooping and all that stuff.

So you still stay in pretty good shape naturally then?
I
try to. I have to work a little bit harder than I used to, but I like
being physical. I like to hike and swim and all that stuff, so it
wasn’t that difficult.

Speaking of your costar Sam Worthington — he has been tapped to become one of the next big things in Hollywood
on the heels of his two major blockbuster films this year. What did you
think of working with him and James Cameron’s choice to cast him in
this film?

They worked so well together. I think what Sam brings
is he’s so mischievous and sweet and merry and warm ... there’s something
so lovable about him. And when you see him as Jake, he just takes all of
the starch out of the hero and just is this very magnetic person that
you root for.

Jim, I think, had to fight to give him the part
because he was completely unknown, and I think he made a wonderful
choice. And Sam worked so hard. I think he’s in every frame of this
bloody movie, and when I saw it I couldn’t take my eyes off him.














Because
of your roles in films like Alien and now Avatar, you’ve been called
an icon of the sci-fi genre — sort of the queen of sci-fi, if you will.
What do you think about that designation?


I don’t really think about it. [Laughs] I mean, I sort of blame Ridley Scott and Jim Cameron for all of that. [Laughs]



You
know, Ridley loves women and respects women, and I think he made Alien
what it was [because] he let Ripley just be a person. He set it up so
that with Ripley all I had to do was just be. Most women who play
action figures have to wear tiny little clothes and all this other
stuff. All I had to do was be an intelligent, breathing, feeling entity,
and he captured it.

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