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‘Alita: Battle Angel’ Star Rosa Salazar on Latinx Representation: ‘Ain’t No Wall Going to Keep Us Out’

Alita: Battle Angel” star Rosa Salazar has a message for politicians who want to build walls.

“We’re here to stay, baby,” she says. “Ain’t no wall going to keep us out.”

Salazar realizes starring in “Alita” comes with a responsibility. “Just being a Latinx actress at the helm of something like this in itself is a message,” she told Variety at the movie’s premiere on Tuesday in Westwood, Calif. “You know I carry my name with me wherever I go. I’m Rosa Bianca Salazar, and… this is the next wave of Latino casting.”

In the film, Salazar plays the titular Alita, a butt-kicking cyborg who awakens in the year 2563 only to find herself amidst the complicated futuristic setting of Iron City. There, she must learn to navigate a pumped-up roller derby sporting league while dealing with a host of issues relating to cyborg bounty hunting.

Producer James Cameron was also in attendance Tuesday night, although the longtime director says he was able to enjoy the premiere in a way that was different than any of his past films. Despite working on “Alita: Battle Angle” for 20 years, Cameron took a back seat on the project after handing over the film’s reigns to director Robert Rodriguez in an effort to focus on the sequels to “Avatar.”

“When I watch a film that I’ve directed, it takes 10 years before I can really watch it kind of as an audience member,” he says. “I could watch ‘Alita’ all day long…especially when I sit next to [Rosa] because she laughs and whoops through the whole movie.”

Rodriguez said taking on the Cameron legacy gave him a taste for the big budget blockbusters that Cameron has become so well known for. Although Rodriguez is known for turning tiny budgets into movie magic – he jokes that the $200 million film would have cost twice as much if Cameron had directed it – he says there’s something special in creating images that no one else can capture.

“I always wondered why [Cameron] didn’t do more realistic stuff again…He was making more and more fantasy with special effects, and now I see why,” he says. “Some of these images, you can’t even see unless you know you’re dreaming.”

Also in attendance was a host of cast members, including Jennifer Connelly, Christoph Waltz, Ed Skrein, Keean Johnson, and Lana Condor as well as singer Dua Lipa and “Machete” actor Danny Trejo.

Alita: Battle Angel” hits theaters Feb. 14.

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