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LIVE 24-SEVEN “ 14


How did you first get involved in Alita? Was it just a standard audition? Was it something that you found out about? 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.” 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.’ 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!


How did you react then when you actually got the part? 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


What was it about him that appealed to you? And did you look for something you could add to him? I think what was so important for Hugo and what I saw right when I first read it, he obviously comes across as this tough, street smart, doesn't-need-anyone type of guy. But, searching deep down into him it was figuring out this guy has such vulnerability. And what I wanted to bring to him was just to add that vulnerable side to him that he tries to hide. I think he hasn't been able to show it to anyone in his life until he finally meets Alita, someone who loves him just the way he is. He doesn't have to put on a face or put up a front.


Did you read the manga? Have you read it since? I didn't even know anything about the film for the first audition, I didn't know what source material to look at, I had no idea what Alita was. Right when I got the role, I watched the anime on YouTube, I believe. I also got a few of the books because I really wanted to see what the world looked like. Robert’s the best at honoring source material, and when you're able to open the book, then look at the screen and see the exact same shot, it's pretty exciting. There’s some pretty cool stuff paying homage to Yukito, but also you have that James Cameron-Robert Rodriguez feel.


I especially love the set design of Iron City. Robert really wanted to make it as multicultural as possible, and there are just the tiniest little details that probably no one would ever see from different cultures around the world. You have Hispanic and there's some French, Italian, Middle Eastern even in the set decorating and the graffiti on the walls. I barely had to act when I was on that set, because we were totally immersed in that space.


HUGO’S A KID WHO'S JUST BEEN TORN APART BY IRON CITY FOR YEARS AND HE'S LEARNED HOW TO ADAPT


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.


In your own words, who is Hugo and sort of how does he fit into the story? 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. 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.


LIVE24-SEVEN.COM


CE L EBRI T Y INTERVI EW K E EAN JOHNSON





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