In March, actor Michelle Rodriguez moved to Venice with her cats Hemingway and Coco, and then sped off to promote Furious 7 in Beijing. "I don't even have couches," she sighs, though she does have a bed that hangs from the ceiling with ropes. "It's great for a nun, I guess, but you can't get any traction — you'll be slamming against the wall!"
Rodriguez came home for the film's premiere at the TCL Chinese Theatre and slid into a romantic off-the-shoulder burgundy gown that Kate Winslet could have worn in Titanic — an outfit miles away from the bra top and white track pants she wore to the premiere of The Fast and the Furious 14 years ago. Furious 7 opened to $147 million, the biggest April hit in history.
"I just got an agent for the first time in five years," Rodriguez says. Which puts her in the curious position of being more Hollywood than ever — at the moment she ditched Hollywood for the beach.
"I had to leave to save my liver from permanent damage," she jokes. "Too much activity, too many lonely people." She adds, "Every human working today needs to have a disclaimer. God knows how many mistakes I've made!"
Venice is a good fit. Rodriguez swims and suns and glides up to Gjelina on Abbot Kinney on her electric bike. "I'm lazy," she laughs. "I'm not in a hustling mode anymore."
The waiters all know her. She's obsessed with Gjelina's kale salad, which, like a woman who wants it all, she pairs with sides of prosciutto and bone marrow.
"This is my 'hood, man. Everybody's smiling. Even the gangsters are, like, 'Gimme a pound!'" she beams. It's a casual scene that gets transplanted to Burning Man, where Rodriguez goes every year she's not filming. She cruises across the salt flat on a Segway, in leather pants with a lightsaber. "I'm grimy," she says. "It's very Mad Max."
Back in Venice, she says, "Clean-cut isn't good for creative types, that's for sure." And now that the race to Furious 7 is over, this is the right setting to figure out what she wants to do next.
"I haven't been the lead in a movie since Girlfight," Rodriguez says of her first film. "I think it's because I'm a picky bitch." That's worked out well: Nearly every movie on her résumé is a hit. She was even in Avatar, the biggest blockbuster of all time. Globally, her flicks have made $6 billion — more than those of either the Rock or Vin Diesel, her Furious co-stars.
But Rodriguez is ready to try something even harder than, say, driving a car out of an airplane. Like comedy. Or writing her own script.
"You can't expect guys to dream for you," she says. "Guys like Jim Cameron, they're around strong women, so they take it as a normal thing. But don't expect the other 75 percent of writers in Hollywood to be the same way. They're just dudes who are writing about their dream. They have a legacy they want to leave before they die, and that's their business. You have to do it yourself."
Her dream would team her up with actresses she respects: Reese Witherspoon, Sandra Bullock, Zoe Saldana. "It's easy for me to work with other girls because I'm a tomboy and I don't want the guy, your boyfriend — I'm not interested in looking better than you, so don't worry," Rodriguez says with a laugh. "Fail or win, whatever it is, I need to go do stuff."
Her inner hustler, the energy that turned a self-described "21-year-old little shit from New Jersey" into a bankable worldwide star, is revving its engine. Watch out, Venice.
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