Since her breakout role in 2017’s Baby Driver, Eiza Gonzalez has had little time to spare. With a recent string of big-budget movies such as Bloodshot, Hobbs and Shaw, Alita: Battle Angel and the upcoming Godzilla vs. Kong, the Mexican-born actor is showing no signs of slowing down, even after fracturing her clavicle on the set of Bloodshot. Oddly enough, her Bloodshot character, KT, has a clavicle-mounted respirator that grants her immunity from inhalants as well as the ability to breathe underwater.
Aside from her onscreen ability that includes an adeptness at action, Gonzalez’s unique brand of loyalty is turning heads off-camera, something Robert Rodriguez can attest to after her willingness to do a cameo in Alita: Battle Angel. (The pair previously collaborated on From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series.) In her most recent loyal gesture, Gonzalez sought Vin Diesel’s blessing once a role in The Fast Saga’s Hobbs and Shaw came her way as they were shooting Bloodshot together. Diesel and Hobbs star Dwayne Johnson were still publicly feuding at the time.
“I said, ‘I just want to make sure that Vin feels right about it,’ and he was really happy,” Gonzalez tells The Hollywood Reporter. “As we’ve seen, there’s 145 versions of these movies, and they all intertwine. They’re the Avengers of cars, in a way. He wants to see me grow, and he said, ‘I just want to see you succeed. I know this will be a huge success with you.’ He was just wonderful.”
Gonzalez was also on Matt Reeves’ shortlist for the role of Selina Kyle in The Batman; she even camera-tested for the role. For Gonzalez, it’s impossible to not get her hopes up when she auditions for roles like Catwoman.
“It’s impossible not to do that, especially when you get so far down the line. It’s part of why you’re so far down the line, because you’re living and dreaming the character,” she explains. “It is heartbreaking; it is always hard. You have to envision yourself in the role in order to see the role. You can’t have one foot in and one foot out. When I started my career, I was more like that, and I wouldn’t get that far. So now I do, and I just go through the heartbreak afterwards.”
In a recent conversation with THR, Gonzalez also discusses overcoming her clavicle injury for an underwater sequence in Bloodshot, Godzilla vs. Kong’s reshoots and her future in The Fast Saga.
Thank you for talking with me at a scary time like this.
Of course. I always have time for The Hollywood Reporter, and yeah, I’m so sorry this is going on. It’s such a bummer.
Out of curiosity, have you done your first elbow bump on this tour?
Oh, I’ve done a lot of elbows. I’m a professional elbow shaker now. (Laughs)
Your Bloodshot character, KT, delivers some bad news to Vin’s character, Ray, in her first scene, and her approach is to “rip off the Band-Aid” versus beating around the bush. Are you also someone who chooses to rip the Band-Aid off when something important needs to be said?
Oh, 100 percent. Throughout my life, I’ve been hit with crazy curveballs that have been so hard to digest. They’ve made me really thick-skinned in that sense. I don’t like beating around the bush. I don’t like uncertainty. I’d rather deal with something in the moment, but just find a way to “silver-lining” it. I want to come out of it as fast as possible versus losing time trying to figure out the real deal. I like real-deal types of people.
How was the experience of shooting in South Africa?
Incredible. South Africa is such a joyful place, especially Cape Town, which is absolutely brilliant. It’s stunning. It really made the experience different, and the crew was absolutely immaculate. I’ve never seen such a hard-working crew. I just had a brilliant time, and our time was really fun. Who gets to say they went on a safari on their weekend? That was my weekend. I got to explore South Africa, which was a big bucket-list item for me.
Can a unique location add something intangible to the process — or even your performance — that more common locations like Atlanta or Vancouver may not provide?
The fact that this movie is so far removed from what is home for me really made me have empathy for the role of KT and her feeling lonely. She feels lonely — not because she’s looking for a romantic relationship, but because she’s alienated in a world of men. She just doesn’t feel like her moral compass is the same as everyone else’s. When I’m shooting very far from home and you don’t get to have a normal lifestyle, that really puts you in that mindset, especially in a cast that’s very small and predominantly male. So it was really crazy in that sense, because you didn’t have a whole family to hang out with.
Given the control that Dr. Harding [Guy Pearce] has over KT, she is rather conflicted, making her the conscience of the movie. Is it difficult when you have to convey so much without being able to openly express how she really feels?
Yeah, especially in that story she tells. When you meet her, she’s this character that doesn’t want to be a part of the agenda but has to. So you have to see some sense of discomfort in her, but not enough to give away the plot. It was tricky for me to get to that place and find it because you have to be able to see those moments. It also really comes down to the director. You can do as much as you want, but it really comes down to what he puts on the screen. It was exciting for me in an old-school way because you have to say so much without talking. As an actor, that’s when it gets exciting. When there’s a lack of words and a lack of expression, you have to convey it in a different sense, and that’s when you really can show what you feel. You’re masking the real feeling, but you’re still able to pierce through it. It was tricky; it really was. It was challenging, but I really hope that it conveyed and put across what we were trying to do with the role.
There was a subtle detail that I really appreciated. It’s when KT kicks the rolling stool to Dr. Harding, and the casual yet precise way she does it informed me that she’d gone through this routine many times before. Was that small moment something you discussed with the director, Dave Wilson, as far as being a clue to what’s really going on?
Yeah, 100 percent. That’s also how I worked on Baby Driver. I like to approach my roles in those little moments. I get a kick out of that for some reason. It just says so much about their inner lives as characters. So I made sure to come up with a couple of ideas throughout the script. There’s a moment when she walks into the command room and they’re explaining the run-through of what the nanites are doing. If you pay attention, I’m cleaning up a coffee spot and putting my mug on it again. You can tell there was another coffee on it. So I like to seek these moments for when you rewatch the film, and you can be like, “Oh, wow. She’s been doing that a couple times.” So, yeah, that just talks a lot about the inner life of the character and how she’s over it as well. She has her hands in her pockets, and she kicks the chair while looking away, at the screen and not at Dr. Harding. She’s just trying to hide how flustered she is by all this. That’s why she lingers in the back. There’s definitely those little moments throughout the process that make it seem more real.
Athletes often say that if their uniform fits well and looks good, they’ll play better. With that in mind, do you notice a positive difference in your performance when you really like the fit and look of your costume?
One hundred percent. It works vice versa, too. When you’re not familiar with the costume, it becomes really tricky, especially when you have to wear something uncomfortable. I had another movie where I had to wear this suit, and I really had to put the suit on for a long period of time until I started shooting my first day. The intricacies of doing that — and walking near rocks and mountains in windy conditions — really compromises your performance and throws you off. So it does make a difference. But at the same time, in a positive way, sometimes it becomes the body of your character. Sometimes it’s necessary. All these little things that feel uncomfortable really give the character a different quirk or view. Sometimes when you try the clothes on, it immediately puts you into character. Shoes are so important for me. The way you stand says a lot, as it’s another form of expression, like leaning against a wall. Stuff like that will really change the performance. It’s all part of creating a different human.
For the pool sequence, did they actually photograph you underwater doing those movements?
Yes! I was underwater, and I was weighted with a weighted vest. It was really tricky, and I did have to do some form of jiu-jitsu underwater. It took a lot of training to be able to be underwater and hold my breath. I also had to make sure that the anxiety was not showing, because it does feel weird when you’re weighted at the bottom of a pool. And if you want to come out for air, it’s going to take a lot longer than usual. The breathing took a lot of training, and the second part was doing jiu-jitsu. And then the third part was doing all of this with your eyes open underwater when there’s chlorine in the water. It just became really tricky, and I was coming off an injury as well. So it was really hard, and we shot it on the last day of shooting just to make sure that nothing would happen. I’m really proud of the results because it took a lot of me physically.
Yeah, when it was established that KT had a clavicle-mounted respirator, I immediately thought of your fractured clavicle X-ray that you posted.
(Laughs) Yeah — and it happened on this movie. So it was tricky, but I did find it to be this beautiful and weird situation that she had this clavicle thing. I felt very vulnerable at the time; I was very sensitive. When you break a bone like that — especially because you can’t get it casted — you feel exposed all the time. So it gave her a different vibe, and it changed my persona. It made me less of a secure person; it changed my energy and the way I carry myself. I was insecure when I did it, but when I saw it onscreen, I thought, “This actually works for the best.” It was just a weird little parallel world.
Going back a few years, when you first read the Baby Driver script, was it the digital version that would play music as you turned each page during the music-driven sequences?
(Laughs) Yeah, Edgar [Wright] does that. He had everything timed to the music. It wasn’t a digital script; it just had a playlist attached to the PDF. On the page, it would say, “Make sure to play this as you’re reading it.” It was really funny because in that opening scene where Ansel [Elgort] is walking to the coffee shop and he asks for the coffee, there was this really magical moment. There were no lines; I was just reading everything that was happening, such as “He walks down the street…” And then the first line comes in, and as I’m reading it, I hear it on the song. I was like, “Holy shit — it’s synced!” And it just continued. I was just so mind-blown by the meticulous work that Edgar does. Obviously he was already a well-known, respected director, but that took a whole other step for me. He really curated the movie so deeply. It was really impressive.
You’ve been linked to some famous characters, such as Catwoman. When you visit the various studio lots to audition or discuss these types of characters, do you tell yourself to not get ahead of yourself or get your hopes up?
Oh no, I suck at that.
Or is it impossible to not imagine yourself in the role, on posters or as an action figure?
It’s impossible not to do that, especially when you get so far down the line. It’s part of why you’re so far down the line, because you’re living and dreaming the character. For my prep for every role, I’m kind of a weirdo, especially when I’m already at the camera test stage or really deep into it. I will live and breathe the character; I’m more traditional in that sense. It is heartbreaking; it is always hard. You have to envision yourself in the role in order to see the role. You can’t have one foot in and one foot out. When I started my career, I was more like that, and I wouldn’t get that far. In a sense, it didn’t hurt as much, but I didn’t give it the best version of what I thought I could do. So now I do, and I just go through the heartbreak afterwards. I always explain it as this relationship that you work on. You fall in love, you go through all the stages — and it never really solidifies. It’s this process that never has closure; it just goes away. So it feels like a relationship that didn’t result in anything. It’s always heartbreaking, but what I’ve learned with time, those relationships that you curate and the people that you meet don’t go away. I’ve been in situations where they’ve seen me for different roles that didn’t work out, but then they come around for something else. The beauty of our industry is it’s never-ending; it’s always evolving and transforming. I’m just lucky and grateful that I’ve had the chance to meet incredible directors and be part of incredible projects. Growing up in Mexico, I never would’ve thought I’d be doing these types of projects. (Laughs)
I heard that you wouldn’t accept your Hobbs and Shaw role without getting Vin’s blessing first. Is this loyal gesture true?
Yeah, it’s true. It is his franchise, and it’s something that was his. He technically wasn’t part of it, in a sense, because he’s not in the movie. I just wanted to make sure that he was happy. At the time, my manager, Nicole King, and his manager, Stacy O’Neil, who are now working together, actually, had talked about it. I said, “I just want to make sure that Vin feels right about it,” and he was really happy. At the end of the day, Vin is a very selfless human being, and he knows that he opened the door for all these people to expand. That’s kind of the power that he has. This franchise wouldn’t exist without him. So it was really great, and he was so excited. The exciting thing for him was that I’m part of the Fast franchise. As we’ve seen, there’s 145 versions of these movies, and they all intertwine. They’re the Avengers of cars, in a way. So I’m just excited to be part of it. He wants to see me grow, and he said, “I just want to see you succeed. I know this will be a huge success with you.” He was just wonderful.
When the role of Madame M came your way, did David Leitch and Kelly McCormick tell you that you’d be a continued presence in future entries if the movie did well, which it did?
Yeah, that was kind of the idea. When we originally spoke, I was shooting Bloodshot at the time, and I was about to go shoot Godzilla vs. Kong. The schedules were getting really complicated because I was going to shoot in Australia and they were shooting in London. So we went back and forth about whether I was going to be able do it or not. They were on the phone every day trying to find a form of doing so, especially because my Godzilla schedule was very demanding; I’m in the whole film. For a moment, it seemed like it wasn’t going to happen, and then they came back. Honestly, they were wonderful. I can’t speak more highly of David Leitch, his producer Kelly McCormick, Hiram Garcia and Dwayne [Johnson]. They were all like, “We really want you to be part of it. Can you come at least some days?” And we found a way. Godzilla was moving from Hawaii to Australia, and we had three days off. They let me go to London for those three days and create this. Their point was, “We just want to see her so she can expand in this world, whether it’s Hobbs and Shaw, Fast or whatever.” [Universal Filmed Entertainment Group chairman] Donna Langley was a big part of it, too. She was so willing to make it happen, and I’m so grateful for her as well. I was very lucky. I was such a fan of Atomic Blonde, and I loved John Wick. I have so much respect for David’s stunt team, and it was incredible to see him break out from that world as a director. He cares about making real characters, and I’m so lucky to be working with them.
A couple Godzilla vs. Kong cast members have told me that they did not have to go back for additional photography. Did you have to go back, or are you in the clear?
Yeah, everything’s been done. These movies take a long time because there’s a lot of CGI in them. But, yeah, we’ve done everything, and they’re just going through and creating these incredible characters. I’m just really excited to see it because it’s these two worlds colliding. The fan base for Godzilla vs. Kong is incredible. When I say I’m in the movie, people are like, “Oh my God.” Seeing that fanaticism and seeing how excited they are to see this movie makes me really excited; I think they’re going to be really happy. [Director] Adam Wingard is so talented. Both stories are going parallel, as you’ll see, without giving anything away. It’s a large cast as well, and it was really fun to be part of it. There’s so much going on, but the heart of it is two young girls as well, which is such a positive message for society nowadays. It’s just incredible.
We did a few days [of additional photography], but it wasn’t really crazy. Like every other film, we did a couple days, and that was kind of it. When you do these big, massive films, there’s always moments that you didn’t see and want to fill in. It was really basic stuff. Nothing too crucial or crazy.
How did I Care a Lot go?
Oh my God, incredible! I recently saw it, and I am so happy with that film. It’s just so cool when you get to see something and you’re like, “Oh my God, that looks nothing like me.” The role, the characters, the story…it’s so funny; it’s so good. Rosamund Pike is just unbelievable, and Peter Dinklage is incredible in it. We were so lucky; we had such a great cast and crew. This is right up [director] J Blakeson’s alley. I don’t think anyone has ever seen him do something like this. This movie is just really special. And for me, it was an exciting role because it’s very, very different to anything I’ve ever done before. I think that everyone has this stereotype of who I am, and we really tried to go against that by looking for roles that branch me out. This role will really endorse that, and I don’t think people have seen me do something a little more dramatic and grounded. We play these two lesbians who run the elderly care system. It’s a really cool and fun movie.