Zoe Saldaña has established herself as the most bankable star in Hollywood.
With the astronomical success of her most recent film, Avatar: The Way of Water, she has entered a new threshold of box office success. Over the weekend, the film surpassed $2 billion worldwide, matching three prior films starring Saldaña: 2019’s Avengers: Endgame, 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War, and the film that preceded her current hit, 2009’s Avatar.
Saldaña credits director James Cameron’s vision in her for opening the door for her to star in 3 of the 5 top-grossing films of all time.
“Knowing that at 27 years old I was seen by James Cameron and he thought that I had what it took to become Neytiri, I just ran for the hills I tell you,” she told ESSENCE upon the film’s release. “I just ran with it and I gave 120 percent every single day. I haven’t stopped doing that.”
Having established herself as a staple in not just one, but two of the world’s most beloved major franchises, surprisingly playing an otherworldly being with an unnatural skin tone (blue, green) in both properties.
Though the film franchises have made her undeniably one of the most lucrative stars in the industry, as the actress told WWD in a November 2022 interview, she has sometimes felt stunted as an artist by her contractual obligations to reprise these beloved roles in franchise films.
“I feel that for the last 10 years of my life, I’ve been just stuck. I felt stuck doing these franchises,” she said. “I’m very grateful for the opportunities that they provided, from collaborating with amazing directors and getting to meet cast members that I consider friends and getting to play a role that fans, especially children, love.”
“But it also meant that I felt artistically stuck in my craft of not being able to expand or grow or challenge myself by playing different sorts of genres and different roles,” she explained, noting that opportunities for fresh roles in films like last year’s Netflix film From Scratch have been particularly fulfilling.