MIAMI - Michelle Rodriguez made quite an impression as a tough chick in her first movie, 2000's "Girlfight."
Director James Cameron never forgot about the 31-year-old Texan beauty who went on to star in hits like "The Fast and the Furious" and TV's "Lost."
Finally, he called her up and asked her if she wanted a part in his new 3-D sci-fi epic, "Avatar."
The movie, set 125 years in the future, is about a disabled Marine (Sam Worthington, "Terminator: Salvation") who is sent to the planet Pandora - populated by peaceful blue aliens - to find an energy-rich mineral.
"I got a call. Jim wanted to meet me and see where my head was at," said Rodriguez, from the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in downtown Miami. "I think he wanted to make sure I wasn't some wacko."
The role he had in mind was of headstrong helicopter pilot Trudy Chacon.
The actress was thrilled. "Who wouldn't want to work for that genius? Especially a geek like me," she said. "I'm a big 'Abyss' fan, big 'Terminator' fan, big 'Alien' fan."
Cameron's set was intense.
"Let's put it this way - the guy's attention to detail is amazing. He won't accept less than perfect. He needs an explanation for everything - even his imagination. That cat is not afraid to get out there."
The film uses something called motion-capture process, which melds actors' performances with computer-generated images.