How Robert Rodriguez wrote 'Alita: Battle Angel' using nearly 800 pages from James Cameron

Kevin Polowy
Senior Correspondent, Yahoo Entertainment

The buzzy upcoming actioner Alita: Battle Angel has been a passion project for producers James Cameron and Jon Landau since 2000, a long development haul but not entirely atypical for a tentpole of its scale. (The film’s budget has been estimated to be $200 million.)

After initially putting Alita aside to make a little film called Avatar in the mid-2000s, Cameron ultimately decided he would not be able to write and direct Alita afterward either, with as many as four Avatar sequels in the works.

“Jim initially came up with a script, but it was too long,” Landau told Yahoo Entertainment at CinemaCon this week (watch above). “So we needed to find someone to come in and nurture that.”

Enter Robert Rodriguez, the auteur behind the Mexico Trilogy, Sin City, Spy Kids, and more. Rodriguez, who joined the film in 2015, was promptly greeted with a script that was 186 pages long… and an additional 600 pages of notes from Cameron.

“Only 600 pages of notes that he gave me, there were probably 400 more,” Rodriguez joked. “It helped me crack the script. He said, ‘Here’s the rest of it.’ Because he thinks in saga. He thinks in long-term arcs. That’s what gives Alita such richness.”

Rodriguez, apparently, enjoyed every page — and can clearly see Alita becoming an Avatar-esque series.

“It was fun, to get into the mind of Jim and how he crafts a story,” he said of the Titanic and Terminator writer-director. “It was a real lesson in creating a character that could go on [for multiple movies]. Whether you have a franchise or not, you have a character that’s so rich that the audience can imagine more movies with, those are the kinds of characters that I like.”

Alita: Battle Angel opens Dec. 21. Watch the trailer:

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