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‘Cool geek’ sets fanboy tongues wagging In Focus by Richard Crouse METRO CANADA April 23, 2010

colombiana-zoe-saldana8Zoe Saldana’s career is white hot after starring roles in Star Trek and Avatar but she is no newcomer.

She’s been a big screen regular for ten years, even appearing in the odd blockbuster like Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and working with high end directors like Steven Spielberg, but she didn’t become a household name until last year.

The actress, who describes herself as “a cool geek who happens to dress nice,” hopes to add to her growing box office clout this weekend with The Losers, a wild action movie based on the comic book series of the same name.

She may have become a bold face name sucking up to the fanboys, but she hasn’t always played comic-book characters, giant blue aliens or iconic sci fi characters.

Early roles included a sharp-tongued aspiring dancer in Center Stage and the prim-and-proper best friend of Britney Spears in Crossroads — although she’d probably rather forget that one.

Roger Ebert said, “I went to Crossroads expecting a glitzy bimbofest and got the bimbos but not the fest,” but it was another dance role in Drumline that earned her the best notices of her budding career.

In the time between Drumline and Star Trek, however, she made thirteen films, some big, like Pirates, some so small they barely made a blip on the screen.

For example, Haven, a complex crime drama set in the Cayman Islands scarcely made it past a festival run, but is well worth a look on DVD. Mixing and matching stories of corrupt businessmen, tax havens and romance it was too out-of-the-box for general audiences, but Saldana shines (the L.A. Times called her performance “sweet and complicated”) opposite her Pirates co-star Orlando Bloom.

Also unfairly relegated to the bargain bin was Ways of the Flesh, a 2005 medical comedy about a chief resident at a Florida Hospital who also happens to be a stand-up comedian. Saldana plays an artist whose life was once saved by the main character.

Directed by real-life doctor-turned-filmmaker Dennis Cooper, it’s a sweet and funny film about not taking yourself too seriously.

Dues paid, Saldana now stars in blockbusters, which has benefits other than the juicy paycheques. In the past she says she was often mistaken for Thandie Newton — so much so that her own mother once confused the two of them — but given her recent success, I’m guessing it’s now Newton who gets mistaken for Saldana.

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