by Jeanine Plant
photography by Spicer
Alice Braga is sitting in her trailer on set in freezing Toronto, far from her hometown beaches of São Paulo, when she gives me a call to talk. She’s on the set of her latest project: a star-studded sci-fi thriller, Miguel Sapochnik’s Repossession Mambo, starring Jude Law and Forest Whitaker. Additionally, she’s finishing up promotions from the blockbuster, I Am Legend, with Will Smith – you know, the $200 million dollar apocalyptic film set in New York City about the few survivors of an anti-cancer serum. And with her films Crossing Over starring Harrison Ford and Sean Penn and Blindness with Mark Ruffalo and Julianne Moore set for release this year, I’m pleased she’s taken a break from globe trotting and hanging with legendary names to talk to me. For a girl who first earned international acclaim as a beauty struggling amidst a society of violence in the City of God, all this talk of Toronto, LA, and sci-fi seems a bit foreign, or at the least, very far from home.
“I still have a home in Brazil. For the past year, I have been traveling a lot for the movies, but I have never really moved. Brazil is where I [return] to, I always go back to Brazil… You never know where the film is going to go… I want to be a little bit of a gypsy… I play by the time.”
And the nomadic life suits her well, running between Toronto and New York and LA (and then a stop home in Brazil), completing an exhaustive list of films while maintaining the ease and humor of a girl from the neighborhood. Braga’s hard work has not gone unnoticed; she is well on her way for more roles alongside top stars, but is also reading the abundance of indie scripts that land on her mat. Following the release of her film Lower City in 2005, the press has been wild for her: “Alice Braga is So Five Minutes From Now” with her “startlingly raw and fearless physicality” in Entertainment Weekly; one of the top “Five to Look Out For” in The New York Times; “girl on the verge… [whose] minimalism comes into its own [in the film Lower City]” in GQ. It may be rare to see a woman who has acted on such diversely painted sets, ranging from seedy strip clubs to outer space, carry credos for her subtleties, but it is this recognition and praise that has propelled her from sexy pin-up (a status that her looks have yet to let her completely abandon) towards above-the-title A-list roles.
And this crossover star certainly didn’t earn such clout by playing middle of the road. Braga’s films cover much theatrical ground and her roles are often controversial, yet her ability leaves audiences in awe of her performance and not running in search of gossip mags. In Lower City, for which she snagged three of Brazil’s best actress awards – The Cinema Brazil Grand Prize, The Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival Award, and São Paulo Association of Art Critics Awards – she plays a traveling prostitute who hops a boat and offers up her services to two best friends, entering into a complicated, twisted love triangle. Sweaty, sexy, and arousing, this film (much to Braga’s credit) juggles both the subtle nuances and the explosive self-destruction that occur when we attempt to approach sex as consumers, clinging to the adolescent belief that physical pleasure occurs on a separate plane from friendship and love. Despite all of the skin, critics did not cry “Porn!” for Braga’s vulnerability, and her stifled childlike need for affection shone through the neon and eroticism, placing her amongst the top of Brazil’s best and brightest, an already crowded category.