As a Hollywood starlet on the rise, primped and surrounded on every side by a gaggle of publicists, handlers and managers, sometimes the only refuge from the madness is cultural. “Let’s do this interview in Spanish,” says Alice Braga, near whisper, as her entourage swirls around a suite in midtown Manhattan’s Regency Hotel. “That way we can have some privacy.” Moments of tranquility are scarce for the São Paulo-born actress, who made her debut in 2002 in Fernando Meirelles’ groundbreaking City of God, and has been bagging accolades and plum roles ever since. The svelte, raven-haired 25 year old has smoothly crossed over from South American indie crush to Hollywood big time without sacrificing her magnetic Brazilian heritage, from popcorn epics like Will Smith’s I Am Legend to more cerebral fare like 2008’s Blindness, in which she starred alongside Mark Ruffalo and Julianne Moore.
Braga hits her stride in this month’s Crossing Over, starring Harrison Ford and Sean Penn, and Repossession Mambo, an upcoming sci-fi thriller with Jude Law. “I love the set. I grew up on set with my mom [actress Ana Maria Braga],” she says. “When the director yells ‘Action!’ everyone becomes focused on telling the same story. It’s magic. The only difference between small productions and huge productions is the budget. The basis for making movies remains the same: to tell a story.” And while she continues to support Brazilian cinema—stealing the show in Sérgio Machado’s critically acclaimed 2005 film Lower City — she relishes filming abroad. “The more I work outside, the more secure I feel, the more I evolve,” she says. “It’s a great challenge.”
Photo: Isa Wipfli