I'm sitting with Michelle Rodriguez in a plush RV parked in a wide-open parking lot in East L.A., and we're supposed to be talking about "Furious 7," her latest fast-driving action flick, but the setting keeps dragging her thoughts to a completely different over-the-top event, the uber-progressive annual desert festival Burning Man. "This reminds me of Burning Man. My trailers never look this clean," she says with a laugh. "I've been four times."
And you're going back this year?
Oh yeah. It's hard to describe. I just couldn't encompass it in a sentence. I'm not that talented, man. But be careful. It's kind of like a great song, you know? When it becomes popular it gets watered down. You kind of want to get it before the disrespectful people pop up who really just don't give a f— about anything but partying. They show up and they trash the place and they don't understand the spiritual roots of the whole thing and they don't respect the whole purpose of the thing. That's when it gets watered down and you lose the integrity of why it all started in the first place.
Like the people who rent luxury trailers and everything?
Plug and play? I can't believe I read an article in the Economist about it. I'm like, dude! Who are you talking to who's complaining about plug and play? I mean, really? But there's a lot of wealthy folk that like to throw their money into Burning Man art installations, so I could see why the Economist would cover Burning Man. (laughs) Why didn't they use Intelligentsia magazine? They could've used their subsidiary. But I found it funny.
So about "Furious 7"…
Oh yeah, sorry. (laughs)
You guys show up in Abu Dhabi, driving in from the airport for a quick visit, and you're each driving your own sports car. Can't they ever carpool?
(laughs) Hell no, man. Hell no. Obviously they each need their own ride. It's like skin, man, you know? Everybody's got their own. I was so pissed when Ty-Boogie got the Bugatti. But I guess my character's not that flashy anyway. She's more practical.
I'm more a fan of the old American muscle cars, anyway.
Yeah, I always like Vin's cars. That brushed metal Challenger? I'm like yes! Booyah-kasha! I was so tired of that matte look that's been so popularized in the car world lately that I was so happy to see something different.
At this point you could probably pick whatever you'd want to drive yourself.
I wish. I wish, dude. They always give me the whatever American muscle thing they're sponsoring at the moment. (laughs) I get the contemporary version of the American car, and Vin gets to play with the old school vehicles. I've got to say, as far as the car industry goes, I respect the bodies and the old structure of American-made vehicles. I'm not too impressed with American cars these days. I'm more European vibe — BMW, Mercedes, Lamborghini, Ferrari (laughs). I've got to say, when you've got some engineering going on and you've got that attention to detail when it comes to your interior and you actually really really care about the way the things look aesthetically, it just makes a difference. And I feel like old-school cars from the 1960s, it was all about that. Sex appeal. An Edward Bernays, like, cum-fest! (laughs) "Sex appeal! You want this!" The curves on those suckers! The Corvettes! Look in the '60s, look at the Corvettes. What the f— happen to the curves? Aerodynamics? Who goes that fast? There's a speed limit in America, there are governors in these cars you're making that don't allow the engine to go past 120 — 110 sometimes.
It doesn't matter how fast your car can go when we're all in the same traffic.
I know! But as far as the shape of cars today, I'm really astounded by how everything looks the same. And how one individual sets a standard, gives it an excuse and, just like the art world, everybody follows. And what about all those — what are they? Chryslers that look like Bentleys? (laughs) When did that become a trend? I find that cute.
Everything looks the same.
I feel like there is an engineering move to add to an aerodynamic-ness to vehicles, and ever since it happened — I think it was around 2000, once the '90s were over — that I noticed, that I hated every American car on the planet. I was like, "Ew!" Nothing had curves. "What the f— is this!" I miss that. I wish I could take an old 1965 Camaro or Corvette and just give it all of today's fixing — the power steering, you know — because I love those bodies. I was just doing some gun training with some military folk friends of mine, and we were shooting up a car. We were trying get rid of this urban myth about protecting yourself from behind a vehicle, and my buddy who's done many tours and trains lots of military officials, he came out and showed me exactly what the safest position is for a car, and then he showed me why and let us shoot off all these different types of weapons at an SUV door. I guess the urban myth comes from the '70s because back then the cars were made from real metal. They weren't made out of whatever the f— they use these days.
How much are you thinking about diversifying your onscreen portfolio, maybe bringing some comedy into the mix?
Oh, dude, it's so crazy! I just met this really talented fellow from Canada, and I just love this guy, his mind is just so today, you know? If there's any comedies that I've ever, ever loved, it's been the TV shows that have lasted for so many years, like "The Simpsons," "Family Guy," "South Park." Why? Because they take relevant, today issues all the time and they give you this kind of voice of reason, but it's always done through the comedian, the joker. He's the one that can get away with anything. The minute you try to take things seriously, it's like "tearjerker, life sucks, now I need to go watch a comedy." (laughs) Because reality f—ing bites, it really does — and I'm not just talking about the '90s movie. But that's the world. If I were ever to do comedy it would have to be that vibe. And you know what? I haven't been the lead in a movie since "Girl Fight," and I think , you know, I'm getting older. Before I say au revoir to acting, I'd like to carry something and take the responsibility for once. I've held back for so many because I didn't like stuff or I was being too picky, and I think I've isolated myself from the world for a very long time. I'll take a chance, you know what I mean? And if it sucks, it sucks. If it's great, it's great. I think it's about time to try something new.
Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter: @nedrick