By Scott Essman for Universal International
At only 24, newcomer Natalie Martinez burst onto the scene as a spokesperson for Jennifer Lopez' JLO product line. Following her great exposure winning that coveted slot, Martinez, a Cuban-American from Florida, expanded into television, featuring in shows such as Fashion House and Saints & Sinners, on which she appeared over the past two years.
With her turn in DEATH RACE, Natalie Martinez assumes the role of "Case," the sexy navigator in Jason Statham's Monster Mustang car. Her character is on special release from a woman's prison (where she was sent for murdering her husband) to participate in the Death Race, a realityshow set a maximum-security prison where racers fight to the death using their cars.
Martinez worked out to get into the shape of her tough character role and performed in many of the stunt scenes involving the Mustang.
INTERVIEW WITH NATALIE MARTINEZ - DEATH RACEQ. Do you drive fast, or do you observe the speed limit?
NATALIE MARTINEZ: I wouldn't exactly say I drive at the speed limit but I don't get speedingtickets either. I go my own way but I do obey the laws on the road.
Q. How much fun was it to drive these cars?
NATALIE MARTINEZ: It was a lot of fun. I like cars. They were showing me the pictures of thecars and we were talking about the character, and the car, and I thought "Oh my God! Can Ikeep this one? Don't pay me for this movie. I just want the car!"
Q. Which one?
NATALIE MARTINEZ: The Mustang I really liked a lot but I also liked Slovo Packenko's car -the Buick. The Ram was also good. I still think about the Ram. I tried to get my old car in themovie too. I'm like, "Can we get a Chevelle or a Barracuda in there please?" But sadly thatdidn't happen. I did have a lot of fun and the cars were so raw, too.
Q. Have you always loved cars?.
NATALIE MARTINEZ: When I was a kid, I was a tomboy so I always played with toy cars. Mymom would always make fun of me and tell the story of how instead of playing with Barbie dollsI used to play with cars. My dad likes old cars he had. He had a '67 T-Bird. He sold it when Iwas 12 and I didn't talk to him for a week!
Q. What kind of car did you have?
NATALIE MARTINEZ: I had a 3-speed Buick Regal and she was 70s brown. Her name wasGuadalupe and I loved her. Now I have a '60, my fiancée and I have a '65 Chevelle, a Malibu.It's beautiful. It's white and goes really fast.
Q. Did you physically put work in yourself?
NATALIE MARTINEZ: I can change a battery, I know how to change oil and tires. I'm notscared to get dirty.
Q. Is J-Lo your role model?
NATALIE MARTINEZ: Definitely. 100%.
Q. Are you still in contact?
NATALIE MARTINEZ: I'm not in contact with her, like we're not BFFs or friends or anything.But we see each other.
Q. JLo has used her sexuality to help raise her profile - can you identify with that?
NATALIE MARTINEZ: I don't know if I find myself stunning looking. I have really big hairbecause I have really big ears so I think I'm dorky looking. But when somebody says you're asex symbol, I know I'm say, okay. It's a compliment and it's fun.
Q. What sort of posters do you have on your wall?
NATALIE MARTINEZ: I wasn't too crazy like about things like that until I liked the boys aroundme and some magazines. But I had a few like JGT, Tim Robbins and Phil Thomas. When I wasin third grade or second grade, I liked Leonardo DiCaprio, obviously, because who didn't? AndJohnny Depp of course, and Brad Pitt, they were the biggest ones. I always had a crush onthem.
Q. Jason's considered so cool and he plays the cool guy a lot on the screen. What is cool foryou?
NATALIE MARTINEZ: I think cool for me is someone who embraces who they are and acceptsthat. They are who they are - to me that's cool. Cool is not trying to be somebody else, justaccepting who you are and that's who you are. That's what I like about Jason. Jason is that coolguy because he has an opinion. He likes what he likes and he does what he does. He's thatkind of badass guy who doesn't conform to anything besides what he wants. I really enjoy thatquality in a person.
Q. At the screening I heard someone look at the screen in the movie and say, "She's like thenew Selma Hayek". Is that something you would like to be known as? The new Selma Hayek?Or do you just want to create your own thing?
NATALIE MARTINEZ: I definitely want to create my own identity and be known as myself.These are great people who have opened a lot of doors and if they see me in the same light asthem, it's a huge compliment. People want to relate to you and see you in certain ways. If itgets me another movie, I'm like, "Yes!"
Q. Are you proud of your curves?
NATALIE MARTINEZ: Of course. I'm very proud, I've come to accept curves. Being a modelthere's a lot of pressure to be thin. Because I'm short I have to be a little thinner to make myselflook a little longer. I've grown to accept myself. I try to stay in shape. I love my sweets but tohelp me stay in shape I hike and do things like that. I also work out. I'm always active and I likebeing healthy. I love food and enjoy all kinds of food and trying different things. I like to be openabout that but on top of that, I'm going to work out and have a good regime as well. I am veryproud of my curves. I want to go work out and get thin but I don't want to lose my butt. I guessit's my best feature.
Q. Would you say that you are traditional - having become engaged at such a young age?
NATALIE MARTINEZ: I don't want to be married by a certain age. I don't have to have kids bya certain age. I don't have to do anything by a certain age.
Q. Did you do many of your own stunts in this film?
NATALIE MARTINEZ: quite a few, all of the fights scenes were just pretty intense. Those areprobably my favorite scenes. One of them didn't make it but I hope it comes through on DVD.The guns got jammed on the Monster and I had to jump out of the window while they'reshooting at me. I had to hang out of the window, banging with the wrench on the gun to un-jamit. As he's turning a corner the Dreadnaught in front of us was shooting. I had to get ejected outof the seat out of the car and which was a 10-foot rig that goes down and actually hurls you up10 feet in a jolt. Probably one of the biggest challenges that I had to do in that scene with theejector seat was to stop smiling. I was having so much fun.
Q. You had a lot of scenes with Jason in the car. How did you get on between takes?
NATALIE MARTINEZ: He has a great sense of humour. He looks like this tough guy, but he'sso sweet and so funny and we just enjoyed each other. We joked around all the time or rightbefore the cameras were rolling, and everybody was ready and right before they yelled action,he'd say, "Oh my God, I've really gotta pee." .
Q. What was Paul like to work with?
NATALIE MARTINEZ: I do believe he's an actor's director. This film was Paul's baby. He'sbeen working at it for the last twelve years. It's so great to be a part of something thatsomeone's so passionate about. He had his ways that he wanted things and he explained thatvery well. If we ever had a thought or an opinion about something he would definitely listen toyou and give you a yes or no, but the fact that he'd give you the benefit of the doubt and let youin on his fantasy was amazing.
Q. What is the ultimate night out for you?
NATALIE MARTINEZ: The ultimate night out for me is actually to have friends and people Ilove around me. I don't like to plan too much because I feel if you plan too much you can bedisappointed. I love dancing. I love good music. I love hip hop, I love rock, old classic rock,everything. I even like country music. As long as it's good and the vibe is good and everybodyelse around me is good, that would be a perfect night for me.