In the early scenes of The Assignment, Michelle Rodriguez plays a ruthless male assassin - occasionally unclothed.
"Playing a naked man was really hard. It's a good four hours of prep, two for the chin and nose implants alone," the actress told The Hollywood Reporter before a screening Monday at New York City's Whitby Hotel. "I look kind of Mediterranean, don't you agree? I made a Tinder account for myself [as a man] and it was so funny. Got some matches!"
And below the belt, Rodriguez wore quite the well-endowed prosthetic in a full-frontal nudity scene. "I was like, 'I want the biggest cock we could possibly get!' I was adamant about it. I've encountered a few skinny boys with really, really big - you know - so I thought, why not be one?" she explained with a laugh. "But it's very uncomfortable - I gotta say, I don't know how guys do it. Now I know why guys are way more physically sexually thinkers than women are - because it's always there! I mean, if it's rubbing between your legs all the time, I'm sure I'd think about it all the time, too!"
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Later on, Walter Hill's film noir action-thriller sees Rodriguez's Frank Kitchen unknowingly receiving a sex reassignment surgery - an act of revenge by a doctor played by Sigourney Weaver. The logline and trailer drew scrutiny online as the forced feminization was viewed as transphobic.
"I actually think with some of the controversy about the movie - when people see the movie, they'll see what it's about and what it's not about," Weaver defended to THR. "Certainly from my point of view, what my character does to Frank Kitchen is unforgivable. And it certainly demonstrates the pain of being forcibly put into the wrong body. There's nothing more cruel."
Denis Hamill wrote the original story in 1978 about a male doctor who uses the procedure to get even with the rapist and killer of his wife. Onscreen, he noted that the basic elements and the spirit remain the same - with no ill will, but with the intention to entertain. "No one involved in this film, in any way whatsoever, set out to insult or offend anyone," he said. "The movie is no way anti-transgender because the main character is not trans himself. The gender is between the ears, it's not between your legs. He's still a man."
Director Hill agreed: "Identity politics are probably the bane of the country currently, but storytelling is storytelling. There are no subjects that are sacrosanct, in my opinion, and you just have to be able to defend what you do."
Hill initially conceived the film for a male actor, but since the majority of the movie sees the character after the surgery, "it would've been a story about makeup. And I thought it'd be a greater artistic challenge for the right actress."
Rodriguez stressed she was ready for that task, and finished the project being a bit more comfortable in her own skin. "There's a lot more to being a man than your posture and voice and strength; there are other psychological elements that I wasn't prepared to really dive into," she reflected. "I always thought that I was pretty masculine, but I never felt more like a woman than doing this movie."
Saban Films will release The Assignment in select theaters and on demand on Friday.