Erica Linz can lick her own elbow — and she proves it during an interview. At a press day chat to tout her first featured film role in Cirque du Soleil Worlds Away, which opens Friday, she gestures with cat-like precision. She sits cross-legged on a dining room chair inside the Mandarin Oriental on Brickell Key and unfolds her legs so fluidly it’s almost artistic.
Linz, 30, spent 10 years as an acrobat with Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas. She landed her first role in Mystére on New Year’s Eve 2001, soon after graduating high school, and three years later starred in KÁ on aerial straps. Grace, agility and an ease with body language should come naturally to the 4-foot-11-inch woman.
This ability also helped Linz transition from Cirque’s live theatrical world to a film set where her wordless character has to convey emotions through body language. In the 3D film, executive produced by James Cameron ( Titanic) and directed by Andrew Adamson ( Shrek), a young woman falls hard for a circus aerialist but has to follow him through a parallel universe populated by seven Vegas Cirque shows before they can hook up.
“My character is supposed to be normal, but in this Cirque world, which is larger than life and huge. So you are trying to prevent yourself from matching their energy. This leaves you in the habit of connecting your voice and body, and you can express yourself that way, but we had to get rid of that for the film,” she says. “The whole thing was an adjustment but, thankfully, James Cameron and Andrew Adamson make good films and know how to guide performances, and they have these soft, cuddly wings to tuck you under. They are actually nice guys.”
James Cameron is a nice guy?
Linz laughs and tucks knee to chest.
“When I met James Cameron I didn’t know he was working on this project. I had no idea this guy I met in the fitting room, where we talked about beer and tattoos and life and TV shows and random normal chit-chat stuff, was James Cameron, and he was my boss, and so that was great. It took away the intimidation. I made my first friend on set so I didn’t have to worry.”
Now, the former child gymnast from Colorado Springs says she would like to turn to acting. “There’s no reason why an acrobat can’t have lines and tell a story because the body is an incredible mechanism for storytelling, and it’s not just the voice and not just the eyes.”
Making Worlds Away in Vegas and New Zealand, Linz realized she had a niche. “Basically, the characters that suit me are either cute quirky comedy or I’m adorable but I will kill you. There’s a trend that maybe only I’d notice — being under 5 feet — but in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo universe there seemed to be more petite fierce heroines. That’s refreshing because there were none for me growing up. There was no one that looked like me.”
She hopes Worlds Away might inspire a similar reaction.
“Maybe a munchkin somewhere would see this, and say, ‘I want to be an Olympic swimmer, or maybe I was capable of doing more than I was expected to.’ ”
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