Robert Rodriguez Explains That Surprise 'Alita: Battle Angel' Cameo

Alita: Battle Angel has some high-profile actors in its ensemble, with Oscar winners Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, and Mahershala Ali all delivering their A-game in a surprisingly entertaining sci-fi epic. But one big cameo at the end of the film was one of the most exciting surprises. In a new interview, Robert Rodriguez explains how he landed the actor for that cameo, and what it potentially means for future films.

Warning, major spoilers ahead for Alita: Battle Angel.

For much of the film, the Big Bad called Nova is an unseen force, manipulating and sometimes possessing his pawns played by Ali and Jackie Earle Haley. It's not until the final act of the film that it's revealed what Nova looks like, and it's a lot like Edward Norton. The Birdman actor shows up clad in an all-white suit and a white wig, revealing his recognizable face as he raises the glasses that had been spying upon Alita (Rosa Salazar) from his perch in the floating city of Zalem.

Rodriguez spoke to Digital Spy about casting Norton in the role and why his resemblance to producer James Cameron got him the job:

"I tried to find somebody who had a real intelligence to them. We went through a list of people that we could find who were worth bothering to do this, because there's no dialogue or anything. It's really for the setup of, if there was a sequel. We want to put someone here who we would want in a sequel. So it's kind of tough casting to do. We both knew Ed. neither of us had worked with Ed. But Ed's really smart. Like Jim [Cameron], he's very, very smart. I've known him for a number of years. I always thought of him as being similar – not looking so much like Jim, but similar. I can see why they were friends. I can just see them geeking out. So when you put the white hair on, it was like, 'Yeah, he kind of looks like Jim. I think that looks good'. That was pretty funny."

Norton's cameo was both an inside joke between Rodriguez and Cameron — who argues "They didn't capture my hair at all" — as well as teasing future sequels which could see a showdown between Alita and Nova. The movie ends on a cliffhanger, with Alita throwing the gauntlet down at Nova and Nova flashing a sinister smile at the vengeful cyborg. However, it's unlikely that Alita: Battle Angel will get a sequel as the box office isn't looking too hot – which could make it the first big box office bomb of 2019. At least Edward Norton got to cosplay as James Cameron for a hot minute.