Alice Braga

The Brazilian actress wants to save the world, one movie at a time.

Photography by Jeff Burton

Ever since Alice Braga starred in City of God, the 2002 tale of gang violence in Rio de Janeiro, the now 30-year-old Brazilian beauty has been battling invading aliens (Predators, 2010) and mutant vampires (I Am Legend, 2007). But in June, the upheaval she was dealing with was not make-believe. “I’m sorry I’m late,” Braga apologized on the phone from São Paulo. “But there’s rioting all over the city.”

A week earlier, a hike in bus fares ignited a wave of protests, and Braga couldn’t help but see the parallels to her new dystopian sci-fi blockbuster Elysium. “The movie is great entertainment,” she said dutifully. “But it’s also about how much inequality there is in the world.” Braga plays a single mother struggling to survive on a ravaged Earth while its elite citizens have fled for Elysium, an outer-space Xanadu scrubbed of disease and hardship. “I always end up in these very intense action films,” she said. “I have no idea why!”

Now Braga, whose onscreen sex appeal rivals that of her aunt Sonia Braga—the glamorous star of the ’80s whose paramours included Mick Jagger, Clint Eastwood, and Robert Redford—is about to trade in combat boots for heels in the upcoming TV series Latitudes, which will air in Latin America and, eventually, online. In the comedic drama, which she helped create and produce, Braga plays a Brazilian fashion editor. “For once,” she said happily, “I don’t have to save the world!”