While some people might feel a little intimidated if they were surrounded by brawny actors like Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson, Spanish actress Elsa Pataky welcomed the challenge to match their daunting physicality while – at the same time – showing off her feminine side.

In “Fast Five,” the fifth installment of the “Fast and Furious” franchise, Pataky had the opportunity to do just that. In the film, she plays Elena Neves, a local police officer in Rio de Janiero who teams up with federal agent Luke Hobbs (Johnson) to stop street racer Dominic Toretto (Diesel) and his team who are planning a heist.

During an interview with me, Pataky, 34, whose last major U.S. film was the 2006 action thriller “Snakes on a Plane,” talked about training for her role, what makes guys who drive fast cars so attractive, and whether or not there is any competition between her and her husband Chris Hemsworth whose movie “Thor” opens the week after hers.

What drew you to the character Elena Neves in “Fast Five” and being a part of this action movie franchise?

It was a great role because [Elena] is a very strong, proud and really smart woman. She has a lot of pride because she’s working in a man’s world. She takes her job really serious. She has to prove she’s just as strong as any of the men she works with. She is surrounded by really strong guys. (Laughs) I loved the “Fast and Furious” franchise and all the action it brings.

Was it easy for you to match the intensity of all these tough-looking guys on the set?

Yeah, you have to. You’re surrounded by them. The great thing about my characters is that even though she has to be tough, she still has to be feminine. Emotionally, women are as strong as men, but physically we have to train. It was interesting playing a role with all these men and still trying to be a woman.

I read you had to train with a S.W.A.T. team to get ready for this role. What was that experience like for you?

Oh, I loved it. I grew up a tomboy. I played lots of sports. I love speed and cars and motorcycles. For me, the training was really exciting. It was one of the best parts of doing this movie.

Who is more intimidating in real life, Vin Diesel or Dwayne Johnson?

Oh, that’s such a tough question because even though they are really tough guys they are such nice people. I love them so much. I was laughing all the time with Dwayne. He was always joking. I had a lot of fun with him. They are both intimidating when you see them, but when you talk to them they are so nice.

This “Fast and Furious” franchise started back in 2001. What do you think it is about these movies that have people wanting more?

It has a little bit of everything. I know a lot of Latin people who love these movies because there is a lot of passion. Of course, it’s about cars and action and races, but there’s also a lot about friendship and family and love. Those are also very strong things in these movies. It’s a great mix. I think that’s what makes it really successful.

Personally, are you attracted to guys who drive fast cars?

Yes! I think it is so attractive when men race. I’ve also raced motorcycles before so I know all about the competition and the world of racing. I think it’s very sexy.

What kind of car do you drive?

I drive all kinds. I love the BMW and the Porsche. I also have a little Pontiac I love because it goes really fast. It’s like a little bullet.

So, if you have car trouble and have to pull off on the side of the road can you take care of it yourself or do you have to call someone?

It depends on what kind of car trouble. If it’s a flat tire, then I can change it in like 10 minutes. I’m a pro at that. (Laughs) I’m not a mechanic, so any other mechanical problems I’m not as good.

“Fast Five” comes out at theaters a week after “Thor.” Is there any competition going on right now in the Hemsworth/Pataky household to see whose movie does better?

There is a lot of competition. (Laughs) They are both such big movies. I think we’ll both be looking at the box office to see which movie makes more money. It’ll be fun, but I think we both want our movies to have good numbers.

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