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Since she was pulled off the streets of New York at age 14 to star in the controversial "Kids," Rosario Dawson continues to make an impression on screen with her provocative choices. Whether she goes for laughs in "Clerks II," takes a wild ride in Quentin Tarantino's "Death Proof" or becomes a lethal warrior prostitute in Robert Rodriguez's "Sin City," Dawson rarely plays it safe.
Dawson continues her cinematic fearless streak in Danny Boyle's mind-bending "Trance," which opens in U.S. theaters on April 5. The film tells the story of a fine art auctioneer named Simon (James McAvoy) mixed up with a criminal gang headed by Franck (Vincent Cassel), who seeks out the help of mysterious hypnotherapist Elizabeth Lamb (Dawson) to recover a lost Goya painting. The stakes quickly rise in this modern noir as the boundaries between reality, hypnotic suggestion and suppressed emotions blur.
We sat down for a face-to-face session with the always hypnotic Dawson and chatted about her susceptibility to suggestion, why she's okay with being nude in "Trance" and what freaks her out more than anything.
Your "Trance" character, hypnotherapist Elizabeth Lamb, has a more personal connection to the stolen painting, Goya's "Witches in the Air," than Simon and Franck. Why?
Art is an interesting character in this film. When you have a piece of art that is revered and established and all the right professionals say it's a true piece of art, there's something to it because you know it's as unique as a human being. If it's protected and curated well, it will outlive you. So you really only have the benefit of looking at it a little while before it disappears out of your life. That's something that's very interesting: the impermanence of things, the control and dominance, the question of ownership. That is very particular for Elizabeth. It's not just something that is worth a lot of money. She has a relationship to it and it makes sense why she would step into this situation with these people and try to find this painting.
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Elizabeth has a knack for planting all kinds of devilish suggestions into men's minds in "Trance." In real life, how receptive are you to hypnotherapy?
I don't think I am part of that five percent that's very susceptible and can be told to do really outrageous things, but I was willing to go explore. I'm very fascinated by the brain, but I think it's really hard for me to let go. I'd have to find the right person to do that long-term because it's very revealing. I hold things close to the vest when it comes to that kind of stuff. But it was interesting to me in my session that, despite my best efforts to be very particular and just observe, I'd lay back, she'd put this blanket over me, and she said things to me that seemed really innocuous but were telling. Later on, she'd say, "At this point your foot twitched," and I didn't remember in correlation to what she was saying. It just felt separate, but it's all connected. That's the stuff that can get revealed through hypnosis.
You met with a few hypnotherapists to prepare for this role in "Trance." What did you learn about the practice?
What struck me about every hypnotherapist that I met was how they were like, "It doesn't really matter what your phobia is or what you are dealing with. I can help you." That's just the detail of one thing you want to change about a function. That's what gives Elizabeth the confidence to step forward into this den of wolves and handle her own because she knows she can outwit all of them: "I'm going to play this ten pieces ahead because I'm a chess player."
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There is a lot of nudity in "Trance." Did you have any reservations about baring it all for this role?
I would be even more confident with more Vincent and James, per se [Laughs]. I can't imagine myself doing porn or something that is exploitative and just about being titillating. Like, "At this point for no reason whatsoever, I'm just going to walk across the room naked. Can we make sure we shoot that from a really good angle? Then we'll just go on with the scene as if nothing happened." That's not what is going on in "Trance" and what enticed me about it. If you took out the nudity, something would really be lost. It's an intimate secret that is sort of played with at that moment. She's trying to unlock a memory and instigate a change. She's walking a very fine line and risking a lot in doing so. That is the most revealing. It's not so much her physicality that is being revealed, but all her reasons for exposing it. I was struck by her bravery and it compelled me to have the same.
Does anything freak you out?
Yes. I'm not into jellyfish or centipedes — things with like multiple, tentacle-ly legs and suction cups and things just don't seem necessary, especially when they're electrified.
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What geeks you out?
What doesn’t geek me out? Recently, one of my favorite geek-outs was when Patrick Stewart stepped up and did an anti-domestic violence and abuse towards women campaign. He said, "I'm a man, I'm not an abusive man, this is what a real man is like and I want other men to stand up and acknowledge this problem." I'm a huge Trekkie. I didn't think I could love him more, and then he started talking about being that kind of man. I recently posted it on Twitter: "Trekkie for life. I will adore him forever." He's speaking out about this in his 70s. He's the man.
Also Check Out: Director's Cut Q&A With Danny Boyle (Film.com)
What's a movie that everyone hates that you love?
"Howard the Duck." Love, love, love me some "Howard the Duck." I don't understand why people don’t appreciate that masterpiece.
New York or L.A.?
I can't choose if you said "New York or California." I think New York, always, because I love me some New York and I love being here. I also live in Venice Beach by the water, but that doesn't really feel like L.A. to me in that sense. I'm a New Yorker from Brooklyn. Come on … what kind of question is that? [Laughs]
How often do you Google yourself or look at your IMDb profile?
Sometimes I check IMDb to try to figure out my own personal trivia, because I'll have projects that are pending and I'm not really sure if people are reading it or not. I didn't write any of that stuff about myself — I find it incredibly embarrassing. I'm an advocate and an activist, so sometimes I check to see how much that is showing up … or if it's all just fart jokes or whatever weird comment I said or faux pas I made. I'm usually looking up other people!
You are reprising your role of Gail in "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For." Can you tell us anything or are you still sworn to secrecy?
I don't really have much to say about that. I can't really talk about it. I know some things will be revealed at Comic-Con knowing Robert [Rodriguez], but, sadly, I'm not allowed to say anything. But [lifts up the hair on the side of her head] my hair is growing out!