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As Gail, the ruthless leader of the gun-toting, fishnet-stockinged, street-walking denizens of Frank Miller's pulp-noir epic "Sin City," Rosario Dawson is one mean cookie.

Not sweet. Not soft. Mean. But it's not just the whips and chains and handcuffs she wields, or the skimpy leather outfits that she almost wears, that lend her power. As written by comic book legend Frank Miller, and brought to life onscreen by co-directors Miller and Robert Rodriguez ("El Mariachi," "The Faculty," "Once Upon a Time in Mexico"), Gail is a new take on an old stereotype: Instead of the hooker with a heart of gold, she's the hooker with a heart of black ice. That she somehow makes that combination far sexier than it sounds says a lot about her skills as an actress, and it says even more about the beautiful, adrenalized, nightmarish world that Miller, Rodriguez and the all-star cast have created. MTV News' Larry Carroll talked with Dawson about power games, gender confusion, and life after playing the baddest girl in a very, very bad town.

Photos: Frank Miller's "Sin City"

Photos: Willis, Alba, Murphy, more at "Sin City" premiere, 03.28.05

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MTV: "Sin City" seems like one of those movies that must have brought you back to when you were a kid, dressing up, playing games — all that kind of stuff. Were you and the other women fighting over who had the biggest gun, or who had the best outfit?

Rosario Dawson: I didn't have to fight over that, because I did have the best outfit and the biggest gun. [Laughs] The only thing that I probably would've really enjoyed doing that I didn't get to do was dance in Jessica Alba's chaps. Chaps are super sexy. But it was fun because when we were shooting the film, this big biker rally was in town. So Frank [Miller, the writer and co-director] and I would have beers in the hotel lobby and watch the girls press themselves, topless, against the atrium elevator, which was clear glass. And I was like, "Well, this is a biker convention. There are chaps everywhere. Now I feel like it's played out, so I'm glad I'm wearing this other outfit."

MTV: So you guys fit right in.

Dawson: Definitely. Texas was really fun.

MTV: One of the other things about the whole noir and pulp legacy is that the knee-jerk reaction is to view women in the genre as objects. But in this movie, the women are using their sex as a means of gaining power and control, to compete with the men.

 "There's a lot of nudity, male nudity — at least in the comics ..." — Rosario Dawson

Dawson: Well, the men have the same thing going on. There's a lot of nudity, male nudity — at least in the comics, not so much in the movie version. But the two [types of sexuality] kind of match. The men have that stereotypical leather-jacketed, big-gun voiceover thing going on. "I'm in so much pain and I have to do this thing and it's gonna cost me my life." You know, there's a nice juxtaposition between the two characters [Dawson's Gail and Clive Owen's Dwight] and how they both kind of go and do the same thing in the movie, but they each do it in a very feminine or masculine way. The men can be very sensitive in their voiceovers, while the women don't have any voiceovers. They just go ahead and do what they have to. And I don't think that there's ever a moment where you suspect that these women would not be able to handle themselves in any situation. They're femme fatales, for sure, which is cool.

MTV: And what would the world be like if women could dispense their own justice?

 "Sin City" Clip: What does Clive Owen really want from Rosario Dawson — a car or a kiss?

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Dawson: Well, women can dispense their own justice. It's about just taking that power for yourself. So it's nice to be able to watch things like this movie. I mean, I like romantic comedies and all that kind of stuff. But seeing a klutzy woman walk around and be insecure in front of a guy in order for him to be able to handle her sexuality? Like she's beautiful, but she doesn't know it, so it's cute? No. I want to see a woman walk in there and be like, "What? I have breasts and you're staring at them. Hmmm. Interesting." You know? And I like someone who's going to keep pushing through. I think that's a much more interesting character to play. Unfortunately, though, they're not usually lead characters. But in something like this, in Frank Miller's world, every woman would be like that. And I like that.

MTV: You're also starring in "Rent," based on Jonathan Larson's Broadway musical. What's been changed in the movie version, and what's been kept from the original play?

More "Sin City" Interviews
  Jessica Alba & Brittany Murphy

  Robert Rodriguez

Dawson: You know, you're gonna get all the classic songs, and we have a lot of the original Broadway cast appearing in the movie. But we also have Jonathan's family's approval on everything, and they've been there every step of the way. It's been a real labor of love for everyone, trying to stay as close as possible to the spirit of the play. I mean, you really can't touch it: It's a Pulitzer Prize-winning play! We haven't added anything, but mostly have just taken some things out, so that it's not a six-hour movie. We're all definitely sad that we had to get rid of some of the songs, but it's been an amazing experience.  

Check out everything we've got on "Sin City."

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Photo: Dimension Films

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