SIN CITY - Q&A with ROSARIO DAWSON
Rosario Dawson is Gail
Rosario Dawson is not one to be intimidated by the flesh baring required for her role as Gail the ultra sexy and ruthless leader of the Ladies of the Night in Sin City. Rosario as Gail spends her time wearing the skimpiest of skimpy leather costumes (and holding an Uzi) and it was, apparently, rather empowering.
"You know, once you put it on, with those high heels, you kind of have to do that strut," she laughs. "It does kind of help get you into the right place for it."
She even indulged in the gastronomic delights of Austin, Texas and certainly wasn't going to be put off by the thought of adding a pound or two to her stunning figure.
"Hell no! We were in Austin and we would go off and have this big brisket slathered in barbecue sauce and then Robert (Rodriguez, director) would look over and go 'maybe that wasn't the smartest thing to do...' and I was like 'oh, don't worry, I'll loosen a buckle.'"
Ms Dawson, 26, plays Gail as a sexy siren, a hooker with attitude who is likely to kill a man if he crosses her - just the way that Sin City creator Frank Miller intended.
Frank Miler grew up reading superhero comics which eventually led to the discovery of hard boiled crime writers like Raymond Chandler and Mickey Spillane, master of the 'pulp fiction' genre.
Miller, 48, is also credited with reinvigorating the Batman franchise thanks to his work on Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. In 1991, Frank created Sin City, drawing heavily on his knowledge of both New York and Los Angeles but mostly, his ever active and incredibly fertile imagination, and his life long love of crime novels.
Sin City marked a return to the pulp fiction that he loved so much - a stunning landscape peopled by voluptuous broads, crooked cops, evil predators and desperate hoods who sometimes, follow their hearts and try to do the right thing. It's dark, brooding, violent, often funny and always sexy as hell.
The dialogue crackles with devastating put downs, snappy one liners and a rough poetry and rhythm which owes much to the likes of Chandler, Spillane and Dashiell Hammett and those other crime writers that Miller first fell for as a teenager.
Understandably, many filmmakers realised that the cinematic potential of Sin City was huge. But Frank Miller, who has had plenty of experience, sometimes negative, of Hollywood in the past, didn't want to compromise his vision - and felt that if he handed over the film rights, he would inevitably be doing just that.
Robert Rodriquez, however, was determined to convince Miller that his intentions were honourable. The filmmaker works in his home town of Austin, Texas and like Miller, he's a bit of an outsider, a visionary who often bucks the system to do things his way.
And the key to convincing Miller was that he wanted to translate - not adapt - Sin City to the screen. "He was reluctant in the same way I thought somebody would ruin it by turning this into a movie and that was my whole point. I said 'I've figured how to do it, we're not going to turn this into a movie, we're going to make movies into the graphic novel.'"
At his own expense, Rodriquez planned to shoot the opening sequence - featuring Josh Hartnett as a smooth talking killer - and let Miller watch. If he didn't like what he saw, then nothing more would happen. But if he did, they were in business.
"I had to reverse that whole tide of all the bad things that had happened to him and I knew if he came down and saw us shoot the opening and then he would be convinced," says Rodriquez. "He saw us there with the books opened, we were all following the shots and he was just like 'wow, this is unbelievable..'"
Rodriquez used ground breaking filming techniques to shoot the film on digital almost entirely against a green screen background - one of the few sets to actually be built was the bar which, at some point, features almost all of the vivid characters in the three different segments. It meant that the actors were often working alone with very few props.
Such was Rodriqeuz's commitment to remaining true to the integrity of the project that he wanted Frank Miller to be his co-director who would be there, by his side, every day of the shoot. But one week before the start of production, the powerful Director's Guild of America, refused Miller a co-director credit, claiming it was against their rules and Rodriquez promptly quit the DAG in protest.
"It was like obey the rules or make this movie," says Rodriquez. "I was already at a point where we were a week away from shooting, I didn't know that it was against the rules to have a second director, I'd seen multiple directors before.
"I just thought it would be better to leave than stop shooting or not shoot the movie. I mean, everyone just feels that this is something really new and exciting and different and at that point I was going to bring Quentin on as a director so they wouldn't have gone for that anyway. And you know it's better that I'm just not in that group because we have such crazy ideas, it's better than I'm just free."
The Quentin in question is a certain Mr Tarantino, his close friend and director of such classic modern masterpieces as RESERVOIR DOGS and PULP FICTION. They have a history of working together, swapping creative ideas - they both made FROM DUSK TILL DAWN, Robert scored the soundtrack for KILL BILL 2 (for a nominal sum of $1, the same fee paid to Tarantino on SIN CITY.)
This time, Robert wanted Quentin to have the chance to work with the digital technology and green screen so he invited him to direct a stunning sequence involving Clive Owen and Benicio Del Toro. So Frank Miller's SIN CITY, has not one but three directors.
It also boasts a truly exceptional ensemble cast who jumped at the chance to work with Miller, Rodriquez and - for a lucky few - Tarantino. Jessica Alba plays Nancy, an exotic stripper who is besotted with the cop who, years earlier, saved her from a murderous kidnapper; Hartigan, the cop who pays a terrible price for his heroism, is played by Bruce Willis.
Mickey Rourke makes a memorable appearance as Marv, a brutish hood who loses his heart to a hooker called Goldie (Jaime King) and sets out on a devastating trail of revenge when she is killed, which leads him to the discovery of a chilling cannibal, Kevin played by Elijah Wood,
The Ladies of the Night - the hookers who control their own patch in Sin City's Old Town - and the deadliest of all of these proud and predatory women is Miho, played by Devon Aoki.
The film also features Michael Madson as Bob, a corrupt cop, Michael Clarke Duncan as the ultimate enforcer, Manute 'a man so immense his punch is like a freight train..', Nick Stahl as the evil kidnapper known as 'Yellow Bastard' Powers Boothe as Senator Roark, Rutger Hauer as Cardinal Roark and Carla Gugino as Lucille.
Born and raised in New York, Rosario Dawson is now one of Hollywood's hottest leading ladies. She recently starred alongside Colin Farrell is Alexander The Great, and received wide acclaim opposite Edward Norton in Spike Lee's The 25 TH HOUR. She also starred in MEN IN BLACK 2, THE ADVENTURES OF PLUTO NASH and CHELSEA WALLS, for director Ethan Hawke.
She made her film debut in the controversial KIDS, directed by Larry Clark. Rosario is currently filming the musical, RENT.
This must be as out there as you can get. Did you think twice about it?
Rosario Dawson: Absolutely not. I was so excited and I had been anticipating it for a while. My uncle Gus is a comic book artist and we had been talking about it. And with the fan base in the comic book world this has been something that has been talked about for a long time but hadn't been touched for a particular reason. Frank Miller had written this script and given it to producers and pulled it because they weren't going to get it right and he was like 'you know what? Some things are meant to stay as books.' And then Robert (Rodriguez) took it to another place and I was so excited to be a part of this film, it's going to make history.
Is it true that your mother helped you get this role?
That's exactly how she credits herself (laughs). She accosted Robert at the ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO premiere in New York and we were huge fans of his and she jumped on him and said 'my daughter Rosario absolutely loves you, you must put her in a movie,' and he was like 'yeah tell her to call me, the next role is hers..' but I still had to audition. (Laughs).
Did you do some training before playing Gail?
I've been wearing heels for a long time, so that was good training (laughs) . And wielding an Uzi was a little strange but I'd done some shooting for other films before, like Rundown, and this was interesting because we usually have stunt guns for that stuff but because of how close the screen was we couldn't use a gun that would have fake kick back, so I'm having to do that (makes like she's holding a gun) like if you were a kid playing with your friends - that's exactly how it felt with this green screen behind you and only a couple of props. But everyone is in this imaginary world with you and you are just playing it out and having a good time.
What about the costume? It's very revealing.
Well that was interesting, there wasn't a whole lot of it (laughs) I was like 'oh nice..' But when I started it was obvious that they were sticking very closely to Frank's graphic novels, it was very exact, so no one could go 'can't she wear pants?' it was fun you know, I was just really excited about getting into it. And once you put that outfit on, with all the dialogue, all the movements really come to you because it was a very posy character and it was nice having so much pre ordained for you just stepping into this character. I chopped my hair off for it, I did the strut and it really worked, it was real fun, if anything I felt really excited sort of being this woman pretty much half dressed but around all these other women and still feeling cocky and cocksure.
So the costume helped?
Yeah. Every single woman there just felt fantastic and we weren't sizing each other up like who is better or not. There was lots of different looks, every fantasy was out there, but the women were always in control and that was what made it fun putting on that outfit.
Did you stop eating two weeks before the film started?
Hell no! We were in Austin and we would go off and have this big brisket slathered in barbecue sauce and then Robert would look over and go 'maybe that wasn't the smartest thing to do...' and I was like 'oh, don't worry, I'll loosen a buckle.' And I like that it was all digital, I was like 'take off the inches, help me out there Robert, make me look good!' (Laughs)
What was your view of the violence? Does the fact that the violence is so stylised lessen it?
I think so. The yellow blood is interesting, it does lessen it. Everything is so extreme - these women are going into war in high heels. This is not supposed to be based on reality at all. The violence is extreme, the outfits are extreme, the love, the situations, everything is out there. It's all about entertainment. You are not supposed to look at this and go 'but why would they do all of that violence.' It was all in the book. Ask Frank, basically, that's a dark man (laughs).
Did you ever talk about the way women are portrayed in the film?
I'm just the wrong broad to ask these types of questions I like to see these women go out there and strut it and be powerful in the face of all of that and still be feminine. That's just something that appeals to me more. So as much as it seems misogynistic I felt the opposite - I felt liberated and very strong and I like having that type of woman portrayed. You know it's interesting because some of the girls are topless in this - every single girl was supposed to be topless in this. You know, Jessica (Alba), myself, Brittany (Murphy), we decided not to be - it wasn't an issue.
You didn't want to do it?
Well, they were like 'if you want to..' and I was like 'well, if it's not a big deal then I guess I won't...' And anyway, Clive Owen was supposed to be bottomless and I understood that he didn't want to, he was like 'I'm a father, I don't want my penis on the internet..'
To what degree is making a film like this a leap of faith?
Well, with Robert it's not a leap of faith, he's already proven himself as such a talent. He is a remarkable talent and someone I wanted to work with a long time. And having Frank Miller there, I could see that they meant it and they were gong to do it exactly like the comic. I'm like 'OK, give me the outfit, if we're going for it, I'm game.' (Laughs)
It must be automatically transforming to put on that outfit.
(Laughs) You should try it sometime, you'll be amazed at the strut and the life that would come out of you.
Your character is like the Madam of Sin City isn't she?
Yeah, the geisha thing, a bit of the Black Widow, I like that these women are completely in control of themselves. They don't want the pimps and the gangsters and anyone trying to push them around, because with that comes all of the problems that you think of when you think of hookers, you think of rapes and beatings and all of that. These women take care of themselves and look out for each other. They will do what a john wants up to a certain point but when they are not interested anymore they will kill you and take it. I kind of like playing someone that deliciously in control.
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