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Rosario Dawson On Danny Boyle’s ‘Trance,’ Hypnotherapy, Shaving Her Head For ‘Sin City: A Dame To Kill For’ & More

Rosario Dawson On Danny Boyle’s ‘Trance,’ Hypnotherapy, Shaving Her Head For 'Sin City: A Dame To Kill For' & More

In Danny Boyle’s latest genre-bending effort, “Trance,” film noir is fractured into a multi-layered crime narrative with lush, angular cinematography, and — of course — an allegiance-shifting femme fatale. As American hypnotherapist Elizabeth Lamb, who guides art auctioneer Simon (James McAvoy) toward the repressed location of a stolen painting pursued by gangster Franck (Vincent Cassel), actress Rosario Dawson impeccably holds the last of those aspects. 

There is a slippery, sensual quality to Dawson’s character in Boyle’s tense drama, but in real life, she wears many masks as well, albeit more amiable: founder of Voto Latino and activist for countless other organizations, head of her production company Trybe, and star in such diverse projects as “Death Proof,” “The 25th Hour,” and “Explicit Ills.” Recently, we chatted to her about “Trance,” the possibility of a return in “Clerks III,” and one of her most memorable music video appearances.

“Trance” features a constant shift between reality and trance-induced dream states. It must’ve been a nightmare to track your character’s base emotional journey alongside the decoy personalities.
It was interesting, because I really thought of all those complexities — basically trying to juggle it all properly. As smart and prepared and experienced as Liz is, she doesn’t know what’s going to happen next. Based on her understandings of the brain, she can guess, but this isn’t her home base. These are not her terms.

There was a moment where I had taken three copies of [John Hodge‘s] script and broken them down, thinking I would have to use them throughout the entirety of filming — predicting audience expectation, and what my character was projecting, hiding, or showing. And it ended up not being anything like that.

What made the difference?
The script was incredibly solid. We had two weeks of wonderful, very helpful rehearsal, and I did some research into hypnotherapy — going to institutes, meeting with hypnotherapists, having sessions — and talking about the script’s plausibility. All the hypnotherapists whom I spoke with explained, “We’re not puppetmasters or magicians. There is responsibility on the part of the person being hypnotized as well, about what exactly it is they want their subconscious coming through to change.” So I combined that all into Liz’s perspective toward the other characters.

How did you find performing alongside the cast?
Vincent is incredibly discerning. He can read anything and understand it in a very blunt, matter of fact, beautiful way. I call him the “Old School French B-Boy” because he’s just too cool for school. He’s done everything: living around the world, speaking multiple languages, writing, directing, and creating music. And you’ve got James, who’s such a great, seasoned, remarkable thoroughbred of an actor. So you’re just with these maestros and Danny at the helm and [DP] Anthony Dod Mantle. You can’t go wrong.

The film is dense with visual and music clues delineating what’s reality and what’s not. What hints, if any, were you privy to with your character?
I already had so many things to think about that I kind of refused to ask, you know, what kind of lenses they were using, or why they tilted the camera just so.

However, I think you’ll see that with Liz, what my hair looks like and what kind of clothing I’m wearing is very particular. Suttirat Larlarb, the costume designer and I — we tried not to show her as a woman who wears a miniskirt and red lipstick to bend you to her will with her sexuality. I was very specific about the way I spoke, my wardrobe, my hair – more so than I had been with any other character I’ve done.

Speaking of identity issues, Josh Brolin is swapping faces as Dwight in Robert Rodriguez’s “Sin City 2.” How will Gail come back in the sequel?
I don’t know what I can talk about with that one. All I know is I definitely shaved the side of my head. It’s been almost eight years, and it was incredible to kind of be Gail again in a way that was different to what we’ve seen before. But that’s one where I think they got that on lock — I always feel like I’m getting in trouble when I talk about “Sin City.” [laughs]

With a more casual release of info, Kevin Smith has recently announced “Clerks III.” Has he called you up to reprise your role of Becky?
He has not called me yet; I might start harassing him soon. I’ve already put it out there on Twitter-land because he Facebooked a photo of the script’s title page. I love him like crazy, I love “Clerks” and I want to see Becky’s baby and see what happens next. So put in a good word for me.

One of your more left-field appearances of late has been in The Bullitts’ music video for “Supercool.” Have you gotten any on-the-street attention from it?
[Laughs] I definitely have encountered a few calls of [in a British accent] “Rosario Dawson!” The video’s had a lot of views, but it’s still sort of niche, I think. Pockets of people know and love it, but it’ll have more of an impact once [The Bullitts’ frontman Jeymes Samuel’s] album and this short film [the western “They Die By Dawn,” starring Michael K. Williams, Giancarlo Esposito, and Erykah Badu] we’ve done together drops.

“Trance” opens in the U.S. this weekend in limited release on April 5th.

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