Rosario Dawson

Rosario Dawson talks about her latest film, working with this diverse cast, Sin City 2 and more

Rosario Dawson has certainly come such a long way in a short time. 15 years ago, Larry Clark and Harmony Korine spotted Dawson on the stoop of an East Village apartment and asked her to be in a movie called Kids and a career was launched. An impressive body of work followed in the following years until Dawson really hit the big time with her role alongside Will Smith in Men In Black II and Edward Norton Jr. in The 25th Hour in 2002 and she seemingly hasn't stopped working since with impressive roles in big-budget films like Sin City and smaller fare like A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints. This busy actress' latest film reteamed her with Will Smith for Seven Pounds, which hits the shelves on DVD and Blu-ray on March 31. I had the chance to speak with this talented actress and here's what she had to say.

Can you talk a little bit about how you came on board and what your first reaction was when you read this script?

Rosario Dawson: Well, I though it was remarkable. It was one of the best scripts I'd ever read and I was just delighted that I could actually audition for it and fight for it. It was great just going from reading the script to auditioning to all the rehearsal that we did and just watching it on the screen, it's just really palpable and emotional. It's just really great. It's not easy to do, but it's really remarkable.

The movie had a lot of buzz because people really didn't know what it was about. It was kind of a hard movie to market so was that kind of difficult when you were doing press for this movie since it was such a big secret?

Rosario Dawson: Oh yeah. I literally just had a woman come up to me yesterday and go, 'I've asked all my friends. What does Seven Pounds mean?' I'm like, well, it has to do with the whole Merchant of Venice, a pound of flesh for a pound of flesh. She's like, 'Oh God. It's just been killing me. I'm sorry but I loved this movie so much and I refused to tell them what it was, that they just had to go see it.' Now, imagine having to sell that. How do I just say, 'It's a great film. Go check it out. Trust me,' which is not too difficult to do when it's Will Smith, but still it was really hard, and that's too bad, actually. There are actually a lot of things in it that I wanted to talk about, that were really powerful and important.

So Will has pretty much become the biggest star in Hollywood, so what was it like to come back and work with him on this?

Rosario Dawson: Well, I worked with him on Men In Black II before, and it was just to really revisit our relationship. We have grown up so much with what the work was and where we were in our careers and the kind of work he was doing at that time to graduating up to this, being 40 and sexy, which he is. What I think is really remarkable is a film like The Pursuit of Happyness and this, he's almost going back to his roots. When he did Six Degrees of Separation, he really honed his acting chops and was very brave in his performance with that and I think that's a lot of what you see in this film. This is not an easy film to do. That first scene where he's screaming at him you're like 'Yo, what is he doing?' (Laughs). I just thought it was really remarkable that he's constantly challenging himself as an actor and he's respectful of his audience in that way by giving them something more than just popcorn. Not only are they powerful films, but they're powerful and emotional for men. I had so many friends of mine who are fathers who said they wept openly in both Seven Pounds and The Pursuit of Happyness. That's kind of remarkable. These kinds of movies, usually because they're so emotional, usually don't get made or not put out for an audience that big, with a lot of that stuff being relegated to independent films. Here is the biggest movie star in the entire world making these films and really getting them seen all around the world and really pushing them and telling these really powerful and emotional stories that men can really relate to. They are not usually a type of film that are put out there, so I was thrilled to be a part of that as well. All of us had to work really hard for it. None of us took it lightly, it was all about teamwork. We had an acting coach and (laughs) Gabrielle (Muccino) yelling at us in different languages and gesturing wildly to pull whatever performance out of us. He wasn't interested in seeing Will Smith and Rosario Dawson acting. He wanted to see Emily and Ben. It was really remarkable to be on a film so late in my career and in a place with two people with remarkable talents that are really pushing themselves that hard and not sitting back. It was very nuanced and very difficult. I think one of the most amazing things was I got to sit in on a screening where they would ask the audience all these questions afterwards. They were saying everything that we hoped they would say, which is that it was powerful, that it made them think about certain issues differently than they had before, that you could see, in my character, her loneliness as well as her strengths, things that sometimes are really in contrast with each other, that you hope can translate on film. It was great. We really respected that our audience was smart enough to be with us and when you hear they're talking about it right after they see it and they're with you on it, it's a remarkable feat.

I talked to Michael Ealy last week and he's one of the great supporting cast you have around you with Woody Harrelson and Barry Pepper . What was it like just having this cast around you?

Rosario Dawson: Great, actually. So much of this movie is the individual performances, and I thought everybody was really great. Michael only has a few scenes, but you believe that they're brothers, the kind of relationship that they have. There is just something really dymanic. It's clever, it's got little surprises all the way out, but if the performances aren't good, than it's just a gimmick. That's what I think makes this so remarkable. These are heavy issues that we're talking about, we need the performances in there to merit that and make it as real as possible, otherwise, you're mocking what a lot of people are going through. That was one of the things I was concerned about in doing my research, in performing her, making sure everything was right. I talked to people who had heart transplants and who had surgeries and even about working a printing press machine. I wanted make sure that I knew what I was doing when I was portraying this person. Even the people at the printing press were thrilled. They were like, 'You did so well.' I wanted these people to feel respected in what their professions are. It's not just something to make up and be done with. Yeah, maybe the average person might not know, but I want to get it right. What's the point of not doing that research and humanizing that person, because these are real people. My mom is diabetic and asthmatic and the idea is horrifying to me of losing her, it was hard for her to watch me in the hospital gown throughout the whole movie. But if it's hard for her to watch, then that means I've done my job right, because she really has to look at someone who is her daughter, looking really sick and that was definitely what I was aiming for.

You kind of touched on this a little bit before, but can you just talk a little more about working with (director) Gabrielle Muccino and how would you compare him to other filmmakers you've worked with?

Rosario Dawson: I really like him. I saw some of the films he did in Italy and I think The Last Kiss is really remarkable. I had met with him a couple of years ago on a project that neither of us ended up doing, but we really liked each other and liked each other's work and it was great to revisit each other on this, and get to know each other on this, because it was so powerful. We got to really see each other and we have a great relationship because of it. We both think in real terms, in that we're trying to do something really specific with movies and we're trying to work hard and that's something I think he respected and admired and I know I respected and admired about him. It's amazing for him to come here from Italy and make two very American films with very strong American topics and give it that emotional intensity that I think is a little bit easier and more expected of an Italian film that is not in an American film, and he makes it fit. His English is perfect now, but he admits his English was horrible when he was doing The Pursuit of Happyness and it's remarkable the kind of film he was able to pull out of Will and everybody else with just his gut feeling and forcing himself to be able to communicate what needed to happen, in order to make the film he envisioned. There's something very real, and emotional and connected that comes from Gabrielle and he really demands truth and he demands hard work and I just really love that. I mean, it comes in funny forms, believe me. There are definitely moments where he's like, (in hilarious mock Italian) 'OK, I want you to do the scene like if you were me, I wasn't me. OK action.' He screamed at Will through a megaphone and he's like, 'Will, I need you to be more vulnerable like a naked, newborn baby boy. OK action.' It's really funny, but you get it, you get where he's coming from. I love how he communicated with us. It was very direct and very specific. He smacked me on the forehead and was like, 'Why are you frowning? Are you trying to pretend like you're upset? Why don't you actually be upset?' It was great. I've worked with a lot of hardcore directors that were like that. You don't mess around with Quentin, you don't mess around on Spike's set. You don't mess around on Oliver's set, because it's their movie, you know. I really love that because these are guys that are constantly challenging themselves and pushing themselves and not doing the obvious things. They're always trying to top themselves and I want to be a part of that struggle. I want to do that for myself as well, so I really enjoyed that and I think Gabrielle is the real deal. I think he's up there as one of the finest directors I've ever worked with.

There's been a lot of talk about Sin City 2 lately, so are there any more updates you can give us?

Rosario Dawson: I can't. I already said that Frank's got the script done and supposedly we might be getting into it this year in 2009, so just keep your fingers crossed. It's been coming and going for awhile now. Believe me, everybody who's in it is on this rollercoaster of it all. Barring anybody else getting pregnant, or anything else like that happening, I think it's very quite possibly a go.

I know you were originally slated to play Miri in Zack and Miri Make a Porno, but then Eagle Eye came along. I was wondering if you'd be willing to work with Kevin Smith again on something like maybe his new film with Bruce Willis and Tracey Morgan?

Rosario Dawson: I absolutely am a huge Kevin Smith fan so I would love to work with him again because I think he is beyond talented and amazing and I am grateful to have worked with him at all. So absolutely, I would absolutely love to work with him again, so put in a good word for me.

So is there anything you're eyeing up or looking to develop in the near future?

Rosario Dawson: I'm still just working on my comic book and just taking a lot of meetings with different production companies with it. I'm finally starting to concentrate again on work. Besides possibly developing a show at Sci Fi right now, I'm just starting to look at things to act in. I really have been spending too much time on other things with the election and the Seven Pounds press. I'm kind of exciting and a little nervous.

So, finally, Seven Pounds comes out on DVD this week, so for those who were confused and might not have caught it in the theaters, what would you like to say to them to get them to give this a chance on DVD?

Rosario Dawson: I think it's especially poignant with everything that's going on right now, especially economically in the world, and the idea of a connection or a relationship or sacrifice are really key elements. I really think this movie is about the transformative power of love and it's a relationship you don't get to see very often on the screen, so I think people will open themselves up to that and bring some tissues because it's an emotional ride.

Excellent. That's about all I have for you, Rosario. Thank you so much for your time and the best of luck with your new projects.

Rosario Dawson: Thank you very much. Take care. Bye.

You can catch the lovely Rosario Dawson in the powerful Seven Pounds, which hits the shelves on DVD and Blu-ray on March 31.