Interview With Grindhouse Star Rosario Dawson

On March 25th, we had the opportunity to talk with most of the stars of Grindhouse. We will be posting the interviews leading up until the film's release on April 6th 2007.

We sat down with Rosario Dawson (Sin City, Rent, 25th Hour) to talk about her role as Abernathy in Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof. We talked to Rosario about her change from a tom boy to a girlie girl, Kevin Smith's upcoming romantic comedy, her aspirations to work with Rob Zombie, Eli Roth and Catherine Hardwicke, her comic book series O.C.T.: Occult Crimes Taskforce, and the film she is producing based on the book. But for the most part Rosario hijacked the interview to tell us about her first producing effort, Descent, which will make it's premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival. Dawson was very excited about her new film, so we let her do most of the talking.


Rosario: I use to get Roxanne Dawson's mail. All her fan mail from Star Trek.

Question: Usually your roles are tough/aggressive, but this is real girlie... (referring to her dress)

Rosario: It's nice. I feel like I'm really developing into that a little bit more as I'm getting older which is really kind of nice because I was definitely not that person at all growing up. I was the girl in school who got asked all the time if I had remembered to brush my hair that morning. You know? Because I constantly lived in my sweats and in my sleep-wear and converse sneakers. It's kind of nice to up the ante a little bit. It definitely comes with help because hair and make-up, because as much as I played that role in the movie, I'm all thumbs when it comes to that. So there is a reason that most of the time I get "that's so great, you never wear make-up". That's because I forget to put it on. [Laughs] So it also keeps my outfits really demur because it's not great to be super dressed up and then not have good hair and make-up.

Question: You worked with Kevin Smith on Clerks 2 and apparently he wrote a romantic comedy that he wants you to star in. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Rosario: No. I keep hearing that. The Weinsteins have told me that, but I have not had that confirmed from Kevin so I'm not taking that on. I've been going back and fourth talking with him just in general. I think he's phenomenal and I hope he's there at the Premiere on Monday [which he was] because the last time I talked with him he was in Canada. So I can't say. I know that I'm a rabid ridiculous huge fan of his and love him to pieces and would love to work with him again on anything. So I'll put that out there and hopefully it will get back to him. As well with Rob Zombie because I was a Reject in the Devil's Rejects, which was very sad. I thought getting my throat tore off by Doctor Satan was a definite in, and it clearly wasn't. But luckily I was able to do a voice for him. He called me to do a voice for him on the The Haunted World of El Superbeasto, which is this sick and twisted animated feature that he just wrote and will hopefully be coming out soon. These are my guys. These are the people I adore and love. Watching Eli Roth's Thanksgiving trailer, I have to say I might have to expand and give him a little call because that was pretty phenomenal. And there are some pretty phenomenal directors out there. A lot of them are men, so I'm really looking forward to working with Catherine Hardwicke. I'm really looking forward to the film I produced coming out. People getting to know Talia Lugacy, who is someone I've known for twelve years. And that we've gotten into the Tribeca Film Festival with. I'm really looking forward to that also. That's the next place I will diverge in my career because I wrote a comic book last year [O.C.T.] and I'm producing the film of that with Bob Weinstein at Dimension. That's a direction I'm really excited about.

Question: How's that going?

Rosario: It is going really well. It's been really fascinating reading scripts from the perspective of a producer. I have an appreciation for what my agent and my manger have to do, pouring over so many scripts that are really bad sometimes. We're looking for a writer/director on it. There have been some really great writers I've been reading, to be honest. But just reading so many of these scripts that don't necessarily have a woman's role in them and reading just in the perspective of finding a great writer has been really really cool. It's been really nice, because I have an idea of who I want to be the writer/director on it and hopefully that will work.

Question: Can you tell us who?

Rosario: I can't just yet. When that happens I'll be ecstatic to announce it, believe me.

Question: Do you like being at the helm? Being more in a power role?

Rosario: Definitely there is in the sense of being in more control. It's more about being able to be a part of it for more. I mean, normally as an actor I'm hired, and I'm hired for a third of the process. So I'm not there for Preproduction and no-one asks me for my opinion on the post. So it can be very frustrating sometimes after actually. Especially when you are working with a director who isn't great at talking to actors. It can be really frustrating to watch the movie later and go "oh, is that the movie you wanted because if you said that, we all could have collaborated a lot better with you, but because you aren't good at talking to actors, you shut us down, and I watch half your actors walk through their performance. It's really too bad. It's not something you experience at all with Kevin [Smith] or with Rob [Zombie]. Rob is known for having dayplayers come in for one day and doing an exceptional performance. I'm really looking forward to Halloween for that.  Kevin gets really great performances out of friends who have never been actors before. And you have that clearly with Robert [Rodriguez] and Quentin [Tarantino] who work with people who they are huge fans of and get incredible, again, performances out of them. People you haven't seen on the screen for so long, and suddenly now are a big huge top selling celebrities right now. It's like we take for granted that Uma Thurman, Sam Jackson, John Travolta, Pam Grier were the big names for this generation as they were before but that was due to the exceptional film calls those guys made. Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, those are names that weren't necessarily rolling off our tongue before. The contribution they made to film, Robert threw away his DGA card so he could co-direct this movie with Frank Miller is the reason why we have 300 out there right now. It's the reason why  Gerard Butler might be doing Snake Plissken. It is really astronomical that these two very young directors have had on this industry. And it makes me very proud having been part of, knowing there will be compilations being put out that I will have been part of. And their careers are just beginning. We have future films from them to expect for decades to come that will be astronomically great. I mean, if this is what they are turning out to give to the fans, a Grindhouse movie that is really cool but has great female roles in it, incredible dialogue in it – all the things that Hollywood says they can't do in an entertaining movie. I think it just really raises the bar. It raises the bar for me and makes me very excited about stepping into a different position with producing and getting into writing and developing a comic book. The integrity that is necessary, because you can't do that, you can't work with Kevin, Robert, and Quentin, and Oliver [Stone] and Spike [Lee] and produce something that's shit. It's like, I will get a phone call and be like "Don't make me look bad for hiring you Rosario!" [Laughs]

Question: Was it always eventually in your plans to expand or...

Rosario: No, I'm telling you... It's interesting because that was a very important time in my life because I had done kids when I was 15, they picked me off the street, "We're doing this movie". I said "Sure, I'd love to do it." Then I disappeared to Texas for a year and they told me "Hey, we premiered it at Sundance and the surprise screening at Midnight is doing very well. We're releasing it in theaters. You have to come." And I watched it and I remember enjoying myself so much. I only worked four days on it but I remember being like "what a cool experience" and I watched it and I remember being like "Alright, I'm pretty good, maybe this can be something I could do." I wanted to be a marine biologist but I was like "may-be I can think about a career change". I was sixteen years old and I started to go to my grandmothers and I moved back to Texas by myself and got some roommates. I was sixteen and my mom let me move away from Texas, they all stayed there. And it was like, if you're going to be sixteen years old and living on your own and decide to be an actor, then you have to go to acting classes. I went to Strasburg with Hayden Christensen, Scarlett Johansson, and I'm in these classes and that's how I met Talia Lugacy, wearing her long curly hair and big Stanley Kubrick t-shirt. She was very very serious, and walked into the DGA at ten years old to try to get her card. And they were like, "Read cute little girl, try again." And I met her when I was sixteen and she was fifteen and we always said she was going to write and direct and I was going to act and produce. I was in all except one of her sight and sound films at NYU. I produced her thesis film which was this twenty minute film we did called the Bliss Fires on 35 mill. They asked me at Glamor magazine to direct a short film and I asked if she could direct it and it really established us as a bona-fide team. And this is our first feature together, but this is something that has been twelve years in the process. So it is very exciting for me to bring this out, as much as it seems like I'm piggybacking off of other stuff. This has always been in the agenda.

Question: How different than your previous work?

Rosario: Well it's a definitely different kind of lead role, because I'm in the film as well. The script we were going to do is a coming of age story of a little boy in the Sixties and surprisingly nobody wanted to give us money for it. They were like "What do you two girls want to do with that?" And I'm not in it? What? So she came up with a concept that her cousin Bryan that co wrote it with her, because it's like – what can we shoot that stars Rosario, that is kind of inexpensive, that we can shoot in New York. And of course it ended up being such a controversial subject matter that it ended up being even more difficult to raise the money for it. Because it explores sexual violence and revenge. This young woman that I play gets date raped in College and descends into a collapsing of her identity basically. She meets someone who helps her kind of get her strength back and her sexual identity and her physical/emotional identity back. And she goes back to college and she meets her rapist again. And violence and catastrophe ensues. Because we're at war right now, at what point does someone say "turn the other cheek". It's very difficult to do that especially with violence, it's very difficult to turn away from that. It ends up tunnel visioning you. Only after you overstep that bounds are you ever able to see that full perspective. And so this is not the movie where the woman decides to go to the police. This is not the one where she has someone else deal with it. And it's a very interesting thing and it's also very controversial. I'm curious to see it because there is male nudity in it and it is a graphic film. It's avery strong film. It's a very unflinching look at this. And I'm looking forward to seeing what comes of that. As an actor, I'm really looking forward to doing more action films. After this and watching Zoe [Bell] getting strapped to the hood of a car, "I can be a hood ornament too!" [Laughs] I get very excited about that and the idea of actually producing that and being in that position on a movie that big is scary to me, but I'm looking forward to doing the O.C.T. and having someone like The Weinsteins behind me and teaching me, because I really want to be able to take that on. But this is an independent film. This is where I first came from. I'm very excited about it. I'm interested to see... We definitely hit the ground running with this. We definitely bit off more than we probably would have wanted to be chewing comfortably, but I think we did a really great job with it. I think it's a really incredible film. Vanessa Ferlito's in it. I called her. I worked with her on 25th Hour and said "can you come in?" She does one scene in it. Really great, it starts off the movie. Tracie Thoms is also in it. She flew down, she was actually filming Cold Case. We had to cut down her scene so now you blink you miss her. Rachael Leigh Cook came in for a really small part. We ended up having to twiddle her down as well. And Wilson Jermaine Heredia also has a part in it. He was also in Rent with me. It was nice to collaborate with my friends and take a stab at creating a story. This is what Robert does. This is what Quentin does. This is what Kevin does. I've been really inspired with what they were doing for a long time, continuing to contributing great stories, great ideas, great acting, great filmmaking in general. And I'm very proud to present Talia Lugacy to the everybody because I think she is an incredible writer/director. I'm looking to collaborate more with her in the future. A lot of the projects we have slated, and scripts are ones I'm not even starring in. It's exciting for me being able to imagine me having a bit of a different position and being able to do what Quentin does with Hostel: "I'm going to present this to you guys. I'm going to take old films that are really great, and rather than re-shoot them with new actors, I'm going to just rerelease them for you, because they are that great." Being able to have an appreciation for that. And if we love that story enough, being able to come up with our own original content. I'm very excited to see what impact this movie has on it, because I know this movie will impact Hollywood.

Grindhouse hits theaters on April 6th 2007.