Rosario Dawson talks Danny Boyle’s Trance

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Rosario Dawson talks Danny Boyle’s Trance
By Wilson Morales

April 3, 2013

Coming out this week is Danny Boyle’s mind-bending film, “Trance,” which stars James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson, and Vincent Cassel.

Fine art auctioneer Simon (McAvoy), in league with a gang led by underworld boss Franck (Cassel), plots the audacious theft of a expensive painting and double-crosses them, Franck retaliates violently and knocks him unconscious.

The violent trauma has left him with no memory of where he stashed the artwork. Unable to coerce the painting’s location from Simon, Franck and his associates reluctantly join forces with a charismatic hypnotherapist (Dawson) in a bid to get him to talk. But as they journey deeper into Simon’s jumbled psyche the boundaries between reality and hypnotic suggestion begin to blur and the stakes rise faster and far more dangerously than any of the players could have anticipated.

For Dawson, this is the mostly juiciest role she’s had since Spike Lee’s “25th Hour.” While roles in “Unstoppable” with Denzel Washington, “Seven Pounds” with Will Smith, and Quentin Tarantino’s “Death Proof” have certainly put her in the spotlight, playing a role like Elizabeth in Boyle’s film gives her more range as an actress.

In speaking with, Dawson talks about working on this film, her character, and how challenging Boyle made the role for her.

What was the attraction to doing the film?

Rosario Dawson: I like the fact that as risky as it was, it was still a risky film. It was risky for everybody. To Danny, this is a vision he’s had for a long time. When you watch the film, you can see why he fought so many years to make it. With James MacAvoy, Vincent Cassel, John Hodges’ script, and Anthony Dod Mantle as your DP, you just know it’s going to look beautiful and it’s going to be well acted with incredibly smart people, and we’re going to figure out how this logic works from beginning to end. We’re going to tantalize people with puzzle pieces that they will try to fit and most likely will not succeed in doing because it really is a smart film. It’s actually a great and interesting ride that I miss in theater. It’s like I have to watch old films to get that kind of experience. It was great to see a modern twist on some classic storytelling. It’s that classic thriller like ‘The Thomas Crown Affair,’ where it’s an art house thing. It has the cliché femme fatale where in every one of those films, it misleads what people think because they will make you feel it’s familiar but the territory is quite new. To me, that was really exciting. You don’t get to read that very often, a meaty film role for a woman who is strong, powerful, and complex. I fought for it and really glad that I got a chance to do it. It was fun to rise to the challenge.

How would you describe your character Elizabeth?

RD: Elizabeth is a very compose, deliberate woman. She’s very clever and talented. She’s confident and she’s strong. She’s in a dangerous situation, and she’s maneuvering it the best she can by using her wits. That was really using anything and everything at her will power. It was interesting to me to see it not played in the normal way we are used to seeing it play out in films, like wearing red lipstick and miniskirts the entire time; or be flirtatious the entire time to win over people. It would have been dangerous for her to do that when dealing with the den of wolves she’s operating in. it was great to see her hold her own. She’s a hypnotherapist. She’s had a lot of practice getting into the minds of others and into their behavior. She utilizes that information and education to hold her own, which is unusual to see in a film. It was great to play someone like that. It was demanding

Did you go through hypnosis during research?

RD: I did. I met with a couple of hypnotherapists and spoke to them about their techniques and their practices and their experiences. I spoke to them about the possibility of certain thing that’s in the script and what their ideas around was. I got inducted by a woman here. I got to go into a visceral experience of what it is to go through hypnosis where your body goes colder as you go into between sleep/wake space and it recognizes where your body is going and re-directs energy in your body. You temperature actually drops noticeably. I remember she was talking about certain things and my foot jerking and stuff and reacting to some of the things she was saying. Later, she told me how I was responded with certain body movements. This is how your subconscious reacts to things that you are not aware of. It was great to talk to someone about memory and space and how the brain works. It’s pretty outrageous and amazing. In many ways, it works especially if you want it to. Sometimes people are at their wits’ ends and they don’t want to take medication, but yet they need help.

With the things that your character has to go through, how challenging was it for you as an actress and how was it working with Danny on this film?

RD: It was challenging in all the right ways and it was exciting to have to work. I thought I was actually going to have to work a lot harder. There was a point where I was breaking down the script to three different scripts and keep all details and puzzle pieces out and clear to me so I can follow where the audience is; where everyone in non-chronological order as the film is, and making sense of it. I was trying to figure out what she’s thinking and trying to work out. There are three people and the story shifts between them. I might know the ending because I read the script but none of these characters do. They are acting in each of these different situations and behaving and stepping forward into these challenges and they don’t know if it’s going to work. You have to make sure that you keep those elements a surprise for yourself and you don’t seem over-composed or arrogant in it because you know how it’s going to end because she didn’t. You can see the richness in her humanity coming through and showing that she was scared at times and that it was dangerous and she pushing herself through those insecurities. That was exciting. It was demanding of me physically, emotionally, and it took up a lot of my time. It was a lot of talking on this, and worked on what my voice sounded like, and what my hair looked like. I wanted to be specific on who she was and make her disappear at the same time.

How was working with Rick Smith on the song ‘Sandman’?

RD: I sing a little bit of it. That’s funny that it’s on the soundtrack. Danny had an idea about it. He really loved that song and was thinking how it relates to the character and how he could put it in the credits. He’s very attached to music and loves it and like it to be part of his storytelling process, which I love. It just came forward that he wanted me to sing it in one of the scenes. It got played with and doctored a bunch of times apparently. He got it auto-tuned and it didn’t sound like me; and after editing it and cutting it down, it ended back to being sort of my voice. It’s very cool. It’s not me singing in the way that I would normally sing. Had I known in advance, I probably would have worked on it differently. It’s not ‘Rent.’ My character is not a singer. She’s a hypnotherapist. I think it’s very sweet that it’s on the soundtrack.

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