Hayden Interviews Rosario Dawson- November 2004

HAYDEN CHRISTENSEN: So, Rosario, tell me how the steps in front of your apartment building influenced your game plan. Weren’t you sort of cast off the stoop?

ROSARIO DAWSON: Yes, I was 15. They were shooting a Vibe commercial on my block, and my dad said to go hang out downstairs because I might get cast. So I stood down there the whole weekend and ultimately ended up being checked out by Harmony Korine and Larry Clark [the writer and director, respectively, of Kids (1995), who were scouting locations for their movie].

HC: You were ultimately cast in Kids. That must have been an interesting initiation into filmmaking.

RD: Yeah, I remember being very quiet and shy and excited about the whole thing. I was supposed to play this very lippy, precocious, sexual girl, which I was not at that age. Finally, I just owned it, and it got me really excited about taking on a persona that wasn’t necessarily my own.

HC: You’ve done a number of indie projects, as well as big-budget studio fare like this month’s Alexander and the forthcoming Sin City. How is it to navigate those two worlds?

RD: I like the risks that independent projects sometimes take, but I’ve also worked on some great big-budget stuff. I’ve never had a particular loyalty to any one type of filmmaking. And it’s been great to participate in some other things. It brought in a lot of new experiences as well as different types of directors and approaches, which I probably wouldn’t have had if I’d stuck to just one thing. Plus I always wanted to work with Oliver Stone [Alexander's director].

HC: In the film you play Roxane, the wife of Alexander. Tell me about the role.

RD: It was a kind of character I’d never played before-she lived in a time and place where everything was life or death. And it was interesting to play a woman who was so fierce and strong, but so limited in her power. She couldn’t be persuasive, so she had to be manipulative. And because the film takes place from 350 to 285 B.C., you had to be in a bubble making it; we were out in the middle of the desert in Morocco for three months, totally away from everything.

HC: What do you think it was about this story that made Oliver Stone so committed to bringing it to the big screen?

RD: You can’t learn about a character like Alexander and not be moved. I think it’s why his story is still so relevant. It’s not about trying to match the politics of that time with what’s going on in the world today, though it’s easy to do. It’s the reason why history persists.

HC: I understand that Sin City is based on the graphic novels of Frank Miller and that you had to do a lot of green-screen work. Sounds like it couldn’t have been more different from Alexander.

RD: In some ways Sin City was equally extraordinary, but in a completely different way. The film is going to be black and white, but with spots of color, like red lips or a red dress-very surreal and film-noirish. But the other thing that’s so incredible about the film is [co-director] Robert Rodriguez’s dedication. Frank Miller is considered a god in the comic world, and this is going to be the most fully realized comic adaptation in history.

HC: So, tell me about politics, jail, and the dangers of wearing masks. [both laugh]

RD: Oh, goodness. Stephen Marshall, who is one of the creators of GNN, which stands for the Gorilla News Network, wanted to do a remake of this old film called Medium Cool (1969), which takes place during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. His version [called This Revolution] takes place at the 2004 Republican convention and deals with issues of journalistic integrity. What happened is that we were shooting footage during the convention, and one of the crew started talking to someone from BET [Black Entertainment Television]. I didn’t want to be identified, so I put my mask up to hide my identity. Then cops grabbed us and pulled us over and were like, “You’re wearing a mask. That’s against the law.” But when I turned to the cop and said, “We’re making a movie. We have permits,” he arrested me anyway. Contextually, I completely understand why they responded the way they did, but there were a lot of people who were arrested who weren’t doing anything. It only amplified the reason why I was doing the movie, and the reason why I’m involved with the [Lower East Side] Girls Club [a group that helps provide services to financially disadvantaged girls]-trying to empower people to know their rights. That’s another thing I got from Alexander. You look at people like Socrates and Aristotle who participated governmentally and philosophically and in the arts. They understood what it was to be a free man, and they respected it in a way that we just don’t nowadays.

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