The beautiful and talented Rosario Dawson, one of the many stars of “Grindhouse,” recently sat down with us to speak about her new film and what’s happening in her future.
Q: Were you disappointed you didn’t get to do any stunts?
Rosario Dawson: I very much wanted to do stunts and I thought, because I knew Jeff Dashnaw from “Sin City,” who was the stunt coordinator on this as well, I’d have a little bit of an in. I’d think about every day, asking him if I could get strapped to the hood of the car. It was like “I’d be a really great hood ornament, I swear! I won’t tell anyone.” But it didn’t work out that way. I have to say that I felt very grateful for the character I was playing because, a lot of times, Tracie [Thoms] couldn’t be driving the car because they actually needed a stuntwoman in there, and Zoe [Bell] is a stuntwoman and she was always in the car, so it was nice to be able to be a part of that and just hang out with all the stunt crew. When you’re doing those scenes, you’re just out in the car. Everyone in hair and make-up, all the crew is just sitting back at base camp and you’re driving around for half an hour, forty five minutes, doing 70 miles an hour and we come back like “Whooooooo, that was great!” It was nice to be in the vehicle doing the 360’s.
Q: How much of the time were you actually in the vehicle being chased around? And was it as fast as it looks?
Rosario Dawson: There was a running joke all the time that there actually wasn’t a speedometer in the car that worked. There wasn’t a lot in those cars that worked, to be honest, but Tracie, every single time, we’d say “That felt really fast, Tracie. How fast were you going?” “Thirty-five.” It was the biggest joke ever. There was one point where the camera truck that was driving with the jib on it said they clocked it at a hundred at one point. It was pretty ridiculous. As fast as it looks was really as fast as it was. That’s actually the best part about it is to know that when people watch it, if you’re sitting on the edge of your seat excited about it, it really happened. Some of the best stunt people in the world were doing this. Anything and everything that you see in that movie is something they physically did. If we couldn’t do it, no CGI or special effects were used. If you couldn’t really do it, then Quentin didn’t want it in the movie.
Q: Were you shooting that chase on a back road in Austin?
Rosario Dawson: No. We actually shot that up in Buellton, just north of Santa Barbara. We were up in wine country, so we drank every single night and went out and partied every single day. It was really amazing. We were up where the Neverland Ranch, was which was directly across the street from a school.
Q: Do you have memories of going to a Grindhouse?
Rosario Dawson: I went to I think one drive-in movie theater when I was living in Texas when I was fifteen, because they didn’t really exist in New York. I’m used to going and seeing a movie in New York. It’s a rainy day, you go in and watch three or four movies and you watched all the trailers. The trailers are sometimes the best part for me. I sometimes hate going to premieres for that reason, because you don’t have any trailers, so it’s really nice to have them. So I’m used to watching three or four movies in a day. I think that’s the best way to watch films, to just get really into it, so it’s nice to have this, to be able to juxtapose films against each other. We went to a couple of double features when we were in Austin because they’re really big on that there and pretty much The Alamo, Alehouses and all that stuff, Drafthouse, they have quite a lot of those and random cafes they do movie nights. So they’re a really big music and movie town, so it was great to be shooting there.
Q: A lot of the places they shot in Austin were actually places Robert would hang out in?
Rosario Dawson: Oh yeah, Gueros, they’re all huge and Quentin has been going down there for years. Robert has obviously been there for years. We did “Sin City” there. We did “The 25th Hour” there, so I’ve been going for a long time so it was really interesting to me. I, personally, in my part of the film, was supposed to take place in Tennessee. I got a five dollar bonus because I contributed to the film, not from my department. We did this scene, that’s not in the film right now, but I was getting money from an ATM and it said 512 on the area code. I was like “That’s an Austin area code. That’s not Tennessee. People are going to know we’re shooting in Austin!” We were cheating it so I got five bucks.
Q: Is there a big difference in the way that Robert and Quentin interact with actors?
Rosario Dawson: Very different, actually. Robert is very laid back. I had a very different experience with him on “Sin City” than, I’m sure, any of his other films that he’d written and done his own storyboards for because that was so much completely out of Frank Miller’s mind. I think, directionwise, I probably have a different experience with him so it’s hard to compare him that way, but he’s very laid back. We were shooting everything all in one room and he showed me the footage of what they’d already shot and since it was pretty much making what was already on the comic come to life, it was a different process. I could talk to Frank and just look at the work and figure out, “Okay, I need to have my fist up here and that expression so whatever way I have to get to that experience, then I’ll do it.” So it was a little different direction-wise than with Quentin. Quentin, we did a lot of rehearsal beforehand. We’d talk about stuff. He has so much backstory written for each character. If you want to know why she’s in a cheerleader outfit, if you want to know why I say this particular line, it’s because four years earlier when Kim and I were working on “Three Kicks to the Head, Part Three” we had this… He has it so written out. He’s like “Ask as many questions or as few as you want because I have it all in my head.” The information in this man’s head is daunting. It was great. It was very invaluable because it really, I think, brought a richness to the scenes and all the dialogue between the characters that I don’t think you normally come across in films like this because you really did have huge backstories for everybody and their relationships. It was great. Quentin always delivers that incredible dialogue and snappy moments even on things that seem kind of trivial. He can introduce these different things like the gun into a scene and you automatically feel, “Oh, that’s foreshadowing. That’s gonna come up later.” He’s amazing at doing that. You just believe that the characters are so caught up in the moment that you really do get caught up in the suspense of the situations which is pretty remarkable so I love that with him.
One of my favorite parts in that four-shot, the “Reservoir Dogs” shot where we’re all in the diner and we did that all in one take. We were rehearsing our asses off. On location, it’s really easy to do that. Zoe was very nervous. She would call it the talky rehearsals because it’s very different for her. She would read the script and automatically go “Blah, blah, blah, blah… action” and she would read all the action bits. The way she read the script as a stuntwoman was very different than Tracie and I were reading it, so it was really interesting collaborating with each other and rehearsing all the time. She was very nervous. She knew she could do the stunt stuff no problem, but she wanted to make sure of the acting and the opportunity that Quentin gave her, that she would really drive it home and it was amazing because we scrapped an entire day’s worth of coverage that Quentin did because he wanted to break up the shot, half as a “Reservoir Dogs” shot and half in coverage, and we had the scene so down because we’d been doing it every night for weeks, for months. We were supposed to shoot in the summer and we didn’t shoot until the fall so we had our lines memorized as of like May. We were so dying to do them, it was ridiculous so, by the time we actually did it, we were able to do it in one take and he was like “Let’s scrap everything we did yesterday. I think you guys can do it.” We did it and it’s cool because we beat the Reservoir Dogs shots because even in the “Reservoir Dogs” shot, it’s cut up. So, I’m jus sayin’, that’s my bitches!
Q: They were saying that the international cut of “Death Proof” is a little longer.
Rosario Dawson: Yes. It’s about half an hour longer.
Q: What else is in that?
Rosario Dawson: There’s quite a lot. One of the things that’s going to be really cool is seeing Mary Elizabeth sing. Mary Elizabeth has this really beautiful song that she sings a capella that melted everyone’s heart on set. It’s going to be a great experience because it doesn’t even seem like it could work right now if you think about it, but really, there’s a lot that could go into this movie and there’s also Vanessa’s dance. I’m telling you, that’s definitely worth it. Everything that’s missing in there was shot. He specifically wrote scenes in there that he meant to cut out. He told us that in the beginning. He said “I want people sitting in a seat at the edge of their seat waiting for something to happen and as soon as it says ‘missing reels’ they’re go “Oh, no! Quentin!” and you literally have that feeling. It’s like “NO!” So it’s worth waiting for I’m telling you. It’s a very sexy dance.
Q: Do you know what happened to Mary?
Rosario Dawson: No, I’m not telling you. That’s “Three Girls Three, Part 2.”
Q: Having done “Clerks II” and now this — scripts that are really dialogue heavy — how has that been for you?
Rosario Dawson: It’s been really wonderful. Kevin’s really known for his dialogue and snappy deliveries and funny and deadpan kind of stuff, it was really great getting into that rhythm. Quentin’s rhythm is something I’ve been studying since I first decided I wanted to be an actor after “Kids.” I was sixteen when that movie came out and decided to pursue acting, and I asked my dad “What movie should I watch?” He started putting a movie list together of what I should watch to really watch great acting, and the first movie he gave me was “Reservoir Dogs.” I watched it seven times that week, which I think most parents would be unnerved by. My dad was like “you get it’. I was like “right on’. And that started a great rapport between he and I dialogue-wise for films but I have the ‘Like a Virgin’ monologue completely memorized and, on occasions Quentin will be like “Do it” and makes me regurgitate it, and it’s brilliant because it was one of those things that when I watched it, I thought it was so incredible but, I’m watching and it’s all men so, as much as I’ve always had Quentin in my head as someone who I’ve always wanted to work with, I didn’t think it was a possibility. I auditioned for this twice. I fought really hard for this role. I ended up going in and telling Tracie to come into the audition with me to make sure he knew that I really, really wanted to do this part and work with him, have the chance to take on working on that rhythm in his dialogue because, the only way you can ever study for a Quentin Tarantino movie is to watch Quentin Tarantino movies which he loves. He’s like “the only competition is me in the past.” I’m like “Alright, Quentin” but it’s great because it’s that and action and beating the crap out of Snake Plissken and to have the opportunity to do that is cool, but to also have the dialogue be a part of that as well and not just be some throwaway movie that people are actually going to watch and go “Wow!” The integrity to this filmmaking is pretty remarkable.
Q: Was all the dialogue between the girls his or did you ad-lib anything?
Rosario Dawson: All except for maybe a couple of those f-words. I have to say we put a few in there and you don’t notice them because that’s fairly common, but the expletives would be the only thing but literally every single word that’s in there, if you watch take after take of all those different ones except for ones if we missed a line, we’d just stop and start over again because we just did it in one take, it’s exactly the same every single time. We had to be because the camera moves were dictated by our dialogue so the crew, everybody was in it, zooming in, doing three shots, one shots, going around and having all four of us in there. We would all move accordingly. If the camera came behind us suddenly, I needed to reach for something over here just so it wasn’t laying on my back too much. It was such a choreographed thing, we really couldn’t mess around.
Q: How much do you think your film pushes the envelope in terms of gore?
Rosario Dawson: Not in the same way at all as “Planet Terror.” That’s more that quintessential, gory, horror movie where it’s like so sensational and ridiculous and the situation is so preposterous that all you’re really concentrating on is making the audience squeamish and that’s phenomenal, in a lot of ways, those are the best kind of horror movies because it’s fun, pure entertainment like watching Rose McGowan leap over a building suddenly for no reason at all with a gun strapped to her leg shooting off. It’s like “okay,” then she lands and rolls and keeps shooting. You’re like “come on’ but it’s really fun. It’s a fun thing to watch, but this one is more the actual terror film, those ones like “Saw” or “Hostel” and films like that. “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” That’s why I liked working with Rob Zombie on “The Devil’s Rejects.” Those kinds of movies are the ones that really creep me out, the ones that are really scary. I like that you have those two juxtaposing against each other. I think you’re going to be squeamish on the first one and keeping your eyes closed. I’ve been telling people how to breathe through them. I think they’re like a joke. You need to have three beats. You need “The Prestige” for the magic. You also need that for horror. You can always pretty much tell, unless there’s going to be a bird flapping and shocking you or something, you can usually tell when something scary’s going to happen and you can breath through it. I’ve trained Vanessa. I’ve known Vanessa for years and she hates horror movies. She can’t stand them. She’s one of the most neurotic women you’ve ever met in your life. She’s sitting there like “I can’t watch.” I was like “You’ve got to make it through the premiere, woman. Do that at least.”
Q: Are you in “Sin City 2?”
Rosario Dawson: Yes. Luckily for me, or maybe not luckily for me, Frank really loved drawing that outfit and so he pretty much put Gail in all of his books. It’s also going to be the prequel to that storyline. “The Big Fat Kill” in the first “Sin City.” “A Dame to Kill For” is the book we’ll be doing. It’ll only be one book as opposed to three so it will actually have a full story arc, and I think that would be pretty much the only thing that makes it like a regular film. Otherwise, it’s going to be very interesting now that all of us know the technology. I’m sitting down with Nina Proctor already talking about what the hell I could possibly wear to trump what I wore in the last one, so I’ll be wearing a mask.
Q: What’s the status of O.C.T. [Occult Crime Taskforce, her recently released comic book]?
Rosario Dawson: Bob Weinstein and I are producing the film with Dimension and the trade book is coming out. We’re just casting the director. It’s been really fun.