Rosario Dawson and Vincent Cassel Talk ‘Trance’ and Working With Danny Boyle
FanBolt had the pleasure of talking with Trance stars Rosario Dawson and Vincent Cassel! The film is out in theaters now, and we got the lowdown on what they think about hypnotists, what it was like working with Danny Boyle, and so much more! Check out our interview with Rosario and Vincent below!
When you first got this script, what was the first thing that popped into your head, other than, “It’s Danny Boyle!”
Vincent Cassel: Right! Because, actually, that was the first thing that popped into my head. But, I really liked the concept of the gangster who falls in love, because the minute a gangster falls in love, he’s getting very vulnerable. This is not good for the business. I also liked the fact that this character had the ability to switch from being the tough guy to suddenly, “Ok, I know she’s going to be the end of me,” but he accepts it. At a certain point he accepts that this woman is going to be driving the car instead of him.
That’s not normally a position that you’re in as an actor. I think it was very refreshing to see that aspect.
Vincent Cassel: Well, I always try to put a little something in what I do. Most of the time the characters I portray, I always think about them as vulnerable. That’s maybe why they look so violent.
How was the first conversation with Danny about the role?
Vincent Cassel: It was actually pretty fun. I was in Biarritz, the South of France, and they wanted me to go to London. But, of course, Biarritz to London is very complicated. You have to go through Paris, and I missed the plane from Paris to London. And I was on my way to the train, but then I would have missed the plane to go back to Biarritz, so it was getting very complicated. Danny called and said, “No! Stay in Paris. I’m coming. Come and pick me up at the train station, and I will take you to the airport, and we’ll talk about it on the way.” And that’s what happened, actually. The conversation was great. Even the fact that it happened like that was already something that I liked. He said, “I didn’t come for this movie, actually, I had another movie for you in mind, but the actor who was supposed to do it is not doing it, so I’m here to ask you to do two movies. This one and the next one eventually.”
How does it feel to be a femme fatale in a Danny Boyle movie?
Rosario Dawson: It’s kind of interesting, I have to say. I like playing on that classic, almost cliche idea of the femme fatale: a woman in the center of a film who’s holding her own with all of these men in very dangerous situations. I was watching a couple of really great old Joan Crawford films, but they weren’t really appropriate as any kind of research into this. Because the circumstances were so completely different, and who she was at the end of those films was so totally different. It was really nice to see a modern example of where we could grow that type of story telling. That’s always nice.
Danny is someone who has leapt from genre to genre, and he does it in such a compelling way where he reinvents the story or genre that he’s playing with. I was very excited to take on that challenge, because it was a very risky film. I was reading it, and we were shooting it and then watching it, and going, “This is really great. I totally stand behind it.” But it’s not an obvious, “You’re going to love this!” It’s been over a year. We shot it in late 2011, so it’s so strange to be in groups of people who have seen it and know about it, because it’s been our project for such a long period of time. So I’m curious now to see how people feel about it. I’m surprised by how surprised I was still, seeing it. How much it’s transformed from the original blueprint of the script to what it is now. I think it’s a solid, awesome ride.
Vincent, one of the premises of this film is hypnosis and the neurolinguistic programming. That’s so much of Rosario’s character in the film. How much of that did you have to research or get involved with to understand the premise?
Vincent Cassel: Well, this is not really the problem of my character. My character is just like the audience. Doesn’t know anything about that; doesn’t really believe that it works. So, he’s a non-believer. So, yes we had somebody come in. We had two weeks of rehearsal where we were talking about the script more than the actual hypnotherapy. So this guy came, and he started to try… I’m not a very good subject for this sort of thing. He tried, and I really wanted it to work. Maybe too much, actually, and so it didn’t. So apart from that, I didn’t really – I only research when it’s needed. I don’t research just to pretend that I’m working [laughs].
Rosario, did you hang out with any hypnotherapists, hypnotists?
Rosario Dawson: Yeah, you know, me and Derren Brown just hanging! Yeah, I met with a couple people here, and I got inducted by a woman here. We were just talking about stuff, and it was interesting. As she was talking to me, I can’t remember what it was that she said, but I read this in a book a couple years ago, that your feet are your most honest part of your body? As much as everyone thinks looking someone solidly in the eye or your facial expressions are so telling, it’s not. Because you teach kids since they’re very little to hide their face. “Don’t look like that. Smile at Grandma,” or whatever it is. So you teach kids to lie on their face all the time from the very beginning. So that’s not the tell. Your feet are. Like when you’re feeding a kid, and they’re legs are going like this because that’s where they want to go. And your feet are the ones who have the first reaction of either freezing, flight, run, or fight, of kicking or battling or putting you where your danger’s going to be.
So I remember she put a blanket over me, because when you start to go into hypnosis, you go to this state between sleeping and awakeness. You know when you get into bed and you do that, your body gets cooler. Because your body is like, “You’re going to sleep; I can take that energy and go and put it toward other things.” So my body got cooler, so physiologically the fact that it was changing even though nothing was really happening yet, I thought was kind of amazing. And then as she was talking about certain things, my foot would like jerk. Like a twitch. I wasn’t really paying attention, and she goes you know your foot jumped at this point, and that was when I was talking about this, so it seems you have an issue around this or this. It was just so fascinating. She’s reading your subconscious. She’s reading your physicality and things that don’t necessarily have any meaning to you that are signs about something else. It can feel like magic.
It’s an interesting idea. You know, we are all very culpable. How we think about something and the wording that we use can change absolutely how we feel about it. Like, absolutely war is really bad, unless you’re the hero. Or I can never imagine telling my kid, “I’d love for you to run into flaming buildings for a living,” but you’re so proud of them when they become a firefighter. And how we talk about things and how we structure them and the context by which they exist can make or break how you think or feel about multiple issues, including religion, war, nationality. If I’m fighting for my religion, or I’m fighting for my country, it feels very different then just saying I’m fighting. You wouldn’t catch me fighting on the street, but for some reason I’m feeling like there’s a bigger cause behind it, I’m willing to be that hero and sacrifice. It’s just interesting. That’s a big part of how we communicate almost every idea. All propaganda works in that same space.
The illusion of films… It’s all of that. How do we all watch a film and get caught up into it. We can talk about it passionately and emotionally, but all we’re really watching is lights and sound. It’s really all it is. So why is my heart racing? Why were the hairs on the back of my neck going up? Like I actually felt scared. When I got home, for a month I was perpetually nervous about going home by myself because that movie was so creepy, you know. Whatever it is. It’s just amazing. That’s just our minds. Our brains don’t know. As much as I know that I’m watching something fake, there’s a part of me that believes it, and I think what makes this film so interesting and so rich is that having that as a premise allowed us to go to a lot of places that otherwise would’ve been very difficult to do in normal story telling.
Vincent, there’s a quote from you saying that Danny’s style has gone rogue.
Vincent Cassel: Yeah, it’s very visual. It’s a lot of effects. I think he uses a lot of different effects, and it’s very stylish, you know? It’s not Dan-ish, in that sense.
You’ve done gangster films before, but with Danny’s style, how do you think this might change the genre? It’s very genre defying.
Vincent Cassel: I think from the start he wanted to use that imagery of the gangster movies from England in the 70’s. Which he does! It’s really cool. The way there are the reflections of those TV programs of back in the day. So he takes this imagery that actually takes the audience in that direction, and then becomes something totally different. So I think it’s one of the things he used to take you in the direction to – then end it in a totally different way. It’s part of the trick — it’s a trick, actually. I mean, I got tricked. We shot the movie a year and a half ago, because Danny stopped to do the Olympics. So we shot it and they did a first rough cut, and then it stayed like that for a year. So when I saw the movie a month ago, I kind of forgot. I knew what it was about, but I forgot the details. So when I saw the movie for the first time in Rio, I really got caught by the plot. I was surprised. I was surprised the whole way through.
You’re the gangster in this movie. Were you inspired by anybody else from any other movie?
Vincent Cassel: Not really. It’s funny, because I think I did the ultimate gangster movie as an actor, which was the Mesrine movie. I spent a year being a gangster, and it was very constructed. It was very character work, everything, the voice, you know? With this one I felt like I shouldn’t do much, so I didn’t. I was just a very normal gangster. It was me as a gangster. Because it’s fun to build a character, but in reality you see people that are something and they don’t look like that at all. In movies we want to make them look like the idea we have of that thing in particular. So a gangster should be tough. But the truth is that you could be a gangster just the way you are. I met a guy not so long ago who was a very bad person in Rio. And he looks so normal, so normal, but when you know what he does and what he did… As an actor it’s a lesson. I thought, “Damn. I would have never played it like that.”
A lot of American film fans see you as that villain from Ocean’s Twelve, Ocean’s Thirteen. Do you feel like a lot of American directors go out to you as the bad guy?
Vincent Cassel: I started with a movie called La Haine. Hate. Which was a guy who wanted to kill a cop. Then I did a movie called Dobermann, which was guy who wanted to kill cops. So, no. I think it’s the kind of movies I wanted to make. Even the kind of characters I was looking up to as a kid. I think Raging Bull is more interesting. And if somebody beats his wife… I like to see that realness coming out of people, because I don’t think people are nice. I think people try to be nice, but we all have dirt somewhere. And we have to fight against it, and sometimes it comes out, and we’re ashamed, and we have to lie. These kind of things are interesting. The righteous people, I think, are just a legend.
You’ve worked with the likes of Soderbergh and Danny Boyle, two very different directors. How would you describe or compare their directorial styles?
Vincent Cassel: The most important thing in a movie, I think, is a director. More than a script, actually. And then, what is the most important thing in a director? I think it has to have personality — strong personality. It has to be different than everything else. So when I work with somebody it’s because I’m fascinated by that person, by the work of that person. So it can be anything from Soderbergh to Gaspar Noe. I need to have the feeling that I’m doing something that is not “another one.” So it can take any kind of form, really.
Rosario, how much did your heart leap reading the script when you get to that final page and you see how it plays out?
Rosario Dawson: Actually it’s funny, because the script had a different ending, and we shot it. And then we shot something else. And I love it, and I think it was even something that was talked about as feeling like it was too nice of a button? Like it kind of put a stop to the film. In a film that I think keeps you guessing the entire time, it was almost to perfunctory and too obvious for an ending, and it didn’t deserve that. And I think the audience would have wanted more, and these characters and these situations would have wanted more. It was really great to have the space and room to be able to have that time to look at it and do something again, and change it. Now I really like it. I think the ending has that same feeling where it keeps you thinking, which is deserved of the type of storytelling that John Hodge put together, which is such an incredible puzzle. I think it would just suck if it was like, “Oh, that’s what the frame is.”
Ultimately, what was your character, Elizabeth, fighting for?
Rosario Dawson: You know I think she was ultimately fighting for her life. She’s in a very dangerous situation. She’s trying to overcome insurmountable odds. And that tends to be a thing with Danny’s films. I like that in this film. They’re all — I keep seeing them as sumo wrestlers. I feel like there’s these three people in this dynamic, trying to size each other up and trying to figure out as they’re holding their cards to their chest how to play all of the new information that keeps coming in and keep moving ahead. They all have agendas. They all have histories, and they all exist in this strange bubble. Like Vincent plays French, and he’s in England. And James plays Scottish, and he’s in England, and I play American, and I’m in England. So it’s not our home base. You don’t see any family or friends. There’s nothing to distract us or give us any sort of “at home advantage” in this dynamic. They shifting sands of it is really compelling to me and makes it a different experience film wise. Am I watching something that’s actually happening or hypnotic suggestion? Is this a woman’s film or is this a dude’s movie? It’s an art heist thriller, gangsters. It feels like it’s got all this formula, and then there’s this woman and she’s very strong. So is she a femme fatale? But wait she’s not really using her feminine wiles to win over everybody, so what are we really watching? And I like that it’s compelling and challenging in that way. I think people will enjoy watching something that will make them surprised by the ending.
And you get to have sex scenes with Vincent Cassel and James McAvoy.
Rosario Dawson: Well, see that sounds really great, but when Vincent’s married to Monica Belluci, and you’re like, “I’m going take off my clothes, and he’s going to go, ‘Meh.'”
And James — I love him so much. He’s incredibly professional and brilliant and great and never looked me in the eye in any of those scenes. It was always the top corner of my shoulder or a far off corner of my room. It was really great to have these moments and scenes where you’re seeing someone offer love, and there being a dynamic of that that is very dangerous for someone like Vincent’s character. It makes him vulnerable, which is not the kind of thing you want to be in that situation with those types of players. And also this aspect of walking such a fine line to help someone retrieve memories and how far do you go to make that happen? And then the intimate level that it gets to, and the depth of it. I was asked by someone if I had to describe the scene with James to a blind man, how would I describe that scene where I walk towards him? And I would talk about what is happening, what is actually being revealed in that moment, and where he ends up going in his mind. What wall it takes down, and that’s actually what’s really happening in that scene. I think I would have a hard time justifying walking across the room and being like, “OK, this is going to be some huge sex scene, and for some reason beforehand we’re going to shoot me walking across the room for him. What’s the point of that?” This had a whole other aspect to it. And then you don’t even know. Do they have sex? What even happens from that point on? And it’s really the cleverness of it, and the manipulation off it, and the tool that it is is something that I’ve never really seen on screen before. It’s not that scene of Basic Instinct, uncrossing her legs, and it just being about being titillating. This was something completely different. It seems like a risk and a challenge for her, and it definitely was for me, and it connected me a lot to the experience.
Trance is out in limited release now! Check out their official site for more details!