Rosario Dawson, Trance

In Danny Boyle’s latest genre-bending effort, “Trance,” film noir is fractured into a multi-layered crime narrative with lush, angular cinematography, and -- of course -- an allegiance-shifting femme fatale. As American hypnotherapist Elizabeth Lamb, who guides art auctioneer Simon (James McAvoy) toward the repressed location of a stolen painting pursued by gangster Franck (Vincent Cassel), actress Rosario Dawson impeccably holds the last of those aspects. 

There is a slippery, sensual quality to Dawson’s character in Boyle’s tense drama, but in real life, she wears many masks as well, albeit more amiable: founder of Voto Latino and activist for countless other organizations, head of her production company Trybe, and star in such diverse projects as “Death Proof,” “The 25th Hour,” and “Explicit Ills.” Recently, we chatted to her about “Trance,” the possibility of a return in “Clerks III,” and one of her most memorable music video appearances.

"Trance" features a constant shift between reality and trance-induced dream states. It must’ve been a nightmare to track your character’s base emotional journey alongside the decoy personalities.
It was interesting, because I really thought of all those complexities -- basically trying to juggle it all properly. As smart and prepared and experienced as Liz is, she doesn't know what's going to happen next. Based on her understandings of the brain, she can guess, but this isn't her home base. These are not her terms.

There was a moment where I had taken three copies of [John Hodge's] script and broken them down, thinking I would have to use them throughout the entirety of filming -- predicting audience expectation, and what my character was projecting, hiding, or showing. And it ended up not being anything like that.

Rosario Dawson, Trance
What made the difference?
The script was incredibly solid. We had two weeks of wonderful, very helpful rehearsal, and I did some research into hypnotherapy -- going to institutes, meeting with hypnotherapists, having sessions -- and talking about the script's plausibility. All the hypnotherapists whom I spoke with explained, "We're not puppetmasters or magicians. There is responsibility on the part of the person being hypnotized as well, about what exactly it is they want their subconscious coming through to change." So I combined that all into Liz’s perspective toward the other characters.

How did you find performing alongside the cast?
Vincent is incredibly discerning. He can read anything and understand it in a very blunt, matter of fact, beautiful way. I call him the "Old School French B-Boy" because he’s just too cool for school. He's done everything: living around the world, speaking multiple languages, writing, directing, and creating music. And you've got James, who's such a great, seasoned, remarkable thoroughbred of an actor. So you're just with these maestros and Danny at the helm and [DP] Anthony Dod Mantle. You can't go wrong.