I was able to go on assignment for Scene-Stealers to the Trance junket in Los Angeles. In addition to getting a private screening of the film with other members of the press, and the whole trip being a blast, I also was able to sit down with director Danny Boyle, and actors Vincent Cassel and Rosario Dawson to ask them about their parts in bringing this film to life.
Trey: Danny, most of your films have something that approximates spirituality, whether it’s fate, or a premonition, or a guiding force. This is the first of your films that I can remember that takes that away. It’s not outside of a human.
Has there been a point or a shift ideologically or artistically? Did you just want a new challenge? What was the impulse that drove you to this decision?
Danny: I think it’s probably, we’d come off a run where we’d done Slumdog, 127 Hours, which are redemptive movies the Olympic Games, which is a celebration of the human spirit. It’s a family thing. It’s kind of like a pride thing.
And I suppose what we were doing is that we were making what we call the evil twin sister in this movie, which is kind of delicious, deranged and kind of messing with you.
It’s like a relaxation of that part of our brain. You know you keep that part of your brain active while you’re doing all of this other work.
There are connections though, which illustrate again how different it is I suppose, because the last couple of films have been about memories really.
Slumdog is about memories and how you can achieve almost like a karmic good fortune with them. And 127 Hours is absolutely a memory film where the memories of his family offer him redemption. Actually drive him to achieve his redemption, to get out of there, to get back to them.
But [Trance] is about the havoc that’s caused, the devastation that’s wreaked by the use of memories, the inappropriate use of memories or the interference with memories.
So there are things that link them all.
[Trance] is more noir-ish when there is no God. I mean there really is no God. (laughs) That’s the noir deal isn’t it? There’s just us and we’re locked in our own bubble destroying ourselves. (laughs) In an attempt to get power over each other.
Trey: Vincent, you’ve been in a number of films that are mysteries or told out of order. It’s intriguing to me, because I always wonder how to withhold certain things and stay present in that moment. How do you sell that moment but at the same time not over intellectualize it, because you’ve read the script? What is your process of engaging it but not overthinking it?
Vincent: Well first of all I don’t think actors should think too much. (laughs) You know while you’re actually doing it, while you act.
It’s not something that has to do with intellect. It has to do with your emotion and your capacity to let yourself go. Not judge yourself on the moment or not be afraid of being ridiculous sometimes.
Then you just have to be in the moment. When you’re in the hands of a good director this is much easier, because if you’re working with somebody you’re not so sure of then you have to think actually, because you never know where this is going to end or if it’s going to be good in the end. So you have to take of care of things that actors don’t usually have to take care of.
If you work with Danny and some other directors, real directors I would say, you just have to be focused on the moment. Everybody does his own job.
And actors act.
Trey: Rosario, looking at the roles you’ve played, you seem up for anything. Is it about the challenge? How do you make decisions about the roles that you’re going to take?
Rosario: It can feel a bit arbitrary in a sense, because it depends on what is actually being developed.
I can put out a wish of the things that I’d like to be doing, but if no one is writing those scripts, or green lighting those films it can be very difficult.
It’s about seeing what the lay of the land is. I’m constantly changing all of the time and I don’t feel like I’m in the same space of being experimental anymore. So I’m liking getting deeper into certain things, certain genres and spaces.
I don’t know.
I’m not making the choices as of “I’d like to shoot over there,” or “I’d like to work with that person.” It’s definitely a lot more specific.
I’ve a had a really great time of it, working with incredible directors and actors on really beautiful material, but it’s about saying, “Have I really shown that aspect of myself?”
There’s a film I just shot. I played a crack mom to Vanessa Hudgens, and it was a really dark place to go to. I’m really glad that I went there. It was an interesting challenge. I thought it was just going to be a cameo and then the part grew, which was great, but when I was done shooting it, I realized I had been frowning for over 24 hours.
It just made this grimace, and I really did not agree with who she was or her logic or her anything. I was in total fight mode against this woman who I was portraying and trying to do it from her space of being honest. This is truly what she believes. It was really hard.
So right now I can tell you that I probably won’t do another role in that arena or world for a little while, because it really was so intense, and I need those wounds to heal a little bit before I could go there again.
Stuff like that will happen. Where I just go, “I need to do something lighter,” or “I need to produce more now.”
I need to step back a little bit, and it not be about what I’m physically doing all the time. How can I use some of the other capacities and things that I’ve learned over being in this industry for so long, and the people that I’ve met, and the resources that I’ve built?
I can make stories happen that no one’s writing that I would really like to see. It’s not because I need to be in them, but it’s because I’m a storyteller. I want them to exist for people, and it’s driving me crazy that no one is getting around to it.
Trey: Vincent, based on the characters you choose, are you the toughest Parisian, toughest Frenchman, or just the toughest man on Earth?
Vincent: I’m not tough at all.
Trey: Is that why you’re drawn to these characters then?
Vincent: Maybe. I mean this question comes across a lot.
Plus even the way that I portray them I’m not trying to make them tough. Most of the time when you’re getting violent it’s the biggest. . . I forget the word in English. It’s like saying I’m very weak. When you have to be violent it’s because you’re not confident enough.
I never try to be the top guy. Every time I get a bad guy to play, or a tough guy let’s say it’s always because he’s suffering somehow. I mean look at this one.
The minute he gives the key of the car, as an image, to Rosario he knows exactly what he’s doing. He thinks, “Okay this is the end of me,” but he goes for it.
Trey: So in your mind, vulnerability and violence go together?
Vincent: Yeah, I think so.
Trey: Danny, is all just high fives and smiles on set all the time?
Danny: Errrrrgh, not quite. Unh not quite, no. And we’re not like that anyway. The Brits aren’t like that. We’re a bit more cynical than that.
But we tried in the opening ceremonies to abandon that cynicism and to enjoy the fact that we’re a modern progressive country, and that’s a decent thing. You’ve got to say that about us, and I mean this about America as well.
We often criticize ourselves. There’s a self-critical side to us that’s really really important, but also when you do something like the Olympic Ceremonies a lot of foreigners come to be a part of it. They look at New York and London and it’s a beacon for them.
They think that a chance to live in a city where you can be yourself whatever that self is, that you can make something of yourself is a wonderful thing. We wanted to celebrate the fact that despite all of our problems with our pasts, we are a modern progressive nation. And we should keep progressing
It was nice to be able to do that, but normally we are much more cynical.
There’s not much high fiving at all. (laughs)
For a ton more questions and answers, listen to each full round table interview. Just click the links below.