'Top Five's' Rosario Dawson: What I Really Think of 'Josie and the Pussycats' and 5 Other Career Confessions
The actress, 35, dishes on her work, including her most misunderstood film (yep, the one starring Tara Reid), teaming with "top dog" Spike Lee and smoking with Colin Farrell
This story first appeared in the Dec. 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Chloe [Sevigny] wasn’t the first person originally cast for that role. There was another actress. She was an actual proper actress, and she would give us these acting exercises to do, and it was kind of a misstep because none of us were actors. I also remember [director] Larry [Clark] leaning out into the hallway when I was auditioning and going, “Is that your boyfriend?” And I’m like, “That’s my dad.” And I thought, “Who are these people?”
Josie and the Pussycats (2001)
That movie is so amazing, and it really didn’t hit its audience then. People didn’t really get it. But if you watch it now, it’s so on the money — from media manipulation to endorsements and boy bands. We shot it in Vancouver, and [co-stars] Tara Reid and Rachael Leigh Cook were the biggest stars on the planet at the moment. Tara was getting married to Carson Daly, and it was such a weird little crazy moment in time. I’d gotten a perm for the movie so I could have really curly hair, which grew out horribly because I have really straight hair.
25th Hour (2002)
I was the girl among all these incredible guys who were used to being the center of the film in their own movies and being the lead and the protagonist, and they’re all working together, and they all had very different styles of working. It’d be like Edward [Norton] rewriting something, and Philip [Seymour Hoffman] being like, “Can we just do the scene once without stopping?” And [director] Spike [Lee] letting that go on for a while and then being like, “Oy, I’m top dog. This is what’s going to happen.”
I read for [director] Oliver [Stone], who wanted to meet me. It was an opportunity to go work for six months around the world. We were in Morocco and Thailand and in London — getting to hang out in Medina [in Marrakesh] during Ramadan. It was remarkable. I remember late nights and everyone just getting drunk and singing Irish songs and playing guitar and suddenly getting the call, “Your car is downstairs. Time to go to work.” Colin [Farrell] taught me how to smoke cigarettes, which is not a good thing. I remember listening to Jared [Leto] singing. He was already in his band then, and I just remember he had perfect pitch.
Death Proof/Grindhouse (2007)
After Kids, my dad had given me a copy of Reservoir Dogs and said, “If you want to be an actor, you should watch this.” So working with Quentin [Tarantino] was a big deal for me. I became really good friends with Zoe [Bell], who had never acted before. We all lived in Venice, and we’d spend time together in the hot tub and drink wine and do the scene over and over again. Quentin didn’t let anyone have cellphones or magazines or anything like that. He played music that everybody on the entire crew listened to. He was all about, “You’re here making this movie. We only have this moment to make it. Don’t be anywhere else.”
Top Five (2014)
We’re shooting outside in the street, and all of a sudden I hear: “Oy! Lala!” And there’s Spike [Lee]. He calls me Lala [the name of Dawson’s character In Lee’s He Got Game]. Spike is my touchstone, and when I see him and can show him that I’m taking advantage of the opportunity he gave me and didn’t just squander it and am doing this movie with Chris [Rock] that I was super proud of, I remember how it made me feel. I was like, “I’m still trying to do my thing, you know? Thank you for giving me that chance.”