Having been famously discovered while sitting on her front stoop in New York City, Rosario Dawson has moved smoothly from rough-edged indie-fare like "Kids" to sleek, big-budget extravaganzas such as "Men in Black II." Though her latest film, Oliver Stone's "Alexander," in which she appears alongside high-wattage co-stars Angelina Jolie, Colin Farrell and Val Kilmer, has received a thumping in the media, her unbridled enthusiasm for the project is downright infectious.
In expressing her attitude toward the unconventional, globe-trotting "Alexander" shoot, as well as her electrifying and much-discussed wedding-night scene, which finds her both naked and wielding a knife, she says, "You've got to go for it, and then figure out the damage later." While she stands at the intersection of hotel lobby and elevator bank, a sheepish and apologetic young man expresses his appreciation for Dawson's work and quickly moves on. Broadly waving and flashing her bright, wide smile, Dawson yells after him, "Don't be sorry!"
You've been involved in big-budget films before. Was there something different about the "Alexander" shoot?
This was absolutely beyond. Those other things were either very modern-day or all shot inside a studio. It's great to see an amazing set, but it was nothing like this. We did have a studio in London that re-created the inside of palaces in Babylon and India, but we also shot outside. The first shot of the production, we were in Morocco up on a hill and Alexander is about to go into battle and his hair is blowing, and I remember thinking, "This is the first thing we shoot?" And I was there for the last shot too. It was really amazing to watch it all come together. Yes, there is some computer animation and whatever, but we shot there. I remember standing on a ridge, overlooking the sea and Oliver saying, "That's going to be a million people down there."
It sounds like the process made quite an impression on you.
It was unbelievable, and the experience of the shoot has been strange to just walk away from. You come back here and everyone has to talk circles around things, and it's just like "Where did that go?" It was weird, months after the fact, to go and do the things you do on any movie, looping and press junkets and pictures and "What's your favorite story?" At the end of the day, after all of that, as much of a powerful experience as it was, it's just another movie. How weird is that? I remember during the shoot it was very strange to fly all the way back for something, to put on a dress, to smile and wave and then fly back to Morocco and the Atlas Mountains. It was like, "Thank God I'm back in 330 B.C. For a second there I thought I was in 2004."
There was an unbelievable amount of tabloid gossip coverage during the shooting of "Alexander." How aware were you all of what was being said back here?
We heard most of it. My comment was always, "That's what they're talking about? They should have been with us last night." It was funny how certain things would leak out in a misconstrued way and the things that were actually happening were completely ignored. It was my first taste of that, and I can't imagine what it must be like for people who live with it constantly. I have to admit, for me, going in, the little I knew about these people was from reading the same junk as everybody else.
You're already something of an old hand at 25. Your first film came out 10 years ago.
It sounds longer than it feels. I'll think, "Oh, I did that when I was 20," and then realize that was five years ago. I was 16 when "Kids" came out. I wasn't even allowed to see it because it was NC-17. Literally, I pleaded with a guy at the movie theater, "Come on, sneak me in, I'm in it!"