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Dragonball: Evolution - Emmy Rossum interview

Emmy Rossum in Dragonball: Evolution

Interview by Rob Carnevale

EMMY Rossum first came to our attention in films such as The Day After Tomorrow and Phantom of the Opera. She’s also a successful singer. In Dragonball: Evolution, however, she gets to shake up her image by playing a motorbike riding, gun toting, cat-suit wearing fighter.

She talks to us about preparing for the role, prank-playing with co-star Chow Yun Fat and overcoming the expectations surrounding the movie.

Q. I imagine you were very excited when you landed a role in something as well-loved as Dragonball: Evolution?
Emmy Rossum: Of course, I was actually a secret fan of the manga anyway, because I watched the kids show as a little girl. I would have been about eight or nine… little, so who’d have thought that 12 or 13 years later I’d be sitting in front of a script reading it. But I completely remembered the characters and Bulma was always this really cool person to me. It was funny and really, really exciting.

Q. Was Bulma as fun to play in reality as you’d hoped?
Emmy Rossum: She was completely fun to play! She really does think that she’s the smartest girl in the entire world and she’s not shy about letting everyone know that. A lot of the comedy stems from that, and her frustration with [Master] Roshi, who is the same dirty old guy that he was in the manga. But I also liked that the movie is based on a lot of the things that the manga was – the quest of self-realisation, finding your place in the world, good versus evil. It has a lot of good themes and values and that was really, really fun as well.

Q. It sounds like it was fun to shoot…
Emmy Rossum: Amazingly fun to shoot… how often are you going to get the chance to dye your hair blue, ride a motorbike, shoot three guns and wear a black leather cat-suit?

Q. How was the cat-suit?
Emmy Rossum: Well, I’ve been reading Malin Akerman’s comments about her cat-suit and how uncomfortable it was in Watchmen and I think someone must have been my friend while making this. It wasn’t that bad at all. I mean, I didn’t want to sleep in it and it was pretty tight but I made sure all my costumes were squat-able and lunge-able.

Q. How physically demanding is a role like this?
Emmy Rossum: More physically demanding than I thought. Even though I don’t have that many action sequences, there was a lot of weapons training, and I got to go down and train with the Marines in shooting different guns. I’ve never ridden a motorcycle and I’ve never shot a gun before, so there were a lot of firsts for me on this film, but that’s also one of the reasons it was so exciting to do. I like firsts and I like challenges. Justin [Chatwin] and I did feel a little intimidated at first, especially when faced with someone like Chow Yun Fast as a co-star. I was a massive fan of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and these kinds of action comedy adventures are his strong suit. Justin and I felt like the new kids on the block at first. I was like: “What is a right hook? Is that a dance move?” So, it was a learning experience, too. But just watching Justin become Goku and the work he put in physically and mentally was very inspiring.

It was very important to James Wong, the director, that we became warriors inside and out and that we didn’t rely on stunt doubles all the time. And doing that changes the way you think, the way you walk and the way you speak. It infused so much of what we did. There were times when we’d be sitting in a squat position or rehearsing a fight scene over and over that our leg muscles were black, blue and shaking, but watching another person grimace as hard as you’re grimacing makes it a lot easier. You realise you’re part of a team. It’s easier to be in pain with another person. I hate personal trainers, because it’s always one on one and they’re making you do everything. It’s a lot more fun to be able to do it with someone, and it makes for a great bonding experience. It gets you through the tougher stuff.

Q. I guess also that working with someone like Chow Yun Fat gives you an appreciation for how effortless he makes balancing the action scenes with acting and making it look natural?
Emmy Rossum: Yes, definitely, and he doesn’t approach it with any male macho aggression. Rather, he approaches it from a kind of place of Zen calm. The energy emanates from his core. It’s really astounding to watch. His mastery of it is at a whole new level. Sometimes, he’d tell us how to throw a punch or take a kick. But he has such an amazing history within the genre and so much experience that we could only learn a fraction of what he knows in the time we had. But aside from the professional stuff, Chow is also such a cool guy and a prankster, so he’s always fun to be around.

Q. Do you have any examples of his prank playing?
Emmy Rossum: Well, he convinced me he was a vegetarian during the first week of shooting, so out of respect I went and ate bowls of lettuce whenever I was around him. Then, later on, I had this bowl of salad and I saw him eating this massive steak with a huge grin on his face!

Q. Did you get him back?
Emmy Rossum: [Laughs] Justin and I convinced him that we’d invented a band. I was the singer and Justin was the spoken word. And [fellow co-star] Joon Park, who is also a rapper in a Korean act called GOD, was our rapper. We made Chow Yun Fat be our percussion. It’s pretty amazing to hear. And we also made Chow Yun Fat do some dance moves!

Q. Is that on YouTube?
Emmy Rossum: [Laughs] No, I don’t think Twentieth Century Fox would let us put it out there! But it’s on my computer and it’s really funny to watch.

Q. Was the set full of prank-playing?
Emmy Rossum: Well, we’re making Dragonball, we’re not making The Pianist. But yeah, it was one of most fun sets I’ve ever been on. Being in Mexico for four months was also nice. Although I wasn’t laying on the beach the whole time! We were in the desert, six hours from Mexico City or anything at all entertaining. So, we really had to provide our own entertainment.

Q. You mention it’s not The Pianist, but at the same time this is a very popular manga and has a dedicated fan following. Did that bring any pressure and was that on your mind – the fans’ reaction? Did you visit any fan forums?
Emmy Rossum: My first instinct was: “Hooray, I got the job!” My second instinct was: “Oh crap, I got the job – now I have to deliver!” In this day and age you would be pulling the wool over your eyes if you weren’t aware of what was being said, especially on the Internet. There was such an expectation from fans of Dragonball that initially Justin and I were nervous.

But when you play any character that already has a following, or is based on someone real, there’s always a preconception, whether it’s from two people or two million. I played Christine in Phantom of the Opera, and I did a TV movie in America on the life of Audrey Hepburn – I played the young Audrey Hepburn… and there was a level of expectation on those too. So, you have to take it with a grain of salt, prepare yourself mentally and make sure you do the best job you can. You almost have to take that expectation as a source of confidence and say to yourself: “I’m going to make this great because a lot of people believe in it.” You also have to make it your own… based on what’s inside of you and your own research, otherwise you’d just be imitating something else and not making it your own.

Q. How was the Japanese premiere?
Emmy Rossum: Japan was awesome. We all popped out of individual dragon balls into this arena with 5,000 people. It was an epic adventure. There were girls dressed up as Bulma. It was a very heart warming experience, because whenever you create something you want people to care about it too. And after seeing so many people at the premiere looking so excited, I felt that at least it’ll get a shot.

Q. Would you come back for a sequel if the opportunity arises?
Emmy Rossum: Are you kidding? I was like a kid in a candy shop on this. I’d leap at the chance. Justin says I’m pretty tomboyish… but I love doing things that aren’t girly-girly. A lot of the things I’ve previously done were super girly-girly and super arty, so it was fun to break out of my own shell.

Q. Were you relieved that you didn’t have to wear a blue wig?
Emmy Rossum: I was actually quite bummed! I’d been super campaigning for all blue hair. In fact, we tried blue wigs and I think there are some early images on the Internet – because everything gets on the Internet. If you sneeze it’s on the net, or if you have a bogey on the end of your nose! But I was campaigning for blue hair. But the more we tried to wrap our heads around the live action aspect of the film, the more the studio and the director wanted to make it this side of real, rather than looking completely like a comic book. And it was felt that a little bit of blue would be more appropriate. And no matter which way you paint it, all blue hair just doesn’t look natural! But I like individuality.

Q. How was riding a motorbike?
Emmy Rossum: Oh my gosh, I can hardly drive a car! And here I am with the studio’s two big stars on the back of it, saying: “Let’s go for a ride!” As I said, this film provided a lot of firsts for me. I’d never even seen a gun, or shot a gun, or ridden a bike, so it was definitely a lot to learn, and I’m definitely not a pro. But I could give you a little spin around!

Q. Away from films, you also have a successful music career. Do you have another album on the way and will you continue to juggle the two?
Emmy Rossum: I really enjoy singing and I’m not the type of actress who goes from movie to movie and does five a year. So, it’s exciting in my down time to learn things and become a better artist, a better actor, and a better singer. I’m also learning different instruments. It’s all fun and part of the quest to become a better human being. I’ve always loved singing. It was my first love and the first discovery of who I was.

Sometimes, I feel like everyone is a circus freak until you find that thing you’re meant to do… and that’s what singing was for me. I’m working on a second record right now and I’m closing in on a style. But I think your style changes as you get older and become more experienced and informed by different cultures. Every artist evolves, so that’s what I’m doing right now.

Read our interview with Justin Chatwin