If there’s one “real star” in “Clerks II,” it has to be Rosario Dawson. While that may not be entirely fair to the other actors in the film – they’re all stars in their own right – it’s true that Rosario’s pedigree has grown by leaps and bounds since she exploded onto the scene in “Kids.” Since then she’s worked on films “He Got Game” and “25th Hour” with Spike Lee, “Alexander” with Oliver Stone,” “Rent” with Chris Columbus and, of course the film most comic fans know her for best, “Sin City” with Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller. Her inclusion in “Clerks II” surprised some, but as you’ll discover in the interview below, she fits right in with the entire Clerks cast.
In “Clerks II,” Dawson plays Becky, a co-worker at Mooby’s and close friend of Dante. Rosario began the interview by discussing her new Image Comics series, “O.C.T. – Occult Crimes Taskforce.”
I’m the co-creator of a comic called the “O.C.T. – Occult Crimes Task Force.” The premise is the lower base of Manhattan is a vortex of magical energy and the native Indians knew that when they sold it cheap to the Pilgrims as retribution. So, they put a hex on it and it was kind of kept down, but once the city was really built, that’s when it broke and magical crime started happening, be it werewolves and vampires to people putting curses on each other. Magic – as we’re talking about it in this context – is like radiation. The closer you are to it, the more you practice it, the better you’re at it. At its crux, it’s about will, it’s about faith, it’s about belief, it’s about focus. It’s about a woman named Sophia Ortiz, a detective. She has just been recruited into the OCT and found out her father was a part of the task force in the past. Her job is to maintain the balance between those who practice magic and those who don’t. Not in the sense of protecting people from what they can’t understand, but in the sense of protecting peoples rights. Like, if you’re a wiccan and that’s your religion, you have a right to practice it, but you do not have a right to put curses on people and take advantage. It’s monitoring that balance.
It’s got a bit of a “Law and Order” type feel. As you’re introduced to the protagonist of Sophia Ortiz, who looks like me – Tony Shasteen is the illustrator and David Atchison is the writer – she introduces us to the world of OCT, but eventually we’ll create a bunch of other characters and it’ll be more of an ensemble.
Is working in comics something you’ve always wanted to do?
Not something I’ve always wanted to do, but something I’ve always really loved and enjoyed. My Uncle Gus is a comic book artist who’s done everything from story boarding to the different “Vs” cards to freelancing with DC & Marvel on books like “JLA” and “Spider-Man.” In fact, he was working on “Spider-Man” when I was filming “Sin City” and he came down to visit and lost his job because they were like, “You’re hanging out with Frank Miller down in Austin? You’re not working!” He spent all these hours doing this Spider-Man stuff in the trailer and he was mad! He was like, “You mean I was not spending time with Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez for this freaking job and then they fire me because they think I’m slacking off? Screw them!” [laughs] He’s actually the guy who introduced me to David and Tony and he’s sort of the supervisor of the project and he’ll be producing on the film. And the character of my father [in the book] is likened to him. When we do the film he’ll play my Daddy.
Where is the film at right now?
We’re just in negotiations and talking about the project. It takes at least a year to get the script together. So, it’ll be a year and a half or so at least to get the movie going. We’re also starting to work on the video game. And the comics have come out as of July 6th. We’ve been getting really great reviews, we were at Heroes Con and we’re going to Comic-Con International. It’s been going really good so far. It’s been really exciting. We’re out there selling it really hard, working the booth, doing panels. It’s an independent project – we’re with 12 Gauge Comics and Image. It’s been cool geeking out on my favorite artists – I got to meet Bryan Hitch! He was like, “You know who I am?” [laughs] “Sir, really, come on!” [laughs] It’s been really fun.
It’s one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done in my career. I get to be creatively outspoken. I have total say on the look and sound of it. As an actor, I usually show up for my part of the movie, but I don’t get to talk about the edit or how they sell it. With this, though, I really get to be involved. The cover right now is Sophia with the gun and there’s a hand creeping in and her badge is swinging and I told them I wanted the feel of Jodie Foster in “Silence of the Lambs,” where she’s kind of out of her element, but she’s trying really hard. That’s who this character is.
What’s cool about [the possibility of portraying this character as an actor] is that the character is a detective in NYC, dealing with the loss of her father and trying to make it and her whole world having been turned upside down with the realization that magic is real. What I hope to do is, as I grew up in New York with a bunch of skaters, I’m used to looking down the street and seeing it like, “Well, you could probably skate off that or pop one off that,” while someone else walks down the street and doesn’t see it at all like that. That’s what I hope to do with magic like the Trekkies have done with “Star Trek,” thinking about a world where there’s no money and the idea of human success is human achievement. That’s a beautiful concept and that’s why you have such loyal fans. I hope to do that with magic and the “OCT.”
You have a lot of comic fans in the production of this film with Kevin, Jason, Trevor and others. Were there any interesting comics conversations on the set?
Tons! We were talking about “Johnny the Homicidal Maniac” when I first got on the set. I’m a big Neil Gaiman and Steve Niles kind of fan. More Dark Horse Comics, “B.P.R.D,” “Lenore.” I love “Lenore!” I’m sitting there reading “Johnny the Homicidal Maniac” and I’m quoting it to Kevin and he just looked at me like, “No way. I got a list of girls to go out to for this movie and you said yes – which I’m still surprised by – and on top of that you know comics? No way!” [laughs] It was really fun. I think of all projects, this is the one most likened to my personality. Not exactly Becky, but the type of film it is. Kevin didn’t know that when he first cast me – we hadn’t met before – but it was a really great fit.
Kevin’s been very supportive of the comic, too. Kevin did the interview in the preview book and he’s been giving us really good tips on how to sell it. He’s done that for years. He’s one of the few people who’ve bridged the gap between Hollywood and comics and done it well. Rob Zombie’s done that as well and I talked with him about it, too.
How did you first become aware of “Clerks II?”
I guess they had come up with a list of girls to go out to and Kevin liked the idea of me a lot and thought it was a long shot to ask, which I think is crazy because I’ve always wanted to work with him. So, my manager and my agent had to go to the office to read the script. It was very hush, hush thing – no one could get the script out because they were afraid of leaks. They laughed their asses off and so they sent a messenger over to drop it off at my place, who was like, “I’ll be back in three hours.” So, I had to speed read it as I was getting ready to do a play in New York! I read it the first time through and thought it was absolutely hilarious. Kevin had me at the donkey show! [laughs] I wasn’t the girl with the enlarged clit – which I thought would be a little weird with my Dad – and I didn’t have to participate in the donkey show, I just had to watch which wasn’t that bad! [laughs] So, no fear of retribution! Totally legal! [Zak Charles Knutson, who runs the donkey show in the film] is actually the nicest guy on the planet – he really went for it. I was like, that’s some acting. If you’re going to be that guy, be that guy.” I had such a great time. I got so excited when I read it.
The movie does allude to certain things from the first film and it has those homage moments – I’m excited to be a part of some of those homage moments like the roof scene, the toe nail painting and all that kind of stuff – but you don’t need to watch the first movie to get it. And the first movie still stands on its own, it’s still a really great film, but when you watch it next to this movie you see how much Kevin’s grown as a film maker and a writer. It’s wonderful to be going out, talking to the press and seeing people who really liked this movie and reacting like, “I really liked it! I was really offended sometimes, but it’s a good film!” And yes, it is, it’s a good film. At the heart of it it’s about friendship and whether or not to go after the brass ring of success and what will make me look like I’m happy, or do I go after what will actually make me happy, even though it may not be as glamorous. And I’m the girl he settles for! It was a really interesting project for that reason. This movie reveals the fact that, deep down, Kevin’s really a sweet heart.
This is such a cult film amongst men, how did your [boyfriend Jason Lewis] feel about you being involved?
Oh my God, he was so excited and so jealous! He came down to visit. It’s a totally fun boy movie and it was great playing the girl who’s kind of one of the boys, but totally the alpha female. I think it’s a great date movie – I think chicks will totally dig it. If anyone took me to this movie on a date I’d be like, “I’m yours!” It’s really funny.
When we took it to Cannes, Kevin was all upset at [Executive Producer Harvey Weinstein] because he set-up a screening on the last Friday of Cannes at midnight and Kevin was like, “Who’s going to come and see this? You’re totally screwing us!” And Harvey said, “Just wait, I know what I’m doing.” As Harvey does! [laughs] So, they show the film at the end of the festival at 12:30 at night and we had a seven minute standing ovation afterwards! People were so excited. They thought it was funny, it wasn’t too long, it was a fun film that touches on taboo subjects, but in a smart way. Sure, Lucas could be a little offended by this, but we go off just as much on “The Lord of the Rings.” It’s a very even keel film that touches on taboo subjects that are only taboo because we refuse to talk about them in mixed company. It’s not that we don’t talk like this. That’s what so precious about this is that he takes these two regular guys – not your flashiest, most gorgeous leading men – and you’re totally enthralled in this movie because they’re real people and Kevin’s doing something that nobody else does – he’s giving them real dialogue. This is how fans talk! He’s some how figured out how to put it into a movie and make it entertaining. That’s where the secrecy comes from because if any of that stuff leaks out, you’ve lost the film. That’s really delicate film making – I dare anybody to be able to pull off having a donkey show and a Bollywood moment in the same movie and have it all make sense. [laughs]
What type of movie do you generally like to do? Comedy, musicals, action, drama?
I really liked doing the comedy stuff, which was actually much harder to do than something dramatic, unless you’re totally not moved by the material, but I’ve been lucky to work on some pretty good stuff with some pretty good directors. Most of the films I’m producing are more topical kind of stuff. The one I just did is a film that deals with revenge.
Can you tell us anything about “Sin City II?”
Oh, that’s not even happening any time soon yet. I’m working on the Quentin Tarantino project [“Grind House”] first.
Are you excited about the prospect?
I’m so excited! I’m lucky because Frank [Miller] – or maybe I’m not so lucky – Frank really loved drawing that outfit and drawing Gail, so I’m definitely going to be back. It’s “A Dame to Kill For” and it’s really good. I think it’s really smart film making. Again, it’s not for everybody and it’s a really specific kind of world, which is why it was a successful film, but it didn’t have those huge box office numbers because it was an adult themed film just like there are adult themed comics. Like “Maus,” which deals with the holocaust and then “Wonder Woman,” which still has really strong themes.
Working on “Sin City” was one of the best experiences I’ve had. We were standing in one room with just basically our props, acting with each other. It felt like old school film making, like making a Bella Lugosi film where you knew the props all sucked and no suspension of disbelief around you, so you just had to act and you had to sell it through the story. It felt like a theater experience. I’d love to do it again because I get to work with amazing people and it’s really good stuff.
Next up: Trevor Fehrman, who plays the “Lord of the Rings”/ “Transformers” / Jesus loving Elias.
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