Emmy Rossum is best known for her work in dramatic films like "Phantom of the Opera" and "Mystic River" or the disaster movies "The Day after Tomorrow" and "Poseidon." Now the actress trades signing and drowning for kick-ass martial arts, motorcycle riding and gun shooting in her new film, "Dragonball Evolution."
Opening April 10, the film stars Rossum as the gun-wielding Bulma. After Lord Piccolo steals her father's Dragonball, Bulma teams up with Goku (Justin Chatwin, "War of the Worlds") and Master Roshi (Chow Yun-Fat, "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End") to stop him from collecting all the Dragonballs and destroying the Earth.
CBR News visited the set of the film in Mexico last year and spoke to Rossum about the new movie, the manga series it's based on, pleasing the fans, and working with Chow Yun-Fat.
CBR: "Dragonball Evolution" sees you playing your first action-hero role. What has the experience been like for you?
Emmy Rossum: It's rad. I got to learn how to shoot lots of different guns. I trained with the Marines. I learned how to shoot handguns, rifles, shotguns, and slugs. I turned a nice shade of black and blue. I got to ride a motorcycle. These are all things I've never done before. I have normally been corseted or singing. This is really fun. It's nice to play a kick-ass character that is really strong and smart. She is a little vain but its fun. I was definitely excited to play this kind of character. She is described as the smartest girl in the world. That is pretty cool to play. This is challenging, different and it's been really fun.
For me, the character's journey is that she is a scientist. She is pretty cut-and-dry, even though she still loves the boys. The movie, for me, is her journey from being a factual scientist to being someone that believes in things that are somewhat mystical and beyond her. I think she is extremely selfish in the beginning. She wants to be famous for her inventions. She is extremely smart. She has invented this capsule to encompass her motorcycle. She is extremely aware of her own intelligence even in the cartoon series, which was annoying. All of the fans were like, "Yes! They cast Emmy Rossum! She is so annoying."
Did you have to read up on the "Dragonball" manga or watch the anime at all for research?
Yes. That was very important to me. Before I read for the part and tested for the movie, I wanted to completely understand who she was aside from just a two dimensional character. These characters aren't very two-dimensional. They are pretty heroic in their own ways. I did my necessary amount of research. At the same time, I have this thing were I don't like to be too close to the original material. I didn't watch the original "Phantom of the Opera." I didn't watch the original "Poseidon Adventure." I still haven't done either. It's always important for me to be true to these iconic characters. Because people really love them and feel close to them. Some people consider them their BFFs.
I wanted it to be real for me, though. I don't want to be too fixated on making the fans happy. I think that will make me go crazy. I tried to take her essence, and who she is. I looked at the Manga and the animated series. I wanted to do what I wanted to do, while staying true to her. She is probably the most fun character I have ever played. She is very spunky, and has a great attitude. She's nothing at all like me. It's not typecasting. She is really smart. But at the same time, she is completely boy crazy. In the original series, she wanted to get all of the Dragon Balls so that she could wish for the perfect boyfriend. In this film, she realizes that if she harbors the power of all the Dragonballs, she will be like Albert Einstein. She wants to form an unstoppable source of electricity.
The "Dragonball" manga and anime series that "Evolution" is based on are beloved by fans around the world, how will you deal with their reactions to the movie once it is released?
That is a difficult question. Here's what I think. This is like doing a play. When there is a film with no potential sequel, its okay to read what the fans say. But when there is a sequel, and you have to go do the character again, to read criticism, which I think is usually beneficial and makes you stronger, is harmful. You don't want to change your performance halfway through. You don't want to tailor it to what people think you should be doing. Especially when that character is going to keep going on. You have to be true to your version of the character. I think what I am doing in the film is close to what fans want her to be. She has a very distinct look in the cartoon series. Sometimes, her look is the biggest thing.
Did you provide any input in to the look and design of Bulma?
Yes. We tried different wigs, different hair colors, and different styles of clothes. I must have tried thirty different wigs. I wanted the bright blue, short bob. That is so signature of who she is. But I think they wanted it to be realistic. We are bringing these characters to a more realistic sense. If the fans want the anime, they can watch the anime series. Or read the manga comics. There are more than five hundred episodes of the series. And zillions of pages you can read, if you want those characters to be exact. If you are such a purist, we can never do those things that you want. We can only do our best.
Is it important to understand how to do all of the physical fighting that is required of your character, or is it more important to look like the character?
I think it is incredibly important to be physically strong. I am stronger than I have ever been in the past. It was important that we possessed, both on and off set, this inner strength. When you feel physically strong, it gives you a presence within your own body. I feel more powerful now than when I got here.
What was the most challenging aspect of shooting "Dragonball Evolution?"
I think it's the physical wear-and-tear that your body takes every day, doing stunts that are really impromptu. We all trained and conditioned ourselves for our own fighting styles. This girl is intelligent. She is a gun person. She is a weapons expert. She is not going to take time to punch you in the face. She will just shoot you in the face. That is the kind of fight training I went through. Your body takes a lot of wear and tear everyday, being on set. Yesterday, I was doing a double shoulder roll in a pile of dirt. It is not glamorous.
How have you enjoyed working with the rest of the cast?
It has been awesome. I am an only child and Justin [Chatwin] has a sister who is exactly my age. I've always wanted an older brother, so we have that kind of banter. We are like brother and sister. That's what Goku and Bulma have. It's been really fun. We have had that since day one. This is the project we ended up working together on. There have been so many movies where we both almost worked together. It has been really great to finally work with each other. He is so loose and free spirited. It is really interesting to see him. He is a real boy. Goku at the beginning is a real boy. It has been interesting to see him make that physical transition into the warrior. He is fierce right now. I don't want to get on his bad side.
Chow is fantastic. He was one of the reasons I wanted to be a part of this movie. From both an emotional and physical standpoint, I really look up to him. He is really cool. I admire his inner strength. He is an extremely kind person. He is also a badass that could kick the crap out of you.
What was it about James Wong's vision as a director that made you want to help him bring this story to life?
I think it was his concept for this whole world and the large scale that he envisioned. And the large attention to detail that he had. I respect him because he didn't care if the actors had names or not. Its not that he wanted a huge, huge name, it wasn't about that. He didn't care if you were on a Chinese reality show or if you were Chow Yun-Fat. He just wanted the actor to walk in the room and own the character. I respect that. I enjoy auditioning for people. I enjoy working with them in a room. I want to see what that is like. I enjoy the way James makes little tweaks on set. He is really fun to work with.
Finally, now that you've done a manga adaptation like "Dragonball Evolution," do you think you'd like to work on more comics adaptations?
Yeah, as long as the character was rad but I do think this character is very powerful. She doesn't take anything from anyone. At the same time, she is a human person on a real journey.
"Dragonball Evolution" opens Friday, April 10.