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INT: Emmy Rossum


Poseidon star Emmy Rossum is no stranger to disaster. Two years ago, she successfully fought off global warming in Roland Emmerich's climate-change epic THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW. In POSEIDON, she must once again deal with Mother Nature's fury as she fights to find her way off of a sinking ship tossed asunder by a giant "rogue" wave. But Emmy doesn't just do disaster. A former opera singer, she got a chance to show off her classically-trained pipes in the big-screen version of Andrew Lloyd Webber's THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. The next logical step for Emmy? A musical disaster film. Come on Hollywood , make it happen! Last week the perpetually perky actress stopped by the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel to talk about POSEIDON. Check it out.

Emmy Rossum

Why did you want to do another disaster movie?

Iíve always really admired Wolfgang Petersen. Films like The Perfect Storm, Das Boot. This is like Das Big Boot. Iím always really impressed by how he blends that kind of action thriller suspense with character and with emotion and what real people go through in these kinds of situations. And he sent me this script and called me about it right after the tsunami problems. And it just really hit home for me because Iíd been watching it on the news every day. It really moved me because of that and realizing how the everyday quarrels and petty arguments that you have with your parents or the people that you love donít really matter. Especially when youíre in these kinds of situations, the only thing that matters is being with the people that you love and being strong. And I was really impressed by a character who wasnít really the damsel in distress which a lot of the times the girls are like whimpering in the corner. Sheís pretty courageous for a 19-year-old girl in this kind of situation.

Did the experience of making Day After Tomorrow help you in terms of stunts?

I thought it would but going into it I really couldnít anticipate how difficult it was going to be. It was really the toughest thing I think Iíve ever done, movie or otherwise in my life. It was the most physically difficult thing Iíve ever done, to have to learn how to scuba dive and free dive. Kurt Russell got pneumonia, Josh Lucas broke 10 tendons in his right hand, Mia was in the hospital with a concussion, the kid had a concussion. It was a pretty intense shoot. I was pretty much like purple from the neck down with bruises. Every time everyone would fall, itíd be like, ďMan down, cut!Ē

It was a crazy time but it was a lot of fun and it gave me an opportunity to do things and experience things and conquer fears that I never would have done. I mean, our first day of training they introduced me to this contraption called the Cage of Death. I was like, ďCanít we call it the Cage of Life? I don't know. A little more optimism here?Ē (The Cage of Death) was this plexiglass cube that they would sink over my head very slowly and I would have to gasp for my last breath. Iíd basically sit under water until I had no air left and then give them the sign and theyíd raise it up until after I was basically half done.

Why was that?

Training to build your lung capacity. And also for you to conquer your own panic. You realize that when youíre in situations and shooting really 20 feet underwater in enclosed spaces, I mean, they wanted us to be like little Navy SEALS. But as a girl, I had to show the guys that girls are tough too.

Your character was pretty tough.

Sheís a pretty feisty, opinionated kind of girl, which was fun to play. I think I am getting less shy as I get older so maybe Iím getting a little bit more like her. My parents arenít in the business. My dadís a banker and my momís a photographer and theyíre divorced and Iíve pretty much grown up with my mom. So I guess because neither of them are in the business and Iíve always done everything a kind of unconventional way. I mean, I started singing at the opera when I was seven after my music teacher sent me over there from school, and became an actress when I was 12 after I got too tall for the childrenís costumes at the opera. It all just has kind of snowballed from there and as long as I continue to do my education, my parents supported me. But the things that I am conventional with are like my normal life. Things Iím unconventional with are like my schooling and the kind of work that I do.

Did you study any of the characters from the original film?

You know, Iíve never seen the original. I hadnít seen it and I didnít want to be influenced by the original material. I think Iím making a habit of that because I didnít see the original Phantom of the Opera either. But no, I just looked at news footage of the people who survived the tsunamis and the hurricanes and things like that. I tried to base the experiences on that and find a real level and somebody in particular whose voice I heard in a recording in a disaster I could identify with and gave me the key into the character.

How do you mean youíre getting less shy?

With boys I think. I used to be scared to ask a guy out and now Iím not.

Did you bond with or learn from the older actors on the Poseidon set?

Yes. Kurt definitely. I mean, I felt like a lot of our scenes are together and the relationship between our characters is quite tumultuous and I felt like I really learned a lot from his ability to improvise. Especially in a situation like this where the emotional intensity is so high and some of the dialogue thatís written on the page just doesnít seem right so he really took his character from the inside out as did I as well. And just tried to make it as real and in the moment and spontaneous as possible.

How did Wolfgang Petersen keep things light on the set?

Heís probably one of my favorite people that Iíve ever worked for. Heís probably the kindest when you really get to know him. Heís a bit shy. But when you do get to know him, heís so kind and really very funny. He kept the mood light by encouraging everyone to be really close. I know Josh Lucas barbecued every day outside his trailer and Kurt was always ordering sushi and everyone was always having friends over to the set.

It was a very warm atmosphere and there was a lot of laughter if you can believe it in between surfacing and going back under. Just sometimes noticing how ludicrous our job is at some points. Youíre 20 feet underwater dodging bodies right and left. Itís kind of unbelievable. And I would say Wolfgang, you must have talked about his soup so far. His 11 oíclock soup, which is quite famous. Did they tell you every soup has sausage in it? Itís chicken noodle with sausage, miso soup with sausage, clam chowder with sausage, gumbo with sausage, cream of asparagus with sausage. Every soup has sausage in it and if it doesnít, it doesnít get a very good rating.

Did you ever feel like someone might die on the film?

At moments, yeah, but I just pretty much held onto Kurt the whole time and he just kept saying, ďItís gonna be okay, itís gonna be okay.Ē So he was kind of my father figure on set which was nice. But yeah, there were moments that were really scary but once you realize that panic and fear is so much just in your head, you can just pretty much put it out of your mind.

How is your singing career going?

Really well. I just signed a record deal with Geffen and Iím recording my first solo record which is pop actually, but not bubble gum. Itís much more like David Grey, Sarah McLachlan, Annie Lennox which is really exciting because Iím writing a lot of it Ė all of the lyrics, actually Ė and Iím collaborating on the music with Glen Ballard, whoís a really great record producer. So Iím really excited about that. Weíre doing that right now and I think itís a great opportunity because I donít really live my life in the media spotlight and people donít know that much really about me or what I think. So Iíve spent really time becoming other characters and viewing films that way. So I think this is an opportunity for me to kind of talk a little bit from my heart.

You wonít put your film career on home while you pursue music?


Are there difficulties shifting your voice from opera to pop?

No, not at all because the first film I did was called Songcatcher and it was about country music and I ended up doing a song with Dolly Parton. So Iíve actually found that my classical foundation and just keeping your voice healthy in that way doesnít mean that you have to sing obviously in that kind of classical way. It just means that you keep yourself healthy and you never lose your voice.

Would you like to do another musical?

Yeah. Definitely at some point. It was the perfect blend of things for me. I mean, if it was the right thing, if it was going to be totally different, probably contemporary but nothing thatís come by my desk right now that Iím really into.

Why have you been able to stay out of the spotlight?

You know, I live in New York and itís a lot easier because of that. There are paparazzi there and tabloids that sometimes follow me around, but I donít date celebrities really or I try not to and all my friends are the same ones Iíve had since before I was an actress so thatís how I know that I can trust them. And I donít really run with that kind of LA young Hollywood party scene. Itís just not my thing.

Are you still in college?

Yes, I am. Iím playing hooky right now. But I do plan to go back at some point but right now, I have to kind of go with the momentum that I have of working on the record and the films. Iím still learning, reading all the time and traveling. Iím going to China this summer so Iím pretty excited.

How many semesters would you have left?

Most. [Laughs]

Whatís next for you?

Iím working on my record and then I don't know. Iíll probably go back to school a little bit and Iím really picky about films. I only like to do things that really come along. Sean Penn and Clint Eastwood have told me a lot that I shouldnít feel that I need to be in the limelight or the spotlight all the time, that I should just- - a career is about longevity as shown in their careers. So I really want to only do the best things and work with the best people and thatís what I strive to do.

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