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INT: Emmy Rossum

Already a veteran of both stage and screen, teenage sprite Emmy Rossum makes her action movie debut in THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW. The seventeen year old actress, who cut her teeth for five years at the New York Metropolitan Opera, plays a high-school debate team member who gets caught up in a little rain. Then a lot of rain. Then snow. Then a lot of snow.  We’re talking snow that would make a Canadian cringe. And it’s up to Emmy to help our heroes find a way out of New York. As she struggles against the elements, she also makes a little love connection with co-star Jake Gyllenhaal.

I got a chance to sit down with the enthusiastic, chatty actress last week at the St. Regis Hotel in Century City. Here’s what she had to say about battling Mother Nature in Roland Emmerich’s epic disaster film, THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW.

EMMY ROSSUM

What was it like working on such a visual effects-laden film?

Definitely different from anything I’ve done before. I came out of a much smaller, more independent, character-driven movie tradition. To go on to something like this is a complete 180. Actually, I was working on MYSTIC RIVER and this movie simultaneously and flying back and forth.

It must have been odd going back and forth between two directors who are so different.

Working with Clint is so much different because it’s very intimate and very quiet and very personal and one-on-one. And then the next day I would fly in and be on Roland’s set and he’d built four blocks of New York City in a Montreal warehouse with Taxis and Buses in it, flooded, (with) pounding rain coming through the ceiling. Roland was directing us over a microphone, his voice coming out of the speaker like God. It was the most bizarre experience I’d ever been on.  But in a sense, it was almost like being back at the opera for me, because it was like a big spectacle. And it was fantastic. 

But Roland’s a perfectionist. He’ll do everything 500 times in one day if he wants to. But I think also that that’s a trait that engenders a lot of trust within an actor. I think you work with so many directors who don’t know what they want, that when you finally go to a director and he knows exactly what he wants, I think that that is something that makes you feel safe.

Clint Eastwood is known for not doing a lot of takes. What was that like?

You’re lucky if you get a rehearsal. I was talking to Marcia Gay Harden the other day and we were reminiscing about being on set, and I’m saying, “We were rehearsing this one scene with Clint one day...” and she goes, “You got a rehearsal? I’m jealous!” (laughs)  But that kind of preparation that I got from being in theatre for five years, the opera, of not having a second take, definitely came in handy, because you realize how much preparation really comes into play and how important that is.

What was it like working with Jake Gyllenhaal?

Fantastic! Did you guys meet him yet? He’s a fantastic guy. He’s very intelligent. It’s funny, because I was kind of like the only girl on the set. There was Mark Gordon, our producer, Roland, Jake, Dennis and me. So, he was like my big brother. The big brother I never had. So, it was really nice. And we work in kind of a similar way. I think we both put a lot of emphasis on preparation but when we get there, we kind of let it rip and are intuitive in a lot of ways, within the bounds of the character, and the arc. I think we worked really well together.

Was he different than how you’d imagined he would be?

He’s quite goofy in reality. 

Did he pull pranks?

No. I think we were so cold and wet and shivering so much of the time that I don’t think anybody had enough energy to pull pranks. After running through that tank 500 times in one day with Roland going, “Do it again. Do it again.” With the camera here and the camera there, with the blue screen and then they messed it up and they have to reset the rain in the ceiling. I mean, I don’t think anybody had enough energy for pranks. But (Jake) has a lot of positive energy.

What was the most challenging scene for you?

Probably the one with the water, because it was the most physically taxing thing I’d ever had to do in a movie. I mean, when you run through water for 12 hours a day, two and a half weeks in a row, at the same time trying to hold on to your character and trying to make a real person, with all those strengths and those vulnerabilities about her, I think that that’s the most difficult. And I think the hardest thing about doing the movie was holding on to your emotional level while they’re resetting the rain in the ceiling. 

Were you at all apprehensive about working on a big action film, with a director like Roland Emmerich?

No, and I’ll tell you why. One, I’m actually a big action movie fan. I’d always wanted to do a great action movie and I felt that I couldn’t have gotten a better director within that genre than Roland. And also when I met him, I realized that he really appreciated the fact that because I came from smaller films and wanted to create her with honesty and with intimacy, he got it. And he really respected that.  Big movies are great, because they’re fun and they’re entertaining, and that’s what a movie is supposed to do. But they’re so much better if they have that heart and that soul behind them and there’s characters that you can really invest in and love, because then you care about the movie as a whole. And he really understood that and I think that that’s something that really for me makes the movie resonate even more.

Did you have to audition for this part?

Yeah, I actually auditioned. I went in and I sat on the bench next to all the other girls who auditioned. I wasn’t given any kind of special treatment, by any means. I got a meeting with Roland and Mark.  I went in and read for them, then I got a screen test with Jake. That was the moment that I had to prove myself. That’s the screen test, that’s when you gotta show it. You gotta bring it.

What did the auditions entail? A lot of screaming?

Actually, no. They were all the more intimate, character-driven scenes, because, you know, anybody can run through water. But not necessarily anybody can run through water while bringing the heart and emotion to the character. (laughs)

I think that it was the moment of the screen test that I really realized that was the moment that I have to prove that I can portray this girl as...I think she’s, in essence, the contemporary woman: strong and intelligent and confident and courageous. But, you know, vulnerable and feminine as well. And I realized that there had to be that chemistry between the two characters of the love story – in the screen test. Otherwise, there was no proof that it was gonna translate into finished film. 

Did you get to rehearse with Jake at all before the screen test?

There was no rehearsal before we went to do the screen test. I arrived and I sat down in the room and Jake came in and we read the scene. And that was it.

And the chemistry was just there from the beginning.

I mean, it had to be. There was no choice for me, it was gonna be there. It also wasn’t difficult – he’s terribly attractive. (laughs) So, it wasn’t like the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my whole life. But at the same time, I think, you know...yeah, the heat had to be there. Otherwise...something had to melt the ice. (laughs at the obvious pun)  I couldn’t help myself!

Source: JoBlo.com

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