She’s as gorgeous as ever, walking into the room wearing a tiny mini skirt with a slit up the side and a sheer black top, unafraid ro reveal as much to the LA media as she does in her new movie Swordfish. Paul Fischer reports from Los Angeles.
Question: How did you prepare for a high-tech movie like Swordfish?
Answer: I kept going to the gym. [Laughs] All the computer dialogue, I could never take enough classes to understand what all that stuff is. I didn’t really care to, either. A lot of this was just studying the script and finding what I wanted to do with Ginger. She was the classic femme fatale. I didn’t think she’d be likable at first, so my challenge was to make a sexy girl as human & as I possibly could.
Question: And as a consequence, you revealed some of your own sexuality.
Answer: Yeah, I did. I’ve never explored that part of myself on-screen before. For so many years, I’ve said no, no, no [to nudity]. A lot of it was not being comfortable with myself and being afraid and wondering what people would think. Finally, over the past couple of years I’ve sort of shed myself of all those worries and that did me good.
Question: Are you referring to Introducing Dorothy Dandridge?
Answer: That helped a lot, because I finally got some critical acceptance. I had this monkey on my back for so many years, to prove that I was more than a model and I could really act. So that freed me up to try things. I always had this burning desire to prove something. What about the half million dollars to go topless in Swordfish? Totally not true! I would sell these babies for way much more money than that. But it’s made for great publicity for the movie.
Question: Where did that story start, then?
Answer: I have no idea where that came from; nobody’s owning up to it. But totally, totally not true.
Question: Was it a freeing experience, pardon the pun, to bare your breasts on camera?
Answer: Not just that. To me it was more than that. It was playing a character that was that in control of her sexuality, that comfortable with herself. That was the challenge . that and to not sit there looking half scared to death, which is what I felt inside.
Question: Was it really necessary?
Answer: I don’t think nudity is ever necessary. I think you can make every single movie and never show anything and it’s fine. It was a bold choice on our part. It was written in the script, and when I got offered the part I was told that’s who this girl is and it’s not negotiable to be taken out. So any actress, whether it is me or someone else, had to play the part as she was written. So I did. It’s a choice that one makes.
Question: Would you do it again?
Answer: Oh, absolutely, I will do it again if the part inspires me or calls for it.
Question: Are you surprised we’re having a discussion about this?
Answer: Nope. I knew it would happen; I expected it and you have not let me down. [Laughs]
Question: How did you feel on the day of that scene?
Answer: The hardest part was three months before, deciding to do it. When the day came, it was very anticlimactic. Hugh was more uncomfortable than I was, because I see these all the time. He was like, .Oh my God! There she is.. It’s a striking example of the power women have. That’s what I thought. I hope women would feel that way because that’s our power and not feel exploited. If we learn to use that power, we have the world right here.
Question: Should guys be expected to expose more in movies?
Answer: I think some men have made bold choices and I think more men in the coming generation will. The interracial romance in Swordfish isn’t even an issue. That was what was really exciting and made me get over the nudity really quickly, because I saw this as an opportunity to take a black woman to another place where we haven’t gone before. That’s been my struggle, to be just a woman in a movie and not let the fact that I’m black hinder me from getting parts that my counterparts are able to play. This was a big step in that direction.
Question: Is Hollywood less colour-blind now?
Answer: I think it’s less but it’s still struggling. The more there are little steps like this, eventually they will realize it that it is OK, that we can just be people. Colour doesn’t have to matter all the time. In some stories it does have to matter, but there are so many stories where it doesn’t.
Question: How was working with Hugh Jackman this time?
Answer: A whole lot better. Because this time we really got to work together. In X-Men, we saw each other in the cafeteria but we didn’t really have scenes together.
Question: You two flirt in the film. Was that just natural chemistry?
Answer: It was in the script. But because we knew each other from all those months in Canada making X-Men, we had a chemistry, a banter, and a rhythm we’d developed. But it was written in the script.
Question: You claim to be a technophobe, yet you have a Web site which you used to reveal that you were married.
Answer: The media has always been pretty kind to me. But it’s always nice to have an outlet, to have a voice that’s uncut and unedited so I can say what I want to say. I try not to use it as a preaching tool, to uplift myself to the nth degree, but I like to go on there. I got to go on and say it’s not true that I got a half million dollars to show my boobs.
Question: What has marriage done for you?
Answer: I just feel a lot more settled in life. I think if I had not been married, I would not have made the choice to do this part. Eric is so supportive of who I am and where I’m trying to go as an actress and as a black woman. It was refreshing to know he could see that and say, .God, that really looked beautiful,. and not feel insecure and try not to be like a ball and chain. It’s very much about letting you fly.
Question: How many songs have you inspired on Eric’s new album?
Answer: [Smiles] About six. Well, his new album has a lot of love songs, songs about people coming together and what that feels like. The songs are very loving.
Question: What do you like to do during the summer when you’re not acting?
Answer: Usually just spend time with my family. I like to rollerblade a lot, swim, play tennis. Take time to do things. I travel so much with my work, when I have time off, that’s usually the last thing I want to do. I want to stay somewhere and feel rooted. Just have some sort of normalcy and regularity.
Question: Is this the best time of your life?
Answer: Yeah, the happiest and the most comfortable.
Question: You sound like you didn’t expect to ever be happy or have a good marriage. Are you surprised your life has taken a turn for the better?
Answer: Yeah, I think I got preconditioned that maybe it just wasn’t for me. It feels really good to know that it was just maybe some bad choices. A lot of growth has taken place and I’ve learned a lot of things about myself and it feels good.
Question: So it wasn’t just a matter of finding the right guy?
Answer: I had to change in order to find what the right guy looks like. So I think it’s a little bit of both.
Question: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned?
Answer: Just to be true to myself, which is why I did this movie. I figured everyone was going to freak out and say, Why would you do that after Dorothy Dandridge? My answer is “Because I can”. And that feels really good to be comfortable saying that.
Question: Did winning the Emmy and Golden Globe awards for Dandridge give you more confidence?
Answer: Absolutely. I can relax now in my life. I think that’s what shows. I’m just comfortable. If I don’t make another movie, if I don’t win another award, I’ve made a contribution that I can be really proud of. I don’t have that desire anymore. And I think things will come my way because I’m sort of loosened-up.
Question: Do you mean you’ve lost your edge to push your career?
Answer: Actually, it’s the opposite. I feel freer now, because I am so comfortable, to go after all those things I was afraid of before, to take the risks. I think I used to be afraid of that, and now with the awards and my personal life so comfortable, I’m feeling even more inspired to try things that used to scare me.
Question: Dorothy Dandridge is your role model. What was the importance of telling that story for you?
Answer: I think it was an eye-opener for a lot of people. When they realized the struggle of her life, they had more respect for her and for what minorities, especially African-Americans, deal with in that industry. By me doing it, I think it says that if little old me at 7 years old can have this dream and make it happen, then you can pretty much do whatever you want to do. It’s not about making a movie, it can be whatever you want to do. It can be losing a hundred pounds. It inspires people to believe they can do it.
Question: Did you have to overcome more as a black woman or as a beautiful woman in Hollywood?
Answer: I think just being a woman in Hollywood is something to overcome. But being black? Sure. I’ve pretty much learned I can let that hinder me if I want to, I can use that as an excuse, or I can fight for different kinds of roles, do crackheads or more character kind of roles rather just rely on looks. Swordfish is the first time, really, I relied on that. Because that’s who this character is: She uses her looks to get her way. How do you feel now that you’ve become a style icon and a resilient role model, especially for young black women? Right at this moment when you said that, it feels very overwhelming. I do know, as part of the black community, growing up I always needed someone to look up to and it was hard to find those public images. I know how important it is and I see little black girls and boys all the time who come up to me and tell me I give them inspiration and that feels really good. But I’ve learned I have to live my life for me. I can’t half-step everything I do wondering how every 10-year-old in Harlem will feel about it. I still have to live my life for me but also know that as I go, maybe other people are being inspired.
Question: How do you feel about clothes?
Answer: I like dress-up. I started in beauty pageants. I love fashion and hair and makeup, I love all that.
Question: Do you ever feel like doing something with that?
Answer: [Smiles] I don’t know. I’m still trying to crack this other nut and it just won’t seem to let me crack it. Later in life maybe I’ll find the time.
Question: Who are you wearing today?
Answer: A hodgepodge of designers. I’m not really sure.
Question: What is that blue circle tattoo sneaking out of the top of your mini in the back?
Answer: That was covering a mistake of my first marriage [to athlete David Justice]. I happened to tattoo his name back there and a huge mistake that was. It’s a design now, it says nothing. I learned.
Question: Are you comfortable having your personal life be as well-known as your movie roles?
Answer: That’s the only down part, but I realize that’s part of me. To all of a sudden say, .No more of that. would be ridiculous. So it’s trying to find the balance with my new relationship . what I’m willing to share and what I’m not willing to share. I need to keep some things for myself.
Question: What inspires you today?
Answer: Because I have a family now, a husband and a daughter, that’s a good inspiration to work, make money for college. I just want to do projects that I really want to do and not have to worry what it will say about my career or the limitations I’ve put on myself in the past. My options have opened way up, now that I’m not saying no to nudity. And it doesn’t have to be nudity like this one . there were some movies that I said no to because they had love scenes and I just didn’t want to do that. Now I feel more grown up and more adult and more willing to try those.