Stolen memories will resurface in “Trance.” Simon (James McAvoy), a fine art auctioneer, teams up with a criminal gang to steal a Goya painting worth millions of dollars. After suffering a blow to the head during the heist, he awakens to discover he has no memory of where he hid the painting. When physical threats and torture fail to produce answers, the gang’s leader Franck (Vincent Cassel) hires hypnotherapist Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson) to reach into the darkest recesses of Simon’s psyche. As Elizabeth begins to unravel Simon’s broken subconscious, the line between truth, suggestion, and deceit begin to blur.
Boyle brings a fresh take on the iconic femme fatale in the character of Dawson as Elizabeth Lamb, the beautiful hypnotherapist who proves to be every bit the equal of the men playing power games around her. The most alluring leg of the movie’s triangle belongs to Lamb which Dawson molded to become a very modern re-model of the classic femme fatale. At first she seems like she might be just an eye-catching, over-confident pawn in an all-male game, but Elizabeth’s true power begins to emerge as the story unravels.
Known for her previous notable works in “Sin City,” “Rent,” “Seven Pounds” and “He Got Game,” Dawson has worked with many of the world’s leading directors, from Spike Lee to Quentin Tarantino, Chris Columbus and the late Tony Scott – but this role is totally different from her previous ones. “I’ve never played anyone even remotely like her,” says Dawson of Elizabeth Lamb. “Elizabeth is totally different because she’s hiding everything. You only get hints of her emotion through her doing things with her hair to show her restraint but when she lets her hair down, she really lets her hair down. Then, you get to see a different side of her. It’s subtle; it’s completely unspoken. And she’s a wonderful presence to have between these two guys,” Dawson explains.
One of the most intriguing aspects of “Trance” for Boyle was the chance to present a woman as an equal player in a crime thriller. “You make all these films and you have great women in them, but they’re basically about guys – Ewan McGregor, Cillian Murphy, Dev Patel, James Franco or Leonardo DiCaprio. So what I love about “Trance” is there’s a woman most definitely right in the thick of it, holding her own.”
He knew he needed an actress capable of evoking Elizabeth’s underlying strength. “I’d always had Rosario in mind for the role,” he says. “I’d always wanted to work with her. She won’t thank me for saying this, but everything I’ve seen her in, I don’t think people have used her fully; I don’t think her talent as an actor has been fully exploited. We wanted someone who had a real commanding presence: an ability with words and an independence – a stand-alone quality.”
Dawson researched her character’s profession by attending hypnosis classes and poring through books on hypnotherapy and psychology. “I met with a couple of hypnotherapists. I even got hypnotized,” she explains. “I noticed that every single person in the profession that I met exuded this confidence. They give off this feeling of ‘I know the secrets to your brain, and you don’t understand how you think or why you behave that way but I do and I can help you.’ So that was really interesting and it wasn’t an accident I played her that way.”
“Trance” opens May 1 in cinemas nationwide from 20th Century Fox to be distributed by Warner Bros.