The versatile and gifted young gal is one of Hollywood's rising prospects. Emmy first emerged in roles on Soap Operas such as "As The World Turns" and "A Will Of Their Own." Her most recent performances are in the 2004 movies "The Day After Tomorrow" and "The Phantom Of The Opera." Possessing the sort of Cinemascope smile that could part the clouds over even the most curmudgeonly of pessimists, talented actress/singer Emmy Rossum has made her mark on stage and screen as one of the most promising talents of her generation. Having worked on-stage alongside such legends as Plácido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti, and held her own onscreen opposite such formidable talents as Sean Penn and Tim Robbins, Rossum had accomplished by the age of 18 what most actresses dream for a lifetime of achieving. A New York City native whose early work included tenures at the Metropolitan Opera and Carnegie Hall, the multi-lingual songbird performed in over 20 separate operas in six different languages before making her television debut in the popular daytime soap As the World Turns. Subsequently, Rossum was nominated for a Young Artist Award for her performance in the Disney Channel feature Genius, and her portrayal of a young Audrey Hepburn in the 2000 made-for-television drama The Audrey Hepburn Story provided the burgeoning screen talent with her widest exposure up to that point. Various television roles were quick to follow, with a feature debut as an Appalachian orphan in the 2000 drama Songcatcher proving that young Rossum could light up the silver screen just as effectively as she did its home-based counterpart. In addition to earning her an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Debut Performance, Songcatcher also took home the Best Ensemble Performance award at that year's Sundance Film Festival. As Rossum climbed the credits with roles in An American Rhapsody, Happy Now, and Passionada, it was obvious to those in the know that her career was only getting warmed up. Her role as the eponymous songwriter in the 2003 romantic comedy Nola proved without a doubt that she could carry a film and provided the perfect transition between her early independent career and her impending success in Hollywood. Cast as the ill-fated daughter of a former thug-turned-semi-legitimate small-business owner in director Clint Eastwood's critically acclaimed drama Mystic River, Rossum's blend of youthful innocence and daddy's girl charm echoed through the film in a way that made the violence of her death truly heartbreaking.
Emmy Grey Rossum was born on September 12, 1986, in New York, USA. It would seem that 2004, the year of her 18th birthday, will be remembered as pivotal for Emmy Rossum due to her appearance in two very different films, The Day After Tomorrow (2004) and The Phantom of the Opera (2004). Emmy's performance in the latter film gained her a Golden Globe nomination, and should assure that she will be a memorable presence in many films to come.
Being born and raised in New York City provided Emmy with the perfect place to start her professional career. After passing an audition at the Metropolitan Opera when she was 7 years old, she performed in over 20 operas in six different languages at Lincoln Center, alongside figures such as Plácido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti. She was directed by Franco Zeffirelli in "Carmen." She left the opera when entering her teenage years, as she had grown too tall to perform as a child. Emmy also appeared in a Carnegie Hall presentation of "The Damnation of Faust."
In a change of venue, Emmy created the role of Abigail Williams in the daytime soap opera "As the World Turns" (1956) in 1999 and branched out in performances in the made-for-television movies Genius (1999) (TV) and The Audrey Hepburn Story (2000) (TV) in which she played the title character as a young teenager. Other television work included "Snoops" (1999) , "Law & Order" (1990) and "The Practice" (1997).
Emmy made her theatrical feature debut in the indie Songcatcher (2000) which won the Special Jury Award for Outstanding Ensemble Performance at the Sundance Film Festival in January, 2000. Rossum received an Independent Spirit Award nomination in the category of Best Debut Performance for her performance as an Appalachian orphan. She played an aspiring songwriter (the title character) in the romantic comedy Nola (2003). Cast as the ill-fated daughter of a small-business owner in Clint Eastwood's Mystic River (2003) she projected an aura of innocence that made her tragic death memorable and heartbreaking. This was her first major studio film. After 6 months of filming her role as the fresh-faced but highly intelligent heroine of The Day After Tomorrow in Montreal, the 16 year old returned to New York and screen-tested for the role of Christine in The Phantom of the Opera in full costume and make-up and was finally selected for the part by Andrew Lloyd Webber after singing for him at his home. Although surprised to be chosen ahead of many better-known and older actresses considered for the part, the combination of her vulnerable, fragile beauty and fine, classically-trained singing voice ultimately proved that she was perfectly cast. In preparation for the role she took ballet classes for two months and started polishing her singing. Emmy has commented that in her approach to acting she draws heavily upon her own experiences, so she visited locations in Paris and conjured up what she a terms "past memories" to draw upon in making her performance emotionally realistic. She stood on the roof of the Opera Garnier where Christine sings "All I Ask of You" and went underneath the opera house where there is actually a gloomy, dark lake. She studied Degas' paintings of ballerinas in the Musee d'Orsay to learn how to stand like one.
Emmy attended the private Spence School in Manhattan through the 7th grade, and then finished high school using tutors and the Internet (through Stanford University). She is now enrolled at Columbia University and has already completed a course in art history, being inspired by her study of Degas in Paris.
More fun stuff about Emmy Rossum
Attended the Spence School in Manhattan, an elite private girls school that was also attended by Gwyneth Paltrow.
Has appeared in 20 different operas singing in five languages.
Had never seen the stage version of The Phantom of the Opera prior to filming it.
First appeared on stage at age seven when she was chosen to join the New York Metropolitan's opera.
Is a trained opera singer.
At seven years old, Emmy Rossum made $5 a night at the Metropolitan Opera singing with the children's choir. According to her, "There were horses onstage that were getting $150."
For her audition for the Metropolitan Opera, she was asked to sing Happy Birthday. She was only seven years old.
Shares the same date of birth as Yao Ming, Linda Gray and Edgar L. Davis.
Her father is a banker and her mother is a corporate photographer.
Took cooking classes at the Le Cordon Bleu in London.
In preparation for her role in Phantom of the Opera, she attended a seance at the Spiritualist Association of Great Britian where a medium talked to her about her late grandmother.
Won Best Young Actress in 2004 Critic's Choice Awards
She obtained her high school diploma online via a Stanford University program.
Her personal quotes:
"He had the most magnificent apartment I had ever seen and I was floored by it. I went in and started vocalising with the accompanist and Andrew walked in as we were preparing. He didn't say hello, didn't introduce himself and just sat down in front of me and said, 'Shall we?' I thought to myself it was my one shot so I had better just stand up and do it, so I didn't introduce myself, I nodded to the accompanist and I did the two biggest numbers in the show. Then he stood up and said: 'That was great. I'm Andrew.'" [on her audition with Webber for 'Phantom of the Opera, The']
"I'm a very rational person but I pray everyday." (in reference to a visit to a psychic who told her some accurate things about her late grandmother.)
"The truth is, I probably didn't want to be friends with some of those girls [from prep school], becuase I found that a lot of their values were a little specious. Now, of course, all those girls are calling me and being like, 'We should have lunch!' And I'm like, 'Um...don't you remember how you didn't like me that much?'" quoted in Elle magazine
I'm heavy on preparation...some actors come to the set and don't know what scene they're playing, but that would make me crazy. It's not about control but perfectionism -- my biggest vice and one of my biggest assets.
"I'm convinced wearing those corsets for 14 hours at a time deformed me for life," she says. "I was 16 years old and still growing at the time of the shooting. I could barely breathe, and with Christine's intense emotions I hyperventilated and almost passed out. I think her name is Christine for a reason. She is Christ-like."
"In this one scene, it took three days to shoot and it's the scene where my character passionately kisses her fiance for the first time. It was so complex with the snow coming down that it took three days to shoot. By the end of the three days I'd kissed him so much that my lips had swollen up - so much that I had to use an ice pack in between takes. Hardship, I know!" In reference to kissing Patrick Wilson from Phantom of the Opera.
Meet Emmy Rossum
While critics and audiences are beginning to take notice of 18-year old Emmy Rossum, star of the eagerly awaited screen adaptation of "Phantom of the Opera", the beautiful young actress blushes and turns away with apparent embarrassment when suggested that imminent fame is a very real possibility in the life of Hollywood's latest breakout star.
"I don't like questions like that because I try not to think about those things too much. Joel [Schumacher] says that if you read what's written about you – which sometimes I do and sometimes I don't -- and you believe all the good things, then you should believe the bad things, too," says the actress and former operatic ingénue. "Listen, I try to keep myself as sane and as grounded as possible by surrounding myself with normal people, such as all the friends that I've had from when I was little. Nobody in my family is in the business, I still do my laundry, make my bed and I bring my laundry across the street to the Laundromat. It's funny, because fame is nothing I've ever strived for, as I was always just happy to get the job, and a good one at that and I was always just so happy to be working with good people. To get to work with Miranda Richardson was great because I just got to watch her. Even though she doesn't have a lot of dialogue and the character is not overly emotional, she can express so much just from her face, which I think is extraordinary. I'm 18, so working with actors that are like that when I'm so young is important to me," Rossum explains, referring of course to her experience working on Phantom.
Sticking more to the original material, Andrew Lloyd Webber's 15-year old dream to bring his commercial stage hit to the screen, has meant youthening the characters, something impossible to sustain in the theatre. With Rossum's opera training, combined with her acting ability, meant the young actress was the perfect Christine, for this sumptuous screen rendition of the classic tale. But she was never a shoe in, or on anyone's initial radar, the actress recalls when describing her audition process. "I certainly wasn't offered the part. Joel had been casting for six months, which was the six months I'd been working on The Day After Tomorrow in Montreal, so I came in really at the very tail end of the casting process and in fact, I was the last person he ever saw". Rossum, who made her operatic debut at New York's renowned Metropolitan Opera at age 7, admits to have never seen any of the stage productions of Phantom prior to reading the screenplay. "So he sent me the script, and I kind of got a feel for a take on the character. Because there wasn't a lot of verbal dialogue in the script, while I was talking to him about what she goes through, I had to express the things that she feels as I was talking about what she was feeling, so it was kind of a strange audition process. Then they sent back footage to Andrew Lloyd Webber, who called and said I had not been eliminated. I was like, 'Oh my God. It's a miracle. I have not been eliminated.' I was 16 and I never thought there was a chance that I'd get the part".
But Rossum indeed won the role over both unknowns and established stars, and set about making Christine her own, a challenge given the character's history with the public. "I was aware of the fact that she's a character that's so identifiable, especially in so many of the Phantom fans' minds, who feel such closeness to her. But having never seen the show and electing to never see the show before going into it, it meant that it would come from my heart and soul. I went about creating the character as I would have any other, from scratch, from the script, the dialogue, from finding experiences in my life that are similar to ones that she goes through and if I can't find one, then I'd go out and have an experience that's similar". Determined to create a believable 19th century Parisian Christine, Rossum went to Paris. "I spent some time at the Opera Garnier to kind of get the feeling of what it was like living there. I stood on the roof at the very apex, where she stands during 'All I Ask of You,' and I felt the wind. It was at night, during sunset and I kept getting visceral sense memories, and making them a part of me that made my job a lot easier," Rossum recalls.
Cynics might argue that 18 to 25-year-olds make up the movie audience and that this isn't a film aimed at that audience. Rossum, who in part is that principal demographic, disagrees. "I don't have to say anything about this movie, because I really think it stands on its own. I remember when I saw it for the first time, after putting a year of my life into it, and it was really exciting to me. Also, our generation is MTV-fed. We've grown up watching MTV and seeing somebody sing at the same time as watching a visual and an interpretation of a song is not something that's foreign to us, so it's something we accept. And this isn't classical music by any means. I know, because I was brought up on classical music". But unlike recent musicals, one can argue that this Phantom remains a musical in the classical sense. "I think it's a hybrid of pop and classical and pretty accessible. I think people my age will like it, because it's visually sumptuous," Rossum counters. "I think it's sexy, scary, really heroic and at the heart of it, it's about love. Also, for girls my age, especially, but for all people, we go through trying to define what love is, who's Mr. or Mrs. Right, how do we know when we've found them? So I think that a lot of the struggles Christine goes through in the movie are things that kids my age can really relate to. The main themes of the movie are so universal: love, compassion, hatred, jealously, fear, terror. I think that those are things that are important".
Unlike Christine, who is being mentored by the Phantom, there have been no mentors in Rossum's own life, just women whom she admires. "I wish I could say that I have a mentor, but I don't. I'm somewhat friends with Marcia Gay Harden, who I think is one of the most talented actresses around right now and I wish that our relationship develops in the way that I hope it does. I think she's good in every movie she does, does very different things, but I also think that she's maintained a very normal home life, which is something that's really important to me".
Rossum is also slowly completing her university studies, which included a course in art history "which was something I elected to take after Phantom because I'd studied a lot of Degas paintings, of the ballerinas, because Christine was a ballerina at that time. I'm also taking French and I'm going to take English and philosophy, but I'm taking some time off". Currently, Rossum is actively looking for new film opportunities and has something in the pipeline. "I'm looking at a movie right now that's much smaller. If feel like I've come off a lot of big Hollywood blockbusters and this is about drug addiction. But I don't want to talk too much about that because I'm superstitious and I think I'll jinx it". And the actress hopes to juggle her acting with her continuing love of opera. "I hope I can mix both. I can't go back to the opera until I'm 25 because the voice doesn't develop fully until that point, which is why I left when I was 12, but film is really what I love, because I love the intimacy of the medium."
Is Emmy Rossum the Next Julia Roberts?
Emmy Rossum at the age of 18 has been getting a lot of attention with her film starring role in Phantom of the Opera and her recent Golden Globe nomination. But this budding star has actually been at it since the age of seven, when she auditioned for the Metropolitan Opera's Children's Chorus. Rossum was accepted, of course and spent the next six years with the likes of Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo. In the March issue of Teen Vogue Rossum tells senior writer Lauren Waterman that it was on the stage that her passion for performing began.
After Rossum "outgrew her costumes" at the Met, she set her sights on Hollywood. "She has starred in a series of films that have established her young career," Waterman says. Before her break out role in Phantom of the Opera, Rossum appeared in Songcatcher; where she performed a duet with Dolly Parton; Mystic River; where she played Sean Penn's dead daughter; and The Day After Tomorrow, where she appeared alongside Jake Gyllenhaal.
Rossum says, "Some girls like clubbing every night, and I'm so happy for them. But, it's not for me. Have I missed out on a childhood? Yes and no. But this is what I wanted."
Phantom of the Opera director, Joel Schumacher tells Teen Vogue, "She's brilliant. She has a great mind and I think she'll excel in whatever she does."
Waterman states, "Emmy Rossum is in a similar position to where Julia Roberts was fifteen years ago: She's got youth, beauty, talent, and Joel Schumacher on her side. And she has the same kind of wide, appealing, gorgeous smile."
Upcoming projects for the talented Rossum include more films and creating a pop album. Rossum says, "I'm in it for the long run."
The March issue of Teen Vogue is on sale in New York and Los Angeles on February 4th and nationwide on February 8th.
Emmy Rossum on "Phantom of the Opera"
Emmy Rossum, then 16 years old, beat out the likes of Katie Holmes and Anne Hathaway for the lead role of Christine in the Joel Schuamcher's "Phantom of the Opera." The film, adapted from the Broadway musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber, co-stars Gerard Butler, Patrick Wilson, and Minnie Driver. "The Day After Tomorrow" beauty talks about taking on the coveted role in her first year of stardom.
Q: Are you really just 17?
EMMY: I just turned 18.
Q: What was the hardest part about doing this film?
EMMY: I think, for me, it was really my first time carrying a movie of this size. They normally don’t give big Hollywood musicals with a $90 million dollar budget to non-famous 16 year olds. I think it was really great for them to cast me. But I think the hardest part was really dealing with the characters’ emotional complexity, which is the way I saw her: a girl who’s very fragile, very lonely, very vulnerable, easily manipulated. That’s something that grows in strength during the course of the story. She really kind of becomes a woman. And that, for her, to hold feelings and a very dark sexuality. Going through all the things she goes through emotionally.
Q: What did you do to prepare for this role?
EMMY: What didn’t I do is the question! I immediately started doing the obvious, taking ballet classes for two months. I started singing a lot more. When I got this part, I was doing movies straight for five years and hadn’t been singing at all. And what singing I had been doing was country music in “Songkisser.” So I really had to gear back up. The first thing, I just kind of went through the script and analyzed it in terms of everything that she’s feeling and see if I had any experiences in my life that were similar to the ones she goes through, and if I didn’t, then I went in and created them because I’m just the kind of actor who can’t work without past memories. It’s just not real for me otherwise. I went to Paris and I spent time at the Garnier where the movie takes place and I stood in all the places that she stands, like the circular room where Degas painted the ballerinas and I stood on the roof where she stands in “All I Ask of You.” I went on the lake and I just got memories that were certainly potent for me that I could assimilate into my own memories and then pull up when I was on set. I went to the museum and look at Degas painting the ballerinas and tried to stand like they stood. I did a lot of different things.
Q: Did you see the stage play?
EMMY: No. Never have. That was a decision I made with Andrew Lloyd Weber, first time I met him. I said, “I have a confession to make: I’ve never seen the play.” He was pleased actually ‘cause I came to it fresh and I wasn’t colored by any theatrical interpretation of her.
Q: Did all the training early on in the opera help you later in your career, ‘cause I gather the demands and requirements are pretty high?
EMMY: I went there and I was seven years old. I auditioned and they said “Welcome to the Opera.” And they laid down the rules. You are to be on time, you are to be prepared. You have to perform like an adult. We don’t treat you like professionals so you should act that way. And it’s a privilege to be here. And that’s how I’ve treated every experience I’ve ever been on set. I’ve tried to be as prepared as I can be and then when I’m on set, just kind of let it rip. And Joel, I got along with really well [with] because we both worked that way.
Q: Sometimes you’d be in a couple of operas or on stage almost every day and night?
EMMY: Yeah. On stage, most nights.
Q: Did they incorporate school into their program at all?
EMMY: Hahaha, no. I was attending Spence, which was a private school here in New York. I went there until 7th grade when they gave me an ultimatum, because I was missing about 40 days a year of school for rehearsals. They asked me if I thought Placido Domingo would be willing to rehearse after school hours. Of course, I’d had to ask him but I wasn’t for sure if the man would go for that. After that, they said “Choose.” And it wasn’t a choice for me. Since then, I’ve never ever done anything in a conventional way but I did my high school through tutors and the Internet through Stanford University and now I take classes at Columbia University.
Q: What have you been studying?
EMMY: I’m trying to amass the core curriculum, surely but slowly. I just finished art history and now I’m taking French. I’m intending to do English and Philosophy.
Q: What are the themes and ideas in this story that you find most personal and can identify with the most?
EMMY: Compassion, I think, and love, which are the two most important things about it. And also art and being passionate about art. Love and art are the two important things to me in my life and I think those are the two most important things to her. She’s very much like a girl who’s like a lot of other young girls - looking for love, looking for protection, looking for mentoring, looking for a father figure. Very fragile, lonely, been abandoned and easily manipulated and I think really becomes a woman.
Q: Doing “Phantom of the Opera” was obviously more “at home” for you but how was doing something much different like “The Day After Tomorrow”?
EMMY: Totally different but I somehow ended up in the water in two movies in a row! The boys were like (whiny voice), “I don’t want to get in!” But it was really difficult because this was the first time the movie was sitting on my shoulders. I shot for 88 days. Patrick shot 70 and Gerry shot 33.
Q: Hundreds of people auditioned for this role. Did you feel you were ahead or did you worry about more famous actresses possibly getting the role?
EMMY: He had been seeing people for six months at the point that I walked in. I walked in at the very tail end. I was the last person he ever saw. I had been working for six months on “The Day After Tomorrow” in Montreal and he sent me the script. I derived an interpretation of her and I walked into his house on a Wednesday. We talked. He said, “Can you screen test on Saturday in New York?” And it happened so much faster than anything I ever thought was going to happen. I walked into the screen test and it was like a studio. It was like a set. There was hair and make-up and fifty people in the crew, and a costume and grand piano and lit candles and velvet red drapings, with Joel Schumacher with a sweeping camera yelling “action!” It was very, very surreal to me and I remember thinking, I’ll never get this. I didn’t feel ahead because of my opera training. I felt like I had the classical training but I hadn’t been singing for five years. I knew that I was the youngest girl up for it and I was the least famous. They just normally don’t give movies like this to not-famous 16-year-olds. And after that, they sent that footage to Andrew Lloyd Webber, who said I had not been eliminated. And I was like, “Ah! This is a miracle, I have not been eliminated.”
Q: What did you do in the test?
EMMY: It was “Think of Me.” After the screen test, before I saw Andrew, I went in for another meeting with Joel and Gerry. Gerry already had the part, in which we excessively discussed the feelings of the characters and in which I kind of felt things personally. I went through the feelings in front of him that she goes through while talking about them, because there’s no real dialogue to actually audition on. So I had to convince him that I had the emotional well that I could easily tap into, that I wasn’t afraid to do that in an audition room at the Mercer Hotel, or on set. After that, I went in to sing for Andrew in his living room, no less. I walked in and he through up his hands and said, “Shall we?” I kind of thought, “Oh, O.K. I guess he just wants me to sing then.” I walked into his apartment and just went “wow.” It was on the 49th or the 50th floors of Trump Tower, or something like that. It was just windows on the wall and I could see the park and was just like, “Wow.” I opened my mouth and sang the two biggest numbers from the show and then he stood up and said, “Oh, that was good. I’m Andrew Lloyd Webber. Nice to meet you.” And I thought, “Oh, that’s great. I’m Emmy.” We talked a little bit about the character and I told him I had never seen the show and he very much supported that. I walked out and he said, “Thank you very much.” Oh great, kiss of death. Then I heard I got it.
Q: How hard are Webber scores or are they trickier than they look?
EMMY: They’re trickier than they look, I think, definitely. Especially the range of the role, from lower to a middle C to a high E. It’s really tricky. It’s tough and I think the toughest bit is to put the same amount of feeling to vocals that you would have to dialogue. Color it and texture it the same kind of way because I treated the vocals as if it was dialogue.
Q: Are there any singers that inspire you to sing?
EMMY: Yeah but in so many different realms of music. And I’m actually thinking about recording my own CD. I look for people who inspire me that way. I want to do something that’s going to be popular because if I’m going to put my heart and soul into everything, I want people to hear it. But I really want to use the range that I have just naturally and that’s something I think Whitney Houston does really well. Celine Dion, younger. Evanescence, Sarah McLaughlan(sp?), R Kelly. Whoever, just go for talent and passion and people who have really have something to say.
Q: Did you have a favorite costume?
EMMY: Well after eight months of wearing a corset, I don’t think I liked any of them! But you know what I really liked about the costumes? How much they were an outward expression of what she was feeling inside. The first time she goes into the Phantom’s lair, she’s wearing a very innocent white but she’s wearing stockings and a garter belt so it’s very sheer. It’s sexy and then when she falls in love, she’s wearing red and crashed velvet. When she goes to say good-bye to her father’s memory, she’s wearing black and they’re very evocative of things she’s feeling inside. It’s really cool to me.
Q: How did you react when you heard you got the part?
EMMY: Well at first, I thought it was a practical joke from my agent. I was in my dining room having breakfast. My phone rang and I kind of knew it was going to be the call. I just had a feeling. I picked up the phone and they said, “So, you got ‘Phantom of the Opera.’” And I thought, “Ugh, don’t even! Don’t even pull my leg, so much of my heart and soul is in this. If I don’t have it, I’ll be so upset.” And they had to convince me for about five minutes before I actually believed it. I think it was a shock at first because it happened so quickly. It was two weeks from the time I heard about the audition to the time that I got the part. My mom was sitting at the breakfast table and she was reading The New York Times and I said, “Mom, I got ‘Phantom of the Opera’” and she said, “That’s nice, honey.” It’s funny because my parents don’t get this world at all and it’s kind of nice because they’re really supportive and don’t put pressure on me to take a job or not take a job. That’s really cool.
Q: Has it sunk in yet that you’re the star of two major Hollywood productions in one year and where do you want to see your career go from here?
EMMY: I think it sunk in when I first got to the sets they were building, and I saw the enormity of the production and they were gilding everything in gold leafs. I said, “Oh my God, I’m in this movie. I’m carrying this $90 million dollar movie!” And then I just worked really hard and got excited. But I honestly want to keep working with the best people I can and I’m 18. I want to keep learning and be on set with people like Miranda Richardson and some of the greatest actors. I got to work with Gena Rowlands when I was little. Being around those people is just great experience for me.
Q: What do you have coming up next? Anymore musicals?
EMMY: You know, I would kind of shy away from it right now because I feel like I got lucky and one of the best characters for a girl my age in a musical. I love the intimacy of film where there’s actually dialogue. I love the reality of it and expressing true feeling and exploring different types of people. I learn more about myself and more about the kind of person I want to be.
Emmy Rossum: The Day After Tommorow
Emmy Rossum came to most people's attention as Laura Chapman in 2003's Academy Award-winning film Mystic River. A talented opera singer and occasional television actor, Ms. Rossum is now appearing in one of the biggest movies of the year, running away from an advancing wall of water.
At a recent press day for The Day After Tomorrow, the young Emmy Rossum discussed her operatic career, filming Day After Tomorrow, and her work on the theatrical version of the long-running play The Phantom of the Opera.
Q: How did you find your singing voice?
EMMY ROSSUM: I think I kind of came out of the womb singing. I think I was, like, born at the hospital, and, you know, popped out, and was singing. ... I'm not sure really how it happened. I can't remember a time when I wasn't singing, or banging a beat on the dinner table...you know, pissing somebody off with the rhythms and singing at the top of my lungs. So I think it was just a logical transition, really, to stick me in the opera. I think every kid finds a way to express themselves, whether it's through soccer, or education, or academic achievement, or violin, or singing – and that's just what it was for me.
Q: Does acting come as easily as singing? Or is it more of a challenge?
ROSSUM: No, not at all. I think that so much of being on stage was really...you know, had an acting aspect to it. I mean obviously, you know, it's different. But I feel so many of the ethics that were instilled within me when I was at the opera have really been totally invaluable to what I've used now going into film. Because it's live theater, there's no second take. So, they teach you about preparation – and that goes the same for vocal technique or for preparing for a character. At the same time, because it's live, you have to be spontaneous and react to whatever happens. So I think the combination of preparation and spontaneity has really come in handy. Especially with preparation when you go and work with somebody like Clint Eastwood, where there's no rehearsal in two takes.
Q: So how do you go from singing to this epic adventure?
ROSSUM: Gosh, I left the opera when I was 12 because I was growing too tall for the children's costumes. And at the same time, I think, you know...for some reason, because of old opera traditions, the boys are preferred and the girls were never given the same opportunities – we were often excluded from auditioning for the solos and you know, I don't think that's fair at all. So, I decided I was going to become an actress. And then, I went and studied and really learned how to...kind of, you know, method acting for minors. Learned how to analyze scenes and access my feelings and bring experiences to character. I learned a lot from working with people like Gena Rowlands and Sean Penn and those kinds of people. And so I kind of went from a big spectacle environment – the opera – to a much smaller, independent, character-driven environment. To then going to this big film, which was kind of a full-circle, because it was the big spectacle again. And at the same time, it was so important to me that I can bring that commitment to honesty that I made in smaller, more independent films to this big spectacle. That was the biggest challenge, and that was the biggest commitment that I made in undertaking this.
Q: So how does one find a character when competing against a giant wall of snow and all the other special effects?
ROSSUM: In terms of competition between me and the wave, the answer is to bring as much honesty and as much heart and soul and as many of your own experiences to make the person as real as possible. I mean, I tried to play her as if she was a girl in a film without special effects. Like, as honestly as any indie I had done before.
Q: How did you like working with Jake Gyllenhaal?
ROSSUM: I love him, he's like my big brother. You know, I was the only girl on set. There was Mark Gordon, Roland Emmerich, Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal...and me. So it was like, I had a whole slew of dads and big brothers, and it was lovely. Also, I think we work in kind of a similar way. We both prepare a lot – the characters and the ideas. But then, when we get there, we both really let it rip and we're both pretty spontaneous. So, I think we work together really well because of that.
Q: Was there any piece of advice that he gave you that you found helpful?
ROSSUM: He told me that it's very important in this business to have somebody who is your mentor, who you look up to, whose work you admire, whose career you admire, and to find that person and feel comfortable enough with that person that you can ask their advice and ask what you should do. I've always been the kind of person who believes that the smartest people know what they don't know, and know when to ask for help. And I think that that's been something that's really helped me because I've started to seek out those people and hopefully will develop relationships with somebody in the future that I can always go to that person and ask.
Q: What was the Day After Tomorrow set like?
ROSSUM: Well, it was the biggest experience I have ever been on in my entire life. We were working in Montreal – in a studio – and when I got there on my first day, I saw that they'd built 4 blocks of New York – my hometown – inside a studio. Put taxis and buses, 700 extras and stuntmen – who were just flinging themselves wildly around the set. They flooded it, there was pounding rain coming from the ceiling. Roland Emmerich was directing us over a microphone and his voice was coming out of speakers like God talking to us. And it was just the most bizarre experience I have ever been in in my entire life. And I thought, "My gosh, they want me to get into this tank in the middle of all this spectacle and act." And you know, convey a character and all of her feelings and complexities and vulnerabilities. And I had only been on indies before that! And it was just the most bizarre thing I had been on in my whole life. But, you know, the second I actually got into the tank – which was wet and cold and freezing and shivering – I realized the challenge, which was to do it honestly as I possibly could. I mean, it was on. I was going to do it.
Q: What's it like seeing your beautiful New York destroyed?
ROSSUM: It's a movie. Firstly, it's a movie. Secondly, I suppose after 9/11, I think, in the past few years New Yorkers have shown themselves to be very strong, very resilient people. It's not that, like, we ever forget, but I think we're definitely moving forward. And I also think that, you know, the movie really shows people coming together and bonding together in the time of a crisis. And just to survive, and to help each other. And I think, at least with my character, she often risks her own safety and her own life in order to go back and help somebody else. And I think that that's very admirable – especially, you know, showing a young woman do that – be brave and kind and courageous in that kind of situation. I think it's a great way, and a real way... I think a lot more people, in a time of crisis, step up to the plate and show courage and kindness and compassion for other people, than are necessarily depicted in film. And I think that that's a very accurate, kind of poignant way of showing it.
Q: Tell us a little bit about you. What do you do well outside of acting?
ROSSUM: Being normal. Hanging out with normal people. Living in New York, hopefully not losing my anonymity – which I'm not sure if I'm going to do that too well. Getting a college education, I think, is the second most important thing to me. I'm trying to take classes at Columbia, which is very difficult because, every time I sit my butt down in a classroom, my cell rings and I've gotten a job that I just can't turn down. I have to be honest, I'm so hard pressed to say, "No, Joel Schumacher, I'm not going to come do your movie, I have to sit in my French class and conjugate (speaks French)." I'm very hard pressed to say that. I think that that's something that's really important to me. You know, I've worked basically 2 and a half years straight, and that's something that I really want to do right now. I wanna go back to school, at least, almost, like, you know, as soon as even going in summer, and going to do something. Um...I cook. I'm very good cook. Actually, when I was in London working on Phantom, I took cooking classes at the Courdon Bleu. I make fantastic creme brulee.
Q: What can you tell us about Phantom of the Opera?
ROSSUM: Um...it's a spectacle.
Q: How faithful is it to the play?
ROSSUM: I wouldn't be the right person to ask as I've never seen the show. I think I'm about the only person in the world who's never seen the show. When I first met Andrew for it, (she whispers incoherently), and he said, "Fantastic!" (she then whispers something else) And then he said that he wanted the character to come from inside me and for me to bring my heart and my experiences to the character, and not to be emulating someone else's performance, which I thought was...great. So I took my direction directly from him and directly from Joel and I don't think I can get, you know, better direction than from Andrew. He's like...the horse's mouth.
Q: How involved was he?
ROSSUM: Very. I mean, not in terms of the character development. That was all me and Joel. But, if we had any questions about anything, it's always good to have two people's opinions, because Andrew and Joel often differed on their opinions. And then you'd go with whichever one you thought would work better, or you could try both.
Q: What did they do to make you feel cold? Seeing breath in the movie: real or special FX?
ROSSUM: Well they would open the doors, sometimes in the studio. And we were shooting in Montreal in the dead of winter and it was -35 outside. So, that could've been it. I think a lot of it was really sense memories. I mean, it was actually convenient that we were shooting in Montreal, and it was that cold, 'cause all we had to do was take a walk at night, and the next day when we got to the set, we had ALL those memories from freezing out butts off the night before. So, I think that was helpful. It's really different with every film, you just have to find experiences that are similar to the ones that the character is going through, or will evoke the same kind of reaction that the character is.
Q: So how do you see yourself: singer, opera singer, TV star...?
ROSSUM: Well, I certainly don't see myself as a star, by any means. I see myself as an actor. I see myself as a person, firstly. I mean, I see myself as a person who's... growing, as a person and as an artist. I mean, whatever way you want to take artist, you can. Even though I started in music and in opera – and that's still a passion of mine. Definitely since I left the opera, my musical tastes have become much more eclectic. I'm much more influenced now by Evanescence, Sarah McLachlan, Jewel, those kinds of people. Um, I mean, even Eminem – those kinds of people are on my iPod. But in terms of seeing myself, I think I'm an actress, first and foremost. Even though I started at the opera, and that was my first passion, this has really become something that is so important to me. Just 'cause I feel like, you know, I'm really interested in philosophy as well. And that's something that influences me and I think changed me a lot as a person. And I really think the opportunity in acting to really do things that let you explore the human psyche, if you actually think that an actor can do that. And also to teach people, about, you know...hopefully...you make a movie and you want them to go see the movie because you want movies to be fun and entertaining because that's what movies are for. But if they go and they learn something about, you know, how we should treat each other, how we shouldn't treat each other, then I think I've done my job.
Q: Why are disaster movies fun for people?
ROSSUM: 'Cause they like roller-coaster rides. So, like, adrenalin, it's fun, it's exciting and scary and this has a love story and it's like a date movie. ... And I think that this one also has a message and I think it's really poignant as well. So, I'm actually really proud of it.
Emmy Rossum Blossoms in Two Pix
Actress joins Mystic River and Day After Tomorrow.
According to Variety, sixteen-year-old actress Emmy Rossum (Songcatcher, Nola) has joined the cast of two high-profile upcoming films. The first project is director Clint Eastwood's mystery-drama Mystic River, which begins shooting this month in Boston. The other film is the summer 2003 tentpole release The Day After Tomorrow, to be directed by Roland Emmerich.
In Mystic River, Rossum portrays "Sean Penn's daughter, whose murder reunites a group of estranged friends." The Mystic cast includes Kevin Bacon, Tim Robbins, Laurence Fishburne, Marcia Gay Harden and Laura Linney. After completing work on Mystic River, Rossum will co-star opposite Jake Gyllenhaal and Dennis Quaid in Day After Tomorrow as "the female lead in a tale that follows a group caught in the onset of the next ice age." Filming will take place in Canada, New York and Los Angeles.
Rossum's Humiliating Backside Exposure
Teen actress Emmy Rossum learned an important lesson on the set of The Phantom of the Opera - always check your backside isn't on show before leaving your dressing room. The 18-year-old beauty - who plays Christine in the movie version of the stage show - was left red-faced after realizing she'd filmed an entire scene with her rear exposed. She recalls, "I got back to my dressing room and realized the whole back of my dress had been ripped off and everyone had been watching my bare behind for the past hour. "It taught me a lesson that in future I should always check my butt."