Unstoppable - Rosario Dawson
Yardmaster Connie Hooper (Rosario Dawson) © 2009 Twentieth Century Fox

One of Hollywood’s most sought after actresses Rosario Dawson has garnered critical praise for many of her roles in such movies as Seven Pounds, Rent, Grindhouse, Men in Black 2 and Sin City.

Holding her own in the testosterone-laden thriller Unstoppable, she plays Yardmaster Connie Hooper who, from a remote control station, must attempt to stop a runaway train before it reaches a densely populated area of Pennsyvania.

Her only true allies appear to be a veteran engineer Frank Barnes (Denzel Washington) and rookie conductor Will Colson (Chris Pine) who happen to be in the direct path of the runaway train.

Can you talk a little about Connie?

Connie is a strong woman. She is confident and assertive without being arrogant or bitchy which is an absolute necessity if you want to be successful in a traditionally male role. The train yard is definitely a man’s world.

It was a challenge to make sure that Connie’s voice could be heard by all the men around her. Not just the men she supervises, but also the corporate executives. She has to be heard and accepted because lives are always at stake in her job.

She’s the voice of reason in very dramatic circumstances. Even though she has to follow the protocol outlined in some dusty manual, she has to get a grip, think on her feet and move forward and make decisions with a confidence she doesn’t necessarily have when it comes to a train the size of the Chrysler Building moving like a missile into dense population.

Was it hard to figure out how to portray Connie?

Unstoppable - Rosario Dawson
Yardmaster Connie Hooper (Rosario Dawson) © 2009 Twentieth Century Fox

No, that was an opportunity that we had to create something really amazing with her. There were a lot of choices of how we were going to express Connie, and there were clichés about a woman in a man’s world, and a woman in a high position of power and how she should behave. And I think we walked that fine line really well and were really clear about what we wanted Connie to come across as. She’s very capable and very sensible and at the end of the film you’re not thinking about her in a man’s world, but just the right person for a very stressful situation, someone who doesn’t get hysterical.

We had whole conversations about which scenes we should have her hair up and which scenes we should have it down. Every single beat of who she was to express the frustration of being in the control room miles away from where the action is. We just wanted to show as calm and collected as she is that if she could physically propel herself out a window to go into that train and pull the lever herself she would.

What was it like working with Denzel again, albeit you have only one scene together?

Unstoppable - Rosario Dawson
Yardmaster Connie Hooper (Rosario Dawson) © 2009 Twentieth Century Fox

It was interesting because the last movie we’d done together we also only had one scene. And it’s the same thing on this one. Maybe on the next movie we can have a couple more scenes together because that would be really nice.

There’s a chemistry between Frank and Connie which is there, which was brought together only because of Tony being able to gauge our performances in the weeks and months that we were separated, while we were in different cities. It’s magical to me in that one moment at the end of the movie you can see a chemistry and a camaraderie of spirit. I think they’re part of the same cloth. They’re people of the same stock. They would appreciate each other and get each other’s deep connection to doing life. So you can see a hereafter after that. I think that’s really amazing, but I’d like to flesh that out onscreen a little more.

What impresses you the most about Tony Scott?

It’s an amazing, odd and interesting thing to watch this movie. One of the things I think is so impressive about it and something that I think Tony is such a genius at, is you’re having a great, fun ride in an action film but you actually care about everybody. The time is taken to establish the different types of personalities, even if some of the conversations seem mundane. It’s deeply connecting you to caring about these characters as the story goes along, which is very unusual for an action film of this kind.

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.