Naval gaz­ing

Hit- maker Ri­hanna has an act­ing ca­reer in her sights, writes Vicky Vicky Roach Roach

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Front Page -

FOR­GET whips and chains, it’s guns that re­ally ex­cite Ri­hanna.

The Bar­ba­dian pop sen­sa­tion has had a fas­ci­na­tion for firearms ever since high school, when she im­pul­sively signed up as an army cadet.

‘‘ Why? Be­cause it was the tough­est thing to do in school. They came around one day ask­ing who wanted to be a re­cruit. I re­ally didn’t know what it was. But the minute they said we got to shoot weapons, I said, ’ I’m in’.’’

The 24- year- old singer drew on that ado­les­cent ex­pe­ri­ence for her fea­ture- film de­but in Bat­tle­ship, a sci- fi ac­tion fan­tasy based on the clas­sic Has­bro board game.

Her char­ac­ter, fe­male weapons ex­pert Raikes, is in charge of an ex­plo­sive arse­nal that in­cludes ma­chine guns, air- to- sur­face mis­siles and tor­pe­does.

‘‘ Cadets is noth­ing com­pared to the real navy, but it was a good way for me to get used to that dis­ci­pline and the way they work – the train­ing and the shoot­ing,’’ Ri­hanna says dur­ing a break from film­ing on the Louisiana set of the $ 200 mil­lion block­buster.

Ac­cord­ing to di­rec­tor Peter Berg, the role of Raikes is not just win­dow dress­ing.

‘‘ There are a lot of women in the navy, some of whom are in this film as ex­tras – strong, com­pe­tent women who are able to ex­ist in a very mas­cu­line world with­out giv­ing up their fem­i­nin­ity,’’ he says.

‘‘ So I wanted to put a fe­male sailor in the movie. These women are more than ca­pa­ble of get­ting their hands dirty.’’

Berg says The Fast And The Fu­ri­ous star Michelle Ro­driguez has pretty much cor­nered the mar­ket for tough, vis­ceral, phys­i­cal fe­male roles in Hol­ly­wood.

It was that kind of en­ergy that he wanted, but in a fresh face.

‘‘ Ri­hanna al­ways struck me as be­ing kind of ur­ban and scrappy, and tough, frankly, yet ob­vi­ously very beau­ti­ful, so I set up a meet­ing,’’ Berg says.

Hav­ing al­ready had a good ex­pe­ri­ence with coun­try singer Tim Mcgraw, with whom Berg has col­lab­o­rated twice, the di­rec­tor was open to tak­ing a risk.

‘‘ Hope­fully I am go­ing to look like a ge­nius for do­ing it,’’ he says.

Berg notes that Ri­hanna’s tran­si­tion from singing sen­sa­tion to act­ing is hardly with­out prece­dent.

‘‘ I was al­ways a big fan of Bar­bra Streisand and Kris Kristof­fer­son and David

I am a per­fec­tion­ist, so there are but­ter­flies in my stom­ach ev­ery time they say ac­tion

Bowie, too, when he acted. Even Mick Jag­ger did this crazy film, Per­for­mance, which I liked.’’

Will Smith, of course, had proved his act­ing chops long be­fore Berg worked with him on su­per­hero ac­tion fan­tasy Han­cock.

An in­for­mal au­di­tion with Ri­hanna con­firmed the di­rec­tor’s in­stincts.

On meet­ing her, it be­came clear the pop star’s raunchy, bad- girl video per­sona was ac­tu­ally an ac­com­plished per­for­mance in its own right.

‘‘ She is just this sweet, fun, 24- year- old girl who knows how to turn it on and be su­per sexy [ in her videos],’’ Berg says.

The per­cep­tion of Ri­hanna as hard­core might dove­tail nicely with her Bat­tle­ship char­ac­ter, a sassy sailor who can mix it with the best of them, but pro­ducer Scott Stu­ber says that in re­al­ity she’s a dis­ci­plined and fo­cused pro­fes­sional.

Ac­cord­ing to Stu­ber, Ri­hanna’s cast­ing was some­thing of a cal­cu­lated gam­ble.

‘‘ It’s a char­ac­ter she un­der­stood and re­lated to, so it’s not out­side her range,’’ he says.

Even more telling, from Stu­ber’s point- of- view, is the lack of any diva- like be­hav­iour on set.

‘‘ It’s been a real plea­sure to work with her – she’s an in­ter­na­tional su­per­star but she just wants to be part of a team,’’ Stu­ber says.

‘‘ Some­times peo­ple come in from dif­fer­ent busi­nesses with an at­ti­tude but, with Ri­hanna, there’s been none of that.’’

Stu­ber knew the singer had what it took when he set up a meet­ing for her with a real fe­male weapons ex­pert.

‘‘ A lot of time you do that for ac­tors and they blow you off. But Ri­hanna wanted to learn,’’ he says. ‘‘ Once she did that, I thought: ‘ OK, she’s a pro. This girl’s go­ing to be great’.’’

Berg has also been im­pressed by Ri­hanna’s work ethic on the shoot in Ba­ton Rouge, Louisiana, stress­ing that her role in the film is rel­a­tively small.

Ri­hanna, how­ever, isn’t com­plain­ing. Her fo­cus is on mak­ing the tran­si­tion from singer to ac­tor as seam­lessly as pos­si­ble.

‘‘ I didn’t know whether I would love it or hate it, but act­ing was al­ways some­thing I wanted to try,’’ she says. ‘‘ I didn’t ex­pect it to be this big for get­ting my feet wet, but I am re­ally en­joy­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence.

‘‘ Ev­ery day is a new learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Be­ing on a movie set, the whole process of it, the green screen, work­ing with other ac­tors, it’s all very new to me.

‘‘ With ev­ery­thing I do, I am such a per­fec­tion­ist, so there are but­ter­flies in my stom­ach ev­ery time they say ac­tion.’’

And while life in Ba­ton Rouge might be a far cry from the glam­orous jet- set­ting with which she is as­so­ci­ated, Ri­hanna says she is en­joy­ing the change of pace.

‘‘ I am used to get­ting on a plane ev­ery day, if not twice a day,’’ she says. ‘‘ So I am re­ally en­joy­ing be­ing in one place for one project. It’s a lit­tle more fo­cused . . . I could def­i­nitely get used to this.’’

ACT­ING UP: ‘‘ Sweet, fun’’ Ri­hanna ( right) is mak­ing the tran­si­tion into fea­ture films, play­ing sassy sailor Raikes ( above left and above, along­side Tay­lor Kitsch) in Bat­tle­ship. POP SU­PER­STAR: Ri­hanna the singer ( inset op­po­site page and left) turns on her ‘‘ su­per sexy’’ raunchy per­sona.

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