01-2005: M Lifestyle

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M Lifestyle: How did you get involved in choreographing a segment of the huge water and music extravaganza at the majestic Fountains of Bellagio?
Rebecca Romijn: It started as a rather unusual idea between me and my best friend–New York-based artist and filmmaker Steve Willis–because we are huge music fans. We listen to a lot of the same music; listen to it the same way and try to visualize it. In particular, we are addicted to songs that build to big crescendos. Any performance of Ravell's "Bolero" is an obvious example; an amazing version of "Stairway to Heaven" by the London Philharmonic Orchestra is another. We search and search and search and now have about 15 CD's of songs that build. Once in a while, Steve and I get together with our record collections for an evening of "build-offs." It’s really outrageous.

M Lifestyle: Which song actually sparked the notion of transforming the idea into action?
Rebecca Romijn: I don’t remember, but it began as a joke. We were listening to a particular piece of music one night and one of us thought it would sound great with Bellagio’s fountain shows. The next day it turned into an obsession and we became determined to see it through. Basically, we regard Bellagio’s fountain shows as a great form of artistic expression–a new way to listen to music.

M Lifestyle: When and how did you go about taking the concept to the Bellagio’s management?
Rebecca Romijn: Perceiving the experience as a unique way to feel, see and listen to our favorite music with giant fountains dancing around it, we began researching how the Bellagio went about their business in 1995 to plan, design, build, choreograph and program their fountain shows. Everything pointed to Mark Fuller, the man who runs a water performance company called WET Design in Los Angeles. I put in several calls to him last March, but he never returned them. I guess he thought it was an outrageous request and just a prank.

M Lifestlye: Were you seriously discouraged and ready to drop the whole project at one point?
Rebecca Romijn: Yes. But when Steve finally told me that he didn’t think it would happen and he was ready to give up, it lit a fire under my butt. I was promoting a movie in Los Angeles and was on my way to do "The Tonight Show" with Jay Leno that night. I did my film thing, than on-air, begged Mark Fuller to call me. He got in touch with my publicist the next day and set up a meeting. I was thrilled, of course.

M Lifestyle: What was your next step?
Rebecca Romijn: Steve and I had a "fountain-off" at my house to choose five tunes with lots of punches that we thought were the most appropriate fountain songs and eventually took them to WET Design. They in turn took them to Bellagio’s management, who picked "The Ecstasy of Gold" by Ennio Morricone.

M Lifestyle: How do you choreograph the water to the music?
Rebecca Romijn: That’s the real tricky part. We started out with a bird’s eye map of the fountains, showing us the mechanical layout, plus the positions of the robotic nozzles and the lights. Looking for inspiration, we spent about a week dancing around in a hotel room pretending to be fountains. And sitting there at the lake, watching how all the shooters (robotic nozzles) and lights worked. Wearing wet suits, we even swam to the center circle of the fountains to get a feel for the sheer power and magnitude involved. It was awesome.

M Lifestyle: Did you have professional help with the final phase of the project?
Rebecca Romijn: Definitely. A tent was pitched at the lake where Peter Kopik, a Hungarian computer whiz, installed his equipment. Working with the "Virtual WET" program–literally a computerized version of the Bellagio fountain show–we spent the next nine days choreographing our 3 1/2-minute song, telling the programmer that we wanted effects like whipping lassos, high streams, large curls, and small trickles. Peter translated everything on his keyboard, asking us questions like, "Something shooting as high as this?" We'd respond, "Yeah, but make it lean back farther." It was the most satisfying thing I've ever done.

M Lifestyle: What was it like when your creation was unveiled on July 17?
Rebecca Romijn: We were so excited! We were absolutely beside ourselves when we shared it that night at an intimate champagne party under the lights with our friends and families. I don't care who you are–the Fountains of Bellagio take your breath away.

M Lifestyle: In the future, do you see a second career as a fountain choreographer?
Rebecca Romijn: No, there is no money involved. Despite the hard work, it was a priceless experience for pure pleasure. An honor. A dream.

M Lifestyle: Would you orchestrate another number for Bellagio’s fountains if given a chance?
Rebecca Romijn: We really hope to do another one, but we’ll see. The hang-up is that it took so long to do the first one and we would have to carve another week-and-a-half out of our schedules to do the next one.

M Lifestyle: How often do you visit Las Vegas for personal pleasure?
Rebecca Romijn: Probably four or five times per year. I'm not a big gambler, but I love to sit quietly and people watch in the major casinos–usually at Bellagio. There is no place like it on earth. I also love going to the spas, getting totally pampered and leaving relaxed every time. And I love going to the big shows on The Strip–I've seen all the Cirque du Soleil shows, some several times. I also try to catch Elton John when he passes through.

M Lifestyle: Why and how did you make the transition from freshman college student in Northern California to international model based in Europe in 1995?
Rebecca Romijn: I had never wanted to become a model, but everyone all through high school said I should try it because I was tall and skinny. A model friend at UC Santa Cruz was doing some modeling in San Francisco suggested that I do it for a summer and referred me to a modeling agency. At the time, I was sort of bored with college, which felt like just an extension of high school. I thought that I should be doing something more important, so it was fine with me. Especially since I didn’t have any money and wanted to travel.

M Lifestyle: How did you wind up in Europe a couple of months later working for major fashion houses such as Escada and Christian Dior?
Rebecca Romijn: A scout from a big French agency saw me at a show in San Francisco and recommended checking out Paris. I intended to come back to school in the fall, but the agency in France said I should stick around as they would make it worth my while. And they did, so I stayed there for three years, then went to New York for another five years.

M Lifestyle: Where did the modeling assignments take you?
Rebecca Romijn: All over the world, especially Europe and Africa. When I took over a contract from Elle MacPherson for a skin care product line, we shot lots of the layouts in The Eychelles. I went down to this amazing place near Madagascar eight or nine times. We’d stay in gorgeous colonial houses with no glass in the windows, letting the gentle breeze wash over us day and night. And there were stunning white beaches–pristine and gorgeous–with nobody on them.

M Lifestyle: Why did you decide to fade out of modeling and make acting a career?
Rebecca Romijn: There wasn’t one particular turning point–I just knew it was time to try something new. When it started getting old and stale, I wanted different kinds of challenges.

M Lifestyle: Did you study acting formally in New York or L.A.?
Rebecca Romijn: No. I was still doing lots of work for Victoria’s Secret and Sports Illustrated in the late-1990s, so I did a lot of talk shows to promote them. Soon I was getting offers to do guest appearances on sitcoms. I felt like an impostor at first, but gradually eased into it by hosting the fashion-oriented "House Of Style" (1998-2000) show for MTV and playing Adrienne on "Just Shoot Me!" (1999-2000) for a season. By the time "X-Men" (2000) and "X2" (2003) came long, I was comfortable working under the lights with ensemble casts.

M Lifestyle: What are some of the projects you are doing for a living these days?
Rebecca Romijn: I did a terrific independent movie during the summer called "The Alibi," which should be out later this year (2005). It's really a black comedy about a guy (Steve Coogan) who runs an alibi agency for cheating wives and husbands. I play Lola, who helps him run the agency. It has a fantastic cast, including James Brolin, Sam Elliott and Jimmy Marsden. Then I was signed to do a movie "About Town"–with Ben Affleck. He as an agent going through a mid-life crisis and I portray his cheating wife.

M Lifestyle: Will there be more "X-Men" sequels as the very blue shape shifter Mystique?
Rebecca Romijn: Yes, I believe "X3" goes into production in May (with the original cast).

M Lifestyle: How do you decompress after shooting an "X-Men" movie?
Rebecca Romijn: I head for Las Vegas and hit a spa. Bellagio's Spa is fantastic!

Original article: M Lifestyle 2005/1

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