Rebecca Da Costa, the Brazilian bombshell known for her roles in “7 Below” and the action Parkour film “Freerunner,” has taken her career to a new level. Today, “The Bag Man,” featuring Robert De Niro, and Da Costa acting opposite big name John Cusack, hits theaters.
Da Costa plays Rivka, a mysterious, blue-haired Israeli stripper who befriends Cusack’s character Jack while he’s on a mission to return an even more mysterious bag to his mobster boss. Let’s just say, a few heads rolled to get the bag in the first place. Oh, he also has no idea what’s inside because he’s been forbidden to look. Rivka’s the femme fatale there to shake things up.
Working with the two well-known actors and adapting to their methods was nerve-racking for the actor who frequently locks herself in her bedroom for hours at a time, creating a backstory for her character and running her lines.
“John likes to improvise a lot; for me that was terrifying,” admits the quadrilingual actor who trained for months to neutralize her Portuguese accent. “At the time when he told me, ‘Let’s forget these lines,’ I thought, I hate this! Then I just caught myself. I said, I can’t think like this. I gotta think this is the best thing that could happen to me, just get out my comfort zone and really push myself.”
And push herself she did. In addition to the dialect classes she took for six hours a day with Tom Hanks’ famed “Forrest Gump” coach Jessica Drake, she also thought outside of the box, making unorthodox suggestions for her character’s appearance that ended up in the film. (You'll have to watch to find out what they are.) To better embody and understand a stripper, Da Costa hit the gym and briefly took pole dancing classes.
“I went to these two strip classes,” she says. “I come from a country where people are very sensual, Brazil and Latin America in general, and when someone’s teaching you that's the way you should walk, or that’s the way you should do it to be sexy, it goes against what I believe sexy is. I think sexy is a state of being and being comfortable with yourself.”
It’s a lesson from Da Costa that transcends “sexy” and applies to any form of character preparation—don’t do what you’re not comfortable with because chances are, your character will emerge forced and stilted. In addition to staying comfortable in your skin, Da Costa encourages actors to take classes to improve their craft, and “if you can’t afford to take classes, buy a book; keep doing it,” she suggests. “Dedicate yourself at least two hours a day; watch movies, read a book, and that’s going to push your career forward.”