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Rihanna blasts into action
7:00am Saturday 14th April 2012 in Celebrity Interview
She may have made headlines with her daring outfits and tumultuous love life, but Rihanna wants to make a splash on the big screen as she makes her acting debut in action adventure Battleship, which opens in cinemas on Wednesday, April 11. The Bajan superstar talks about her gruelling training for the role, her army background and how she deals with the constant attention on her personal life.
By Shereen Low.
When it comes to commanding column inches, not many stars can compete with Rihanna.
Almost every day there's a new snapshot of the Bajan beauty's latest daring outfit or a screaming headline linking her with a new man.
"It's annoying, it really is. I don't like people getting into my personal business," she says in her Barbadian brogue.
"Sometimes I wish I wasn't famous. It gets annoying. You want privacy for yourself. I don't know how to get around that. At least not right now. I don't know what's up, but the paparazzi seem to be on my tail right now."
The attention from the press looks set to continue as the six-time Grammy-winning pop superstar - who has conquered the charts with hits such as Umbrella, Pon De Replay and What's My Name - is promoting her acting debut in Peter Berg's sci-fi action adventure, Battleship.
In a waft of fragrance, Rihanna - showing off her new bleached blonde hairdo and elegant in an olive green Alexander Wang dress and black Christian Louboutin heels, which she teams with chunky gold hoop earrings and fierce talons - is followed into the room by three publicists, who insist personal questions are off limits today.
The singer, whose real name is Robyn Rihanna Fenty, has recently been rumoured to be romantically involved with Demi Moore's ex-husband Ashton Kutcher, although there is also speculation she could be reuniting with ex-boyfriend Chris Brown, despite his abusive past.
"I'm happy and single," she declares, adding: "It's annoying really, especially because [the press] don't get it right.
"It's funny. I don't know why people would think I would hide someone I'm dating. I should be proud of who I'm dating, you know?"
The 24-year-old, who considers Jay-Z her mentor, prefers to shrug off the rumours: "I don't worry about that. I just hate misperception. So when people believe a facade that is non-existent it's annoying, because you want them to know the truth.
"But it's pointless to say, 'That's not true'. My publicist would be so rich if I made her respond to every rumour about me because there's one every day."
Rihanna, who left Barbados at 16, is proud of her first film role, which sees her portraying Petty Officer Cora Raikes, alongside Taylor Kitsch, Liam Neeson and Brooklyn Decker.
"As I got older, acting seemed like something that I would be interested in. I didn't know if I'd be any good so I just wanted to see if I would like it," she says.
"I've been offered a lot of film roles before, but they were never the right one. I wanted to take my time with baby steps - small roles I could pull off in a professional way."
As the feisty Raikes, the singer got to grapple with aliens and handle big guns.
"That was the cool part - I got to shoot a lot of weapons and kick a lot of alien butt," she recalls.
"She's one of the boys and it was fun to explore that because I was a tomboy as a kid. It was exciting for people to look at me as Raikes and not Rihanna."
Her background as a former army cadet definitely helped her in the role. "I learnt a little - well, enough - about weapons. We used to shoot on a range and I did a lot of training and discipline, so I had army etiquette from young."
However, preparing for the role was less fun for the songstress, who was put through her paces by a no-nonsense soldier.
"I had to do a lot of physical training. I had to do push-ups, tons of push-ups. I hate them!"
But push-ups were just the start of a gruelling routine. "I had to work out with these sandbags that were the same weight as the weapon and I had to get used to pulling them around.
"The trainer would make me do it like 40 times back to back, until one of my arms literally was so dieselled (muscly) and the other one was so regular," she recalls, with a grimace.
For a superstar like Rihanna, it also took some time to adjust to the tough treatment.
"He yelled at me so many times. It was crazy. But it really put me in that place so it was necessary," she says.
"I thought, 'There's no way he's coming into my room, talking to me like that'. After a while, I got so freaked out, he messed up my head. Every time he came over, I would hide all my high heels, any shopping bags, remove my pink iPod from the dock - and no, I didn't have nails!
"The first time he came over, he saw them and said, 'You have to be kidding me'. I got rid of those so fast."
Rihanna - who lists Meryl Streep and Seth Rogen as her favourite screen stars - reveals that the experience has given her an appetite for more big-screen outings in the future.
"I was very impressed by the experience, which has been beyond my expectations. It made me want to do more films," she says.
"It made me excited to see what else I could do. There's plans for that this year, but I can't really talk about those projects yet.
"I want to try different roles - maybe comedy next, or who knows? I like sarcastic, dry humour: I love movies like Superbad and Pineapple Express, pretty much all Seth Rogen's movies."
She's also rumoured to be in the running to portray the late Whitney Houston in a forthcoming biopic.
"I didn't get that call yet," she says, adding: "That would be something that I would have to give my entire life to do because I would want to really pull it off. That's a huge, huge role and whoever does it has to do a good job.
"I love her. She's one of my big music icons, I have always looked up to her. The first song I remember falling in love with was Whitney Houston's I Will Always Love You. It made me develop a passion for music, so really she's partly responsible for me being here in this industry."
One thing is for sure, Rihanna looks certain to carve out her own path.
"Acting, I can play a part and I can embody a character and a role. That's the only way I can change but I can't change myself. I only have one mould and that's Rihanna."
Extra time - Singers-turned-actors :: Justin Timberlake - Formerly a singer with boyband *NSync, Timberlake has enjoyed a successful transition into movies, with roles in The Social Network, Friends With Benefits and In Time.
:: Will Smith - Now one of the biggest stars in Hollywood with Oscar nominations under his belt, Smith started off as hip-hop artist The Fresh Prince in his teens.
:: Mariah Carey - With the exception of Glitter, Carey's performance in Lee Daniels's Precious, where she showed off a dowdy look, won huge praise.
:: Queen Latifah - It's hard to imagine that Latifah, who has starred in Chicago and Hairspray, got her humble beginnings as a rapper.
:: Cher - From her double act with Sonny Bono, Cher has made a mark on both the music and film industries, winning an Oscar for her performance in Moonstruck.
:: Battleship opens in cinemas on Wednesday, April 11