In Fantastic Four: The Rise of the Silver Surfer, Jessica Alba is back as Sue Storm aka Invisible Woman, the female centerpin of the superhero quartet. After the sudden arrival of an alien to Earth (on Sue and Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd)'s Wedding Day!) sets off a series of global disasters and re-awakens the F4's arch-enemy Dr. Doom, the stage is set for the high-energy sequel to 2005's hit movie based on the beloved Marvel Comics series.
Buzzine's Emmanuel Itier recently sat with the very-visible Ms. Alba in Los Angeles, CA to talk about the power of superheroics, proudly representing the Latino community in Hollywood, the double-edged sword of being named super sexy, and the challenges of making three films (Good Luck Chuck, Rise of the Silver Surfer and The Eye) back to back to back...
Emmanuel Itier: What are the key differences between this Fantastic Four film and the first one?
JA: My character has evolved and she is very dynamic. She has to deal with being a super-hero but also a celebrity and a wife. Then later on, she has to deal with being a mother. She is thinking about the future and her family. The nesting thing is happening and she wants to be more domestic, but this is hard. It’s a conflict being in the eye of the people and protecting your family.
EI: Sue is a celebrity rather like you are in real life…
JA: Well, for her, this is different because she didn’t choose it. I chose to do this. On the other hand, I don’t have the world relying on me to save it, but she does. The stakes are much higher for Sue. It was great playing her, and we have so many great scenes - especially personal scenes about husband and wife talking about the choices to be done between career and family, and what does this mean... does the world really need us?
EI: Is it hard for you to keep your privacy?
JA: No, because I don’t talk about my relationships. I think not talking about it but about the movies really helps.
EI: You’re getting married in this movie! Who’s the lucky man?
JA: Yes, I am. Reed Richards, which…
EI: But something goes wrong?
JA: The Silver Surfer sort of crashes our wedding–and this isn’t the first time our wedding has been crashed, so Sue’s a bit of a Bridezilla. She’s not very happy!
EI: How different was it on set this time round, making this new Fantastic Four adventure?
JA: We basically hit the ground running in this one, versus the first one where it seemed like it took so much time to set up the story and to get our characters figured out, and to figure out how different we were before we become The Fantastic Four to after it happened. And in this one, we’ve already been superheroes for two years and so we’re all very comfortable in our characters, and it’s as if you peek in on a day in a life, and it just happens to be the day that we find out that our world is coming to an end and we have to deal with that. And it ruins my wedding.
EI: What was it like getting all the cast back together?
JA: It was great. We’re like family. I feel like we know each other inside and out. It was really comfortable and easy, and we all knew what we did in the first movie and what we wanted to do differently in this movie in that we just wanted to make our characters more dynamic and richer and the relationships to feel more real, because people who write these movies – they’re really writing for the fans and dealing usually with the villains and the special effects, and all that comes into play, so its really up to us to make the characters feel human and real to us, and relatable. And so it was nice to bounce ideas off the boys, and now that we all have a history together, we leaned on each other for a lot of that stuff...
EI: Everyone from within this Fantastic Four group is telling us that you were like a mother to them within this shoot: Is that true and how did that come to be?
Jessica Alba: I have always been like this. I am a caretaker, and it was true that every time someone was sick on the set, I was the first one to give them some tea or medicine. I have my own first aid kit with me all the time... like a super hero! It was so cold on the set - I made sure everyone was warm enough and had hot water if necessary; I made sure everyone had a big enough coat and boots. It makes me happy to take care of people. I don’t even think about it: It’s second nature...
EI: Does that perhaps mean that real-life motherhood might just be the next step for you?
JA: Well, I’m learning how to be patient. I’m not very patient. And getting up early in the morning…
EI: Speaking of patience, you must go crazy on a special-effects led set like this one, where you have to wait for hours in between set-ups?
JA: Yes, I go crazy. I run in circles. I had a Nintendo to play with. I also read many books and spent hours on the Internet. I also have my dogs on the set and so I’m quite busy with them.
EI: How do you work in a movie loaded with so many special effects?
JA: It’s hard. I had many moments where I had to ask around me and find out if I sucked or not, is it was believable or not. I was working with an “X” in front many times, and you have to trust your director and everyone around you on the set. You have to hope it won’t come out too “cartoonish” and one-dimensional.
EI: Do you have to work out for months prior to doing a role like this?
JA: I work out so it wasn’t really that different to what I normally do.
EI: What’s your routine?
JA: I work out three to four days a week, when I’m good, when I’m really dedicated. At the gym, I do ten minutes cardio and then a little weights, ten minutes cardio, little weights. That’s it. I can’t spend too much time. I hate it and I get bored, and I feel like a hamster running on the treadmill for too long. I listen to music, watch TV, read magazines, talk to girlfriends – basically anything to keep my mind off just being there. I go on hikes too.
EI: If you could chose your own superpower, what would it be?
JA: I think the ability to fly is the best one. I wanted to fly when I was a kid, so that’s where my mind goes when I think of super-heroes – flying through the air!
EI: Back on the ground - do you feel the pressures of the business? Do you feel that if a film doesn’t work, it’s your fault, and if it’s a success, it’s because of you?
JA: I do care for sure about the box office, but I’m not narcissistic enough to think it relies only on my shoulders completely! Furthermore, I don’t have time to run away or worry about it because I’m running all around the world to promote this movie. I would love to go away for a week to Hawaii and chill out, but I’ll be in New York and Europe and Latin America and Tokyo... all over, starting with Australia, and this is non-stop.
EI: And yet you also just finished shooting The Eye: You seem to continually keep moving from one project to another. Do you need this fast-paced schedule?
JA: Yes, I just finished The Eye. I had no break, I actually took opportunities as they came. I really wanted to do The Eye... I did three movies back to back and yes, this was difficult. I feel displaced a little bit. And when I’m home, I keep working... It will be nice to stop eventually!
EI: France... Canada... how long were you in Vancouver shooting Fantastic Four?
JA: I shot Good Luck Chuck before I shot this, so I was there for seven months. I’ve been there since I was 18. I know it inside and out. If I had the choice to give money back to Canada, I’d give money back to the United States. I’m a US citizen, but Canadians are so sweet.
EI: How was it working on The Eye and working with French directors?
JA: I learned lots of slang words like 'merde'! Not because of me, but because sometimes the two directors were frustrated. We called the main actor “pédé”. It’s not a very nice thing, it was just a joke. He was trying to be super manly and they were teasing him telling him he was just a “big girl”. They spoke too much in French: Actually, I understood nothing of what they were telling me... [Smiles]
This film was very challenging because I had to play someone who was blind and who had a cornea transplant and was learning to see. And she is losing her mind. Also, I had to play the violin. I was taught by a few violinists, and usually you have to practice eight hours per day to be good with an instrument. So on top of my 16 hours of work as an actress, I had to spent another four hours to practice the violin, but this was worth it because this is a special movie.
Also, working with these French directors was fascinating because they have so much passion and hope for cinema. This was different working with them. It’s rare to get this feeling of passion every moment on the set. They were so prepared and detail-oriented. It’s very interesting because it’s a moving shot through my eyes – it’s a first person perspective. It’s unique. She is blind and sees for the first time and is totally disoriented.
EI: Turning back to Silver Surfer, I have to ask on behalf of all my comic book-fan friends about the the Fantastic Car....
JA: We have the Fantastic Car, yeah, and it’s a pretty big set-piece for the hard-core Fantastic Four comic book fans. Tim [Story] modified it and made it different, and we’re actually driving it versus being just like a hoverdrome that you stand on. It’s cool. In real life, it made me a little nauseous because its like a roller-coaster ride, constantly going up and down, moving around, and they spun me around in it for about half a day. But on camera, it looks amazing...
EI: What do you drive yourself?
JA: A Prius.
EI: For environmental reasons?
JA: Yeah. You think I would drive a Prius for any other reason? That car doesn’t really have a whole lot of get up and go!
EI: Is the Prius too slow for you?
JA: Not at all. I’m just kidding. It’s just not a sports car.
EI: With comic book-like action movies, it seems audiences are now more willing to social themes even better accept as underlying plot points than if it was a straight movie with the same messages being more obviously stated...
JA: It’s true - it’s easier for them to swallow things when it’s all covered in a glossy Hollywood color. This is the nature of what these movies are. It’s a modern day Greek mythology. Movies are an escape or it’s a way for families to bond. You can go to theme parks, to music concerts, to theaters or the movies. When I was a kid, for me it was about going to drive-ins. This is all we could afford with my family. I saw Ghostbusters and every movie there until I was 11. I was seeing two features back to back. We would also go to various parks and listen to music and do picnics.
EI: The Fantastic Four are facing a great threat with the Silver Surfer. What about you? What worries you about the world today?
JA: What doesn’t?! Do I worry about a stalker, a rapist, the next fundamentalist terrorist, about some maniacal politician who wants to do ethnic cleansing, about countries that we might sanction for various reasons and don’t want to give us oil, about companies that stop production on alternative fuels because they don’t make enough money about it?
For sure I worry about so many things, but I’m not sure what I can do about it. You never asked me about all of this, but I have always been aware of the world at large, especially since I was living in Australia when I was 15 and 16. I saw another side of the US and I saw the US before September 11th. I saw how people here were surprised by it and realized they were not the only people on this planet. And our little island, the United States, is not the only country that matters. I feel like a lot a people woke up after September 11th...
EI: Do you think a movie like this can inspire the political consciousness of people? And what inspires you?
JA: This movie is just a fun family movie, but also it’s about doing the greater good when you don’t have anything to benefit from. It’s about kindness in its purest form. This is the overall theme, even though it’s an action-packed comic book superhero film. What inspires me are people trying to make this world better than what it is even before they got here. It’s about all kinds of people, and I don’t want to point out people already in the eye of the media, but it’s about simple people like my grandmother who inspires me. Or Obama, one of the Democratic candidates. He seems to be pretty sure about his direction and has a clear head about where he is going... I’m not sure if he can deal with the big business world side of it.
EI: If you could put together your own Fantastic Four team of people, including yourself, to save the world…
JA: This is a tricky question! ... Barack Obama... Oprah... and Bill Gates. This would be my team for super heroes… and I’ll cook!
EI: What would you do if you were invisible?
JA: It’s kind of a naughty thing to be able to be invisible! It’s very sneaky, so I’d probably have to do something sneaky, like spy on… I don’t know… what happens behind closed doors in the Oval Office or something.
EI: Maxim magazine and many people are publicly proclaiming that you are the sexiest women in the world right now. How do you feel about that?
JA: This is very flattering to me, but I really don’t see myself like this. I don’t especially celebrate it, but I’m grateful about it. I don’t really think about it. When I go home, I wash it all away. I need to find time to be myself and not to be only a personality – part of the business. Again, this is flattering, but that’s all...
EI: Are you self-conscious about fashion?
JA: I try not to make headlines. I’m self-conscious about this. I try to make my presence not known. I have my own fashion style and I don’t try to fit in. I don’t have my breasts under my chin, I’m not showing butt cheeks or much legs. I don’t go for the trendiest look. I’m much more relaxed, and this is only because that’s how I feel.
EI: You’re nowhere to be seen in the gossip magazine nightclub photos …like with Paris Hilton and her friends...
JA: I didn’t grow up with rich girls so I really don’t fit in that other group of girls. I’m a regular girl from the suburbs. These other girls grew up in the limelight and with the world in their palm. For me, going to a party is not a thrill. I love going to movies with directors and writers, and all sorts of people inspired by arts. I also love the technical side of making movies, like technicians and grips. I also love traveling and spending time with my godchildren.
EI: Do you sometimes feel at odds with the other stars in Hollywood?
JA: Sometimes. I’m not sure what people really think about me and who they believe I am. When you see me in these magazines, for me it’s always tailored to how they are trying to sell the movie or sell me…but this is not really me. I grew up Catholic so I have lots of guilt I can’t seem to shake away. And I’m so good with my family. I’m really just a simple girl from the suburbs. But I know also a lot of other successful people in this business who are conscious of a bigger world. But a lot of times, these magazines, like FHM, don’t really care and don’t show that side of us...
EI: You’re also somewhat the face, right now, of the Latino industry...
JA: I’m proud of it. I grew up in California, and my great grandparents are from Mexico on my dad’s side. I’m half Mexican and the other half is French and Danish. My dad is proud of my family name and they are all very proud of me. The more racially diverse mainstream movies and mainstream Hollywood can be, this is for the better. Latin, Black, Asian, Middle-Eastern – anything to change it up is great.
Before, there was an idea of what an American movie star had to be or what criteria you had to fit in to be a leading lady or man, and it’s changing. And I’m glad to be part of this group of people who are ethnically diverse.
EI: You’ve done quite a lot of comic book movies. Do you have a lot of interest in comic books?
JA: I don’t, but I know a lot of girls that read them who are younger…but I don’t. I’m not an avid comic book reader.
EI: Not even now that you’ve done comic book films yourself?
JA: I read the comic books of the films that I’m in. Is that bad?
EI: Will you do a third Fantastic Four?
JA: We’re signed on for three. Hopefully maybe we can have babies in the third!
'Fantastic Four: The Rise of the Silver Surfer' is in theaters from June 15, 2007 from 20th Century Fox.