At the heart of Adam Sandler's new film I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry is two things: A comedic look at living as something which you are not; and an unlikely offbeat love triangle also featuring Kevin James and Jessica Biel. The centerpiece of the film is a gay benefit costume gala, at which something happens which 'outs' Kevin and Adam, but the big shock of the movie is that in the aftermath of that costume party, anyone would be talking about anything other than Jessica's incredible costume...
Buzzine's Emmanuel Itier was lucky enough to be able to sit down with the divine Ms. Biel to talk about her effect on men, ner views on marriage of all kinds and the tips and tricks that she has picked up along the way to deal with the trappings of fames and the unwanted attention of the tabloids...
EI: In the scene from this movie that so many people are talking about - you are wearing a show-stopping Catwoman costume - and you play the female in the center of a (twisted) love triangle - and you seem to be loving it! Do guys get intimidated by you: Do they ask you out on dates?
JB: I don’t get approached very often. I did just last night, actually, and it was the worse pick-up line I’ve ever heard! [Laughs]
EI: Where were you?
JB: I was at a concert. I was there last night and we were sitting around this table, and this guy came up to me and said, “I’ve loved 7th Heaven. I’ve loved it forever. I noticed you. I know who you are and I know guys come up and say the worst things to you all the time.” And I was like, “Okay,” and I’m waiting for the great line or something! And he said, “Do you remember this one time on 7th Heaven when you barked like a dog? That was my favorite episode!”
I’m looking at him like, “That is?” And my friend escorted him away and we all looked at each other like, “He totally blew it. He thought we were going to have this moment and he blew it.”
EI: You know he’s going to talk about it forever.
JB: I know. It was very sweet and endearing. Oh no.
EI: But that was a rare occasion?
JB: Very rare. I think maybe it’s intimidating. When I used to see actors I really liked before I was really working, I was just a little mesmerized by them. I don’t think people know how to react. No one talks to you, it’s sort of what happens.
Emmanuel Itier: What is the normal guys’ reaction to you then?
JB: I do not know. I do not pay a lot of attention to people that I do not really know. When I am out, I am with my friends and I am paying attention to them. I think that, if anything, people react like they are surprised to see you there. There are no crazy reactions or anything.
EI: This film deals a lot with the randomness of attraction and reinforces the idea that you can't choose who you love - which somewhat looks past outward appearances...
JB: I have never really been someone for whom looks are really important – the actual physicality. I am so much more attracted to a personality. It is more likely that a lifestyle situation would be difficult for me. If I wanted to be active and the person I was dating did not want to be active but wanted to sit on the couch all day, I would have a problem with that. That does not sound like fun to me. But I do not have a problem at all dating someone who was bigger. That would not be a problem at all, if I was attracted to their personality.
EI: Do you mean bigger, like muscular or bigger like heavy-set?
JB: I mean like – maybe not as fit as I am. Or someone who would not be as active as I am.
EI: So your lifestyle is very active? Uh oh, I think we are back to talking about you being intimidating...
JB: Yeah, I think that is my lifestyle, those are the things I like to do. And usually the people that I am attracted to – my friends or whatever–are usually people who like to do the same things. Would it be intimidating? Yes, I am sure.
EI: How do you keep in shape: I think I may need to know the exercise!
JB: I work out a lot. One legged squats against the wall. Do it with an exercise ball against the wall right to your tailbone. One legged squats. You should do 12 to 15, three sets. That’s a good start. I take my dogs for a half hour to 45-minute walks a couple of times a day.
EI: Do you like a man who is mysterious who has something to hide, or do you like a man who is straightforward?
JB: I don’t like a man who has something to hide. I think straightforward, honest, that’s an attractive quality.
EI: How is your gay-dar?
JB: I think it is pretty good, but I have been out of practice for a while. I have not used it in a while.
EI: Have you received got any official feedback from the gay community about this movie?
JB: I haven’t heard anything specific from the gay community. I think GLAD is supporting the movie. It was a thumbs up.
EI: It is dealt with in a non-serious way onscreen in this film, but do you personally support the legality of gay marriages?
JB: Yes, definitely. I don’t think anyone has the right to tell you who can fall in love with and who can judge you. Those are matters of the heart and I think it’s unbelievable for anyone to put any kind of label or judgment upon that.
EI: How soon do you think people all all preferences should get married?
JB: I have no idea. I really don’t know. I think that’s completely personal in every different situation. I don’t know. It’s important to have your time. What’s weird is that you’re single for like 20, 30 years and then you’re married for like 70! It doesn’t seem like a real good ratio, does it? I never really understood that.
EI: Another talking point from the movie comes in the scene where Adam Sandler is, well... feeling you up! How many takes did it take?
JB: We did a lot of takes! [Laughs] Have you seen Adam’s wife, by the way? She’s very hot. This is not exciting, believe me. It was kind of awkward at first. It’s always weird at first, and they close the set off and you’re standing there like, “Okay, I’m ready!” Then you take it off the first time and it’s like, not so bad, whatever. You’ve seen it once and you’re going to see it again. It’s no big deal. It was kind of fun. We just laughed through it.
EI: Are you always so comfortable with that kind of scene?
JB: Not always. I think it depends on who is there and who I am working with. If they are comfortable and making me feel comfortable, then it is so much easier, which was this experience. Adam is so un-fazed by anything. He is a dad, he is a husband. He is like, “Whatever–boobs.”
EI: Adam was not shy about it at all?
JB: Yes, he was. I am sure he felt a little uncomfortable. He was probably more uncomfortable than I was. I think we both were a little flushed and we were a little like, “Oh God.” It is a weird scenario to be in, in general. It was fun.
EI: But I guess Kevin James was really pissed?
JB: That is the thing with these guys. I have a relationship with these guys like they are my brothers.
EI: So he got to do it in the break?
JB: Yes, that is what happened. [Laughs]
EI: What do you think about actual nudity in movies?
JB: I am intimidated by it a little bit. Especially in the US, where it is different, It's less free. It can be less free about your body and sexuality. It is very different from other places in Europe and the rest of the world. It is less of a big deal. Here, it is a big decision if you are going to do nudity because it just comes with so much. Everyone is asking you about it–why did you do it and was it important for the film when you just obviously chose it for a reason, and it was important to the film and the idea of getting all that negative criticism about it—it is a daunting feeling.
EI: But if you refuse a role like that, do you sometimes fear it might affect your future career?
JB: I am sure there is a possibility. I just did it the other day: There was a script that required some nudity. Something topless. It is probably going to be a great movie with a great cast, but I just do not want to do it.
EI: Is that also because of all this “most sexy”-type eattention you have always had – does that add more pressure not to do a nude scene?
JB: That is part of it as well. I want to keep a balance of not being too sexy all the time, or just the perception of me always being sexy in this role. Sexy, sexy, sexy. That, first of all, is not creatively interesting. But it would be counteractive because, truthfully, when you think someone is maybe sexy or beautiful, you do not necessarily combine that with talent and brains all the time, which is really an unfair stereotype. But that happens a lot, so you have to maintain a balance.
EI: Which is also why you have an agent, to help make those decisions - How much say do you exert personally?
JB: I have a lot of say. I have just gotten to a place in my career where they know what I want to do. And they understand why I say no to certain things. They push me a little bit. It is their job to make me think if this is the right decision. Is this a good choice to say no to this? I feel like I know what I want for myself and they understand that, so usually they back off. So I do not feel pressure from my agents to do something that I really do not want to do. If I really adamantly do not feel creatively inspired by it…
EI: Are you concerned at all with the kind of fame that comes from who you are dating, etc. - the more established you are as an actress, hopefully the more that goes away, right?
JB: I feel like ever since “The Illusionist”, it has started to change – people being interested in me and what I am doing in my personal life – and I have always been nervous about that. Not even really nervous. It is just that it is a violating experience, because your space is not really respected. It is not like you have an agreement with paparazzi that says, if I am going to go here, it is cool–let’s come up with a middle point. They are just in your face or they are not. It is very hard…
EI: Have there been moments when you were scared away from a set?
JB: Yeah, I walk my dogs almost every day – multiple times a day. And they drive their cars all around and pull up and block the crosswalk so I have to move into traffic to move around cars to go through. You feel very vulnerable if you are not in a vehicle and you are just walking around, so I felt scared. There was a person in a bush who jumped out and took a picture and I had my two dogs, so I had no hands to…I had no idea who that guy was. Things like that are very weird, very unsettling.
EI: Your dogs did not bite him?
JB: No, my dogs were like, “What are you doing?” I have two big dogs too, so I was like, “You’d better be careful. If you scare my dogs, what am I gonna do?”
EI: You have pitbulls, right?
JB: I do. I have rescued them.
EI: Why pitbulls?
JB: I was never a pit bull lover or anything until just a year ago when I had bulldogs. I saw this little dog at the rescue, I adopted her, and she happened to be a pit bull. And I saw this other dog, and she also happened to be a pit bull. Once I had a relationship with these animals and realized how wonderful they are…they just get such a bad rep. If they are treated horrible and tortured and starved, yeah, they are not friendly animals. And they happen to be super strong. But if you give them a wonderful home, they are the most loyal, loving dogs.
EI: Aren't you also very involved with PETA?
JB: Yes, I am not exclusively connected to PETA, but I am a huge animal fan and I am definitely supporting animal charities.
EI: What are the other things you like to do, away from acting?
JB: I love to travel. I like to surf. I like to hike. I like to be at the beach. BBQs, dinner with friends…
EI: You are not one of those Hollywood party girls...
JB: No, not really. I like a nice glass of wine and to go to the bar with my girl friends, like a small pub or something, but I am just not a huge... those big club scenes... I feel a little overwhelmed in a place like that.
EI: Do you think what you have learned should be written in a book on how to deal with fame?
JB: I think you need to experience it. I don’t think you can write that down. When someone tells you it’s going to be really weird and hard, you always think, “Yeah, I can handle it.” I’m really mellow and fine. But it can really get under your skin. It can be really difficult to deal with. It’s so violating. Walking out of my house in the morning with my two dogs, walking down the street like I do everyday and someone is hiding behind a bush with a camera. Someone is over there with a camera.
Someone’s with a video camera and I’m thinking, is my underwear sticking out of my pants? If I reach back there, are they going to get a picture of that? Don’t pick your nose! Just walk. You are completely aware that people are watching you. You begin to get really paranoid. Then you get in your car and you constantly look in your rearview and you notice that the same three cars move over when you change lanes. You start to get heady about it and you start to think, “I’m being stalked.” But you’re creating it. Like for me, I’m creating this scary scenario in my head and I get really emotional about it and I go home and I burst into tears. I have a moment and then I get over it. [Laughs] It’s like this rollercoaster ride.
EI: What do you do to keep your privacy and your sanity?
JB: I think you make good choices where you go out for dinner. You don’t go to the places where everybody goes, you go to little small neighborhood places – get out of town. I love getting out of town. I go home to Colorado and just disappear with my family in my family home in the middle of the mountains. It kind of turns you into a homebody. You stay home a lot. You know you’re safe there and you can have people over for dinner parties and no one is going to bug you.
EI: Away from the unwanted attention: What do you find to be the best thing about being an actor?
JB: I really love the art of it. I love it all. It is the profession itself: I love performing. I have always loved performing since I was a little kid – being in front of people and telling a story, and moving them emotionally; creating a character and jumping into somebody else’s shoes, and becoming a cameleon and changing emotionally and physically. That is what is exciting. The other part of this business – fame – is really weird. It is not necessarily a plus at all. It is great having money. It is hard to live in this society if you do not have money.
EI: You wanted to become a singer when you were younger?
JB: Yes, I liked musical theatre a lot.
EI: Is music still a big part of your life?
JB: It is, privately. I love to sing. I do not really do it much out of the shower or at a karaoke bar.
EI: What do you sing in the shower?
JB: Bad, cheesy love songs from the ’80s. Embarrassing.
EI: Another part of the actor's life that you seem to enjoy is the fashion aspect of it: Are there any designers you have come to especially like?
JB: I love YSL, but I don’t own anything from them! [Laughs] I borrow for an event. I’m just starting to get into fashion. I used to feel very intimidated by it and I didn’t really care for a long time.
EI: Is the change because of your work as an actress?
JB: Yes, that has changed. That has helped my awareness of fashion to change a lot. Having to have decent-looking outfits. I literally would throw on something so ugly. I wouldn’t even care, and now I have to care and it’s fun. It’s changed the way I’m shopping and it’s changed my style. I literally would wear jeans, sneakers and T-shirts. I never wore dresses, I never wore skirts – nothing feminine, everything masculine. I have no idea why.
EI: Perhaps because you’re sporty and you go out with your dogs a lot? [Smiles]
JB: I’ve always been an athlete, and I grew up in Boulder, Colorado in the mountains. My mother was never into fashion and she didn’t teach me anything about clothes. It was all about outdoor activities and nature, sports… so yeah, that’s naturally who I am and I didn’t even know where to start...
EI: Do you feel hurt when they criticize your clothes?
JB: I think it stings a little. [Laughs] It always stings a little bit. Then again, you learn to not care about it. You can’t please everybody.
EI: So you do still read that stuff then?
JB: No! I don’t! You don’t how many phone calls you get, or emails from family. “I saw you, you were on the Worst Dressed List!” Thanks! I don’t read any of it. I found it to be quite cruel, and once you read really one cruel thing about yourself, you feel really bad, so that’s it.
EI: What have you read?
JB: I read…someone said something like I was walking my dogs, which is so boring to see another picture of that, I can’t tell you. I was walking my dogs with my friend and someone had blogged in: “God, she looks like a man!” Awful! I was like, “Do I?” One thing like that, and I said, "That’s it; Who are you?!!"
EI: But the same people who are telling you about those things are trying to help you, right?
JB: Thank God for that. I couldn’t survive without my girlfriends. I think it’s so important in this business to have that balance. I understand being sexy and having that sort of thing, men love you, then that’s great. But what’s really important is that women want to hang out with you. That’s what I love about Drew Barrymore or Jennifer Aniston–I watch her films and I think I love her. I would really want to be her friend. I want that. I want to play those roles so women around the world would think that about me too.
EI: What is the quality that they have which you want?
JB: Is it attainability? Like, she just looks normal. She’s cool. She seems nice. I don’t know what it is. I can’t quite put my finger on it. It’s about not having an air about yourself and not taking yourself too seriously. Being silly in front of the camera and being so ridiculous. There’s no diva there.
EI: Thanks for such a great chat - What comes next for you, what are you working on?
JB: I just signed on to do Powder Blue. It’s a very dark, serious piece about a handful of characters who are all going through different stages in their lives, but who are lonely and afraid and have lost their faith in either religion, life, God or something. In the end, it leaves these characters hopeful that they will find what they’re looking for. Forest Whitaker is producing and starring, Ray Liotta just got cast as my father...
Universal Pictures' 'I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry' open nationwide in theaters on July 20, 2007.