The actress transforms into 1900 Vienna for her latest film
We saw her grow up on 7th Heaven, but now Jessica Biel is on her own. And breaking out as a true movie actress. In Blade: Trinity, she kicked some butt as part of the Nightstalkers. In her latest film, she plays the 'damsel in distress.'
That film is The Illusionist, which also stars Ed Norton and Paul Giamatti. In the period piece, Ed plays a magician, who at a young age, fell in love with Jessica. Unfortunately, Jessica's family would not allow the relationship to continue, due to her royal status.
Years later, they meet up at one of his shows and begin to have a secret affair - much to the chagrin of her soon-to-be fiancé, the Crown Prince Leopold. When the Prince becomes suspicious, he hires Inspector Uhl (Giamatti) to find out the truth.
Jessica sat down to talk to us about working with such an amazing group of actors and what it was like to not have to be just 'the girl' on set. Here's what she had to say:
What was it like to put on those outfits every day?
Jessica Biel: It was fabulous, so much fun; I mean I dressed up like a princess every day and that wasn't necessarily a goal for me as a little girl. I wasn't necessarily princess crazy, but as an adult, it was just so fun and lovely and living in Prague for a couple months was - if I didn't ever have to come home, I wouldn't have; I would have stayed forever.
What drew you to this character?
Jessica Biel: I was really interested in this woman who in my opinion was stuck, this modern woman stuck in 1900. But I felt she could have easily been me just put back in a time where I was restricted by so many things, society's restrictions and family and everything that you - all the stuff that you have to not do and not say and everything. I was intrigued with bringing that person to life. I also had only done modern characters who were very expressive and talk with their hands and this and that. With her, she's just bubbling under the surface at every moment; there's so much going on, but everything is placid and perfect up here (in her head). I was really interested in working with those elements as well as an accent which I had never done before and dressing up and really creating a person and really stepping into the shoes of someone that I really had no idea or I had no previous experience.
What about being the only main female in the cast? Was that a little daunting?
Jessica Biel: Well, maybe a little bit, a little intimidating on the first few days but it's fun, it's really fun to be the one female around. I mean this is a bit of a boy's club; all of those guys kind of went to school together, and I'm a little bit younger than them, and they're all about the same age, and they knew each other before, but they were cool. They treated me really well and kind of brought me into the inner circle; it was fun.
So no catering? You didn't get the special treatment?
Jessica Biel: No, definitely not; I was just treated as one of the guys which is how I would prefer it anyway.
Did you learn any magic tricks?
Jessica Biel: I didn't, Edward learned everything; I didn't really get to spend much time with the advising magician either. I just sort of sat back and watched him learn all of his sleight of hands and everything; he was really good too.
Do you think you're done with the Nightstalkers?
Jessica Biel: I think they're done, I think that's over with; nothing ever came really of the Nightstalkers. I actually thought that maybe we would do an adaptation of that, but I don't know. I just don't think that Blade did so well; it just didn't do as well as everyone had hoped so no one is interested in rethinking those characters. But I'm open to it, I'm open to other comic book adaptations or big action movies, I like action movies, I like doing action movies, I think they're fun. It's not something I want to do all the time, but every now and again; I would even dabble in horror again if it was the right thing, maybe more psychological horror and less gruesome. But I would never say 'never' to anything because I know how this business works, and you think, 'Oh, I'm going to do this for sure and then, eeeeeeeeee! Ok, I'll do that.' I mean literally that's how it's gone every time I've done anything and said, 'I'm not going to do that.' And then, of course, I do it.
What are you playing in Next?
Jessica Biel: I'm playing a school teacher; I'm playing like the most normal, sweet, strong, kind of a saucy woman who falls in love with Nic Cage's character. But I'm actually a school teacher that once a week I work at the Havasupai Reservation so she's really kind of interesting. I fall in love with him because he's been searching me out because he is a precog, and he can see into the future, and he's been seeing this woman. He doesn't know why when he sees this woman he can see further into the future than he usually can. He finally finds her and he knows this is the person he's supposed to be with so he sort of has to hang onto her. And she's like, 'Who are you? You're just a creepy guy, get away from me.' And so he's kind of got to woo her and they have this quick romance and the FBI are after them, it's exciting.
So all the crazy stuff happens around you?
Jessica Biel: Yes, I'm not fighting or anything; I do a bit of running and I get kidnapped by terrorists and I get dragged around for awhile, it's kind of great.
Jessica Biel: Dodging bullets a little bit, but not hard core action or fighting or anything like that.
What was it like working with Edward Norton?
Jessica Biel: Working with Edward was incredible; he's just so passionate about every inch of the filmmaking process. He wants to know what I'm doing, what the camera is doing, what Neil's doing. He's on top of it, he's got it all figured out and he just cares; he cares so much about it. And he was lovely with me, we had a great time; we really kind of connected and I feel like he never does the same thing twice. He's always changing it up and switching things up and saying things differently. I'm always kind of chasing after him, I feel like always trying to; he was amazing.
Did he try to give you any direction?
Jessica Biel: Yeah, he did; he did give me some direction. I asked for it, too. I said, 'You know, please; I'm open to it, anything. Talk to me about what you think; let's collaborate on this.' I don't remember exactly what it was, but I do remember he'd come and he'd whisper something to me in my ear and it was always a great note; he always has great, great ideas.
How did being in Europe change your performance?
Jessica Biel: It brought it all to life, it just was part of it; everything was alive. When you step out of your trailer, and the carriages are everywhere, and all the extras are dressed up, and you look around and you are transported back to 1900, Vienna. I mean it was just amazing, it just became real; it didn't feel silly, it didn't feel fake. I just felt like I was a Duchess walking down the cobble streets stones just on my way to whatever it was I was doing that day. It would have been different if we had been in a sound stage, it would have felt false; there was such a feeling of authenticity. It was sticky and filled with the smells and visuals and sights and sounds and it was incredible; that was the only way I think we could have done this film.
You can catch Jessica, Ed Norton, and Paul Giamatti in The Illusionist when it appears in theaters August 18th; it's rated PG-13.