Jessica Alba and George Lopez star in Cal Brunker’s hilarious animated space adventure, Escape from Planet Earth, about what happens when aliens respond to a distress signal from the Dark Planet. Alba voices Lena, the beautiful, intelligent but extremely duplicitous chief of BASA’s mission control. Lopez plays Thurman, a three-eyed, four-armed slug-like alien who leaves a trail of goo wherever he goes. Opening February 15th, the film also features the voices of Brendan Fraser, Rob Corddry, William Shatner, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jane Lynch, Sofia Vergara, Craig Robinson, Ricky Gervais, Jonathan Morgan Heit, Steve Zahn and Chris Parnell.
At our recent roundtable interview, Alba and Lopez talked about their characters and what drew them to the project. Lopez described how Harvey Weinstein tracked him down in Las Vegas to play the part and was instrumental in putting together the terrific cast. Alba explained why she loved playing a villain in her first animated feature, how she found the recording process and enjoyed playing over the top and crazy, what she thought of the script’s strong female characters, and how being a mom has affected the roles she takes. She also discussed the Honest Company and her new book. Hit the jump to read on.
Jessica Alba: Sure. Why not? It’s still something that my kids can enjoy.
Is playing a villain more fun?
Alba: Yes, because I got to be crazy. They definitely edited me down.
How were you approached to do the voice for this? Did Harvey Weinstein call you?
Alba: I don’t remember. I think they just sent me the script and I thought it was great. I really liked the idea of playing a villain because I’ve never played one.
George Lopez: If you look at who’s in this cast, I think Harvey has a way of putting together anybody that Harvey wants to have in the movie. I was in Las Vegas. I replaced somebody. Jessica was in from the beginning. So I had the luxury of seeing the movie almost already done. I was in Las Vegas and the phone rang and it was Harvey. Nobody knew I was in Las Vegas. He said, “I want you to do this part and I won’t take no for an answer. You start Tuesday.” I was like, “Can I see the script?” “We’ll send it over.” And then, the minute he hung up, I got an email. Harvey is just a force that you go, “Oh, okay.”
When you look at who is in this movie, I mean, I’ve done a lot of animated movies, but this is a very, very powerful cast and they all are very unique. It’s Jessica’s first animated movie. She’s great in the movie, and it is a really good part to play, a villain like that. Jane (Lynch), Craig (Robinson) and I are really kind of goofy together. Jane has one eye. I have her other eye. And then I have four arms and she doesn’t have any. There are so many different aspects, like that aspect of their fighting and then ours trying to get away. It all works in the movie. The fact that they’re blue is a good color, and then they’re aliens, but they’re friendly so it’s easy for kids to watch. They’re not going to be afraid.
Did they show you the drawing of your character before you did it?
Jessica, this was your first animated feature. Were you nervous going in and did you try to create a voice or was it pretty much just you? How did you find that process?
Alba: I had no idea how far to push it. Then I think by the third session I got a lot more comfortable with the idea of just hearing my own voice against nothing, because there was no animation or anything. I was just saying random things. And then, I liked being pretty animated and over the top and crazy. That was fun. It was actually kind of liberating.
George, how different was this from Beverly Hills Chihuahua and when you were a Grouchy Smurf?
Lopez: Being a Smurf to me is like if you were in the Mafia you’d be made. The Smurfs are known all over the world. There’s only six that get through the porthole. I’m not like Handy Smurf back in Smurfland waiting for the other ones to come back. I made it through the hole, so if I can make it through the portal, I’ll be alright.
Was the process the same or different? Did you record with other people?
Lopez: It really is almost the same. For Jessica’s first animated movie to start from, like she said, just saying random things into a microphone, I learned the first time that way and there really is a little bit when you leave of, “I don’t know if I…?” And then when you see it, I don’t even remember that. It’s hard to connect everything together, but it is the hardest way to start. If you start like that, then everything else is easy. This one, for me, I went and it was already done, so I was more freaked out by the way that my character slimed around.
Jessica, when you read the script, what did you think of the strong female characters?
Alba: More and more I’ve seen that women are being portrayed like that, especially when it comes to entertainment that’s geared towards young people. The women are much stronger than they used to be. They’re not really the damsels in distress anymore. I think the stereotype could still possibly live for different types of genre pictures, but certainly when it appeals to the younger generation, they’re used to women being equal and strong. And so, I think if you don’t portray that, it would be kind of weird.
Do either of you believe in life on other planets?
Lopez: We’ve done a lot of exploration in space. I would have to say that I hope that there is because I think it would be exciting. There’s a lot going on out there. Clearly, I don’t think there’s any on the sun, but they’ve found water on some of the other planets. If there’s water somewhere, there could be life.
Alba: I think it would be weird to say that we know for sure there is absolutely none in any other universe, but I’m not sitting here waiting to be abducted by aliens.
Would you buy tickets for Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic? Would it intrigue you to go into space?
Lopez: I fly Virgin America quite a bit. That’s a good airline. It it’s like that, or Virgin Atlantic, there’s no question I would go.
Alba: It would be a very luxurious trip to space.
Lopez: They do it right.
Alba: They do. He’s an awesome entrepreneur.
Jessica, how has being a mom affected the roles that you take? Has it changed your work in any way?
Alba: Well I used to work 11-1/2 months a year on location and now I don’t. I started a company about a year ago. I have an office in Santa Monica and we have about 80 employees. It’s an e-commerce business of family brands. That’s something I started because I was inspired by my children. And then, the roles that I take, certainly I bring them with me, but I don’t do as much. I’m much pickier about the roles that I accept.
Alba: 880. It’s called the Honest Company. We do different detergents for the house. It’s household cleaning products, personal care products and diapers and wipes, all non-toxic.
You’re a major employer then?
Alba: Yes, and almost 90 percent of our products are made in the U.S. so I’m really proud of it.
You’ve been doing it for a year now?
Alba: Yes. We launched a year ago and I have a book, The Honest Life, coming out in March.
Have your daughters seen this movie yet?
Alba: My older one has.
What did she think of it?
Alba: She’s really into it. She really liked it. At the premiere, they gave away these little tattoos of the different characters and she put Sarah Jessica Parker’s character’s tattoo on, and she was like, “This is a good one, mommy.”
Alba: It’s weird. To her, Mommy going to work is her sitting in a trailer and me in Spy Kids or this movie, or it’s me at my office at the Honest Company and she’s playing in the kids’ corner and running around and running amuck and bothering everyone and throwing paper airplanes at their desks, but they love it. She thinks that’s all my job. She doesn’t know the difference.
Would you do this again based on the experience you had this time?
Alba: Oh totally. It was so much fun, of course.
Lopez: It really is a great way to work because it’s at a more relaxed level and you don’t have to be there every day. You go in and you go in again a few months later. I’ve been fortunate enough to do a few of them. I really like to do them, especially this one, because it fell in my lap with such a great cast. I’ve known Jessica for a few years. It’s nice to be able to work together.