Now playing in theaters is the 3D animated feature, Escape from Planet Earth. The story centers on some aliens who get captured during a mission to Earth and are tossed into the secure holding site of Area 51, but they quickly find that they are not alone. Escape From Planet Earth features the voices of Rob Corddry, Brendan Fraser, Sarah Jessica Parker, William Shatner, Jessica Alba, Jane Lynch, Sofia Vergara, Craig Robinson, George Lopez, Steve Zahn, Chris Parnell, Ricky Gervais and Jonathan Morgan Heit.
During the recent Los Angeles press day, I landed an exclusive interview with Jessica Alba. We talked about making Escape From Planet Earth, the recording process, her experiences at this year’s Sundance (where she co-starred in the indie comedy, A.C.O.D.), Sin City 2 and how it compares to the first film, what else is coming up in 2013, and more. Hit the jump for what she had to say.
If you’d like to listen to the audio, click here. Otherwise the full transcript is below.
Jessica Alba: My agent sent me the script and I was like, “Cool.”
[Laughs] because sometimes a director will contact people directly, you know, they’ll reach out and call you on the phone.
Alba: Yes, that’s usually, well I’m not going to say it’s usually, but I feel like that’s more like if you have a relationship with the director I feel like usually, but I never met the directors, who also wrote it, prior this. I’ve always wanted to do an animated film and the opportunity came up for me to do it and I got to play a villain which is so fun. Then to be able to do a project my kid could actually enjoy, you’re like “Yes, for sure.” And I thought the script was really sweet and the moral of the story was great and so age appropriate for my kiddos. My little ones a little too young to sit through anything, but when she’s old enough there’s nothing scary.
I’ve hear that from a lot of actors that now have families that all the sudden you’re looking at the roles you want to take a little bit differently.
Alba: Usually take roles based off of location and time commitment more than anything. I’m not trying to do stuff for my kids necessarily all the time, but when you get the odd opportunity to do something for them that they could enjoy its cool.
With animation often the script you got at the beginning was possibly nothing like what I saw on screen yesterday.
Talk a little bit about how things changed along the way in terms of the process and what maybe surprised you about the recording process.
Alba: Well the bones of the script were there, they just sort of changed the words, the dialogue a bit but essentially it’s the same story. When I came on and I started recording it was just like black and white sketches and then they showed me the sketches that I guess were animated and they came to life, and then the third time I saw the coloring, the color-treatment on it, and then the last time I saw a couple of scenes that were edited together. So I kind of got to see the whole process over a year and half.
Many actors I’ve spoken to who’ve done voice recordings, because they’re in the booth and it’s very chill a lot of people dress down, but then everybody’s being recorded with cameras because they’re trying to make sure they get your face.
Alba: Yeah no they didn’t want to get our face [laughs] they didn’t capture our facial expressions on this one.
I’m curious though because there are sometimes a lot of cameras.
Alba: Yeah, there weren’t.
Alba: No, none at all.
So it was sweatpants and a t-shirt.
Alba: Yeah, but I don’t wear that anyway, but if I chose to I could totally wear that. No, it was weird to hear my voice because I don’t ever hear my voice I guess, and so to hear it play back loudly in my ears, I thought that was a little disconcerting because I’ve never really experienced that. So I was like, “Is that how I really sound? I’m probably getting fired. This is crazy, I should never do this. Why did I chose do this? This is a bad idea.” So I went through all of that and then I took the character- by the end she was so crazy, so loud and nuts, then deep and dark, I basically did just everything and somehow they edited it and put it together and assembled something that was somewhat watchable. Thank god, for me.
I ask this of every actor I get to interview, and I’ve never spoken to you before, some actors like the two-take method of Clint Eastwood and some love the David Fincher method of fifty takes. I’m curious what you like to do when you’re filming live action.
Alba: I like maybe both. I think sometimes if you are doing something where you can’t do more than a couple of takes and you do nail it in one or two then move on. Then sometimes when you really need to get to a place, an emotional place, whether its anger, or sad, or a combination, or whatever it is, it’s nice to have the time to experiment and get there because you don’t always wake up at six in the morning and feel like killing people and screaming your head off. It’s like, “Tuesday morning, coffee, now I’m a sociopathic killer.” Sometimes it takes like five or six takes to get there.
Alba: Oh cool.
You have a small but important role in that film, have you seen it yet?
Alba: Yeah, I was there.
I was in one of the other screenings, not at Eccles.
Alba: Oh, OK, yeah.
Did you enjoy being at Sundance and premiering there?
Alba: Yeah, it was great. It’s such a supportive environment and premiering in a big city like L.A. or New York I think more often than not people kind of want to walk in and be like, “That movie wasn’t that good.” It’s like they like to cut it down or they don’t want to be the first to say they liked it. At Sundance they love film, they appreciate the process, they’re so supportive of how hard it is to even get a film made and everyone there, they’re really there for their passion for film. So the audience I think and the vibe is very supportive. People go in wanting to like it and wanting it to be good, so that’s so nice. Especially for the director and the writer, it was two- the director wrote it and then his partner. To have such a supportive environment to premiere your film is so cool.
I agree with you 100% because the kids in L.A. or New York are very much too cool for school, it’s like seeing a rock show in either city, everyone is very timid, but if you are at anywhere else in the country they are jumping up and down.
Alba: Right? I think it’s not only too cool for school, but it’s also like I think you’re so far removed from the process and what it takes and when you’re in those smaller environments you really get to hear the filmmakers story. It took them ten years to get this movie made, that’s a lot of dedication.
Alba: From having the idea and to have the actual product at the end of the day you have to be very passionate about it, so that’s not taken lightly at Sundance or other film festivals, whereas in L.A. or New York it’s like “Oh yeah, everybody wants to be famous.” It’s like a different energy, not always, but sometimes.
I’d say 95% of the time. I want to jump into something else; do you have a cot at Troublemaker Studios that has your name on it?
Alba: [Laughs] I probably should.
Or do you actually commute to and from?
Alba: Yeah I sort of take over when I go there I’m just like, “this spot on the carpet is mine”. No, it is my second home, I love it there and Robert [Rodriguez] has created such an incredible environment that anybody who walks in whether it’s your first time or you’ve been going back for almost nine years like me, it just always feels great and it feels very welcoming.
Sin City 2 is one of these projects that everyone talked about for years, that honestly I just lost faith that it was going to happen and then all of the sudden it did.
Alba: Out of nowhere right?
Alba: I think like you every six months to a year it was like “We’re going to do it, when’s the next one coming? Oh yeah, we’re going to do it. We’re going to do it. We’re going to do it.” And then at a certain point it was just like OK, I just didn’t believe it. It was like “We’re going to start in the summer, we’re going to start in the fall” but then when we actually got the start date and I was there on the set it was like a dream. I was like, “Am I really here? Are we really here? OK, just making sure.” And Jamie [Chung] filmed the day before me and I was like “Are we really doing this?” So yeah, it was surreal and I ran into Rosario [Dawson] and for all of us it’s really cool. I got to work with Bruce [Willis] and with Mickey [Rourke] and it’s probably one of the best times of my life working on the second. The first was like open the doors and this has been, certainly as an artist, the best experience.
What’s interesting is that everyone I’ve spoken to that’s been working on it has been telling me that its literally all green screen, that everyone is filming their stuff and then he’s going to put it all together in post.
Alba: That’s how the first on was.
It seems even more extreme on this one, but maybe I’m not hearing it right.
Alba: It’s exactly the same as the first one. I got to work with Mickey this time, which I didn’t work with him the first time, even though we were in scenes together, I did my scenes with Robert, so that was nice, to be able to work with Mickey because I’ve always been a huge fan of his.
Talk a little bit about what the process is like working for Robert when you’re on green screen like that. How much is he showing you the pre-vis or the art work to show you what it’s going to look like or is it a lot of imagination going on?
Alba: Well this is- mine is an original story so there wasn’t a lot to base it off of, but Frank [Miller] has been drawing. So it’s just crazy. It was neat to see their process, Robert and Frank’s, and their collaboration and what they inspire from each other and get out of each other and what they’re creating. It’s really like the 2.0 version of Sin City and it’s pretty amazing.
I’m going to run out of time with so I do want to ask you what you are thinking about for the rest of the year in terms of roles. Obviously we could talk about Machete Kills, or Machete Kills Again in Space, but I am curious what you’re thinking about for the future is there a certain role that you’re looking after or going for? What’s percolating?
Alba: A couple of things. I’m about to go on a book tour, I just wrote a book and its coming out in march so that’s the next thing that I’m thinking about and I have a company that I started about a year ago, so my company, you know, every day I’m the president. So that’s exciting and that’s something so completely different from what goes on in entertainment. I’m looking to do some completely different things more as a producer and creator as some things that I have percolating. We’ll see. I’m really looking forward to Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For to come out. It’s going to be rad.