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INT: Sin City...2/2

Mar. 31, 2005by: JoBlo

Press Conference #2:
Jessica Alba, Robert Rodriguez, Benicio Del Toro

CLICK HERE to read Press Conference #1 featuring Robert Rodriguez, Clive Owen, Rosario Dawson & Brittany Murphy

I’ve been a Jessica Alba fan ever since she played Max in Jim Cameron’s short-lived series "Dark Angel". The TV show was pretty crappy, but Alba stood out as a genetically enhanced teen in post-apocalypse Seattle. With a trio of high-profile film projects coming out – SIN CITY (read JoBlo's review of the film HERE) , INTO THE BLUE and FANTASTIC FOUR – she looks poised for a breakthrough. In SIN CITY she plays Nancy, a character who in the original Frank Miller comic is completely naked the entire time. Sadly, Alba chose to play the character in a G-rated fashion, with all the naughty parts covered. Damn.

The second press conference at the SIN CITY press day featured Alba, Benicio Del Toro and (again) Robert Rodriguez. Del Toro was classic – he looked like he hadn’t slept in a week and was at times incomprehensible. The guy is my hero. Here are some excerpts. SIN CITY hits theaters on Friday.

Jessica, what attracted you to the character?

Alba: I wanted to do this movie because Robert Rodriguez was directing it, first and foremost. I didn’t really know it was a comic book when I read the sides, when I saw that he was directing something. I just tell my agent every month, “What is Robert doing? I want to do something with him.” And Lee, one of my agents, has a really (good relationship) with Robert and said, “You got an opportunity.” And I was like, “Excellent.” So I took that opportunity and ran with it. I auditioned the old fashioned way, went in for the casting director, put myself on tape and he had to approve.

And it was like a week of “Does he think I suck? I just don’t want him to think I suck. I don’t care if I get the role. I just don’t want Robert to think I suck.” And I he didn’t think I sucked and he came down and I read with him and I looked at the, by that time, I looked at the graphic novel and all the pictures. I then found out she was a stripper and was bottomless and topless, and nudity was an option. We could have done it if we wanted to, I just felt too…it absolutely was an option. Robert said that we could do it if we wanted to and obviously it would have been more authentic. I just felt like dancing around with a lasso and chaps was gonna be sexy enough, I think being nude, for me, would have been distracting and I really couldn’t be bottomless for my dad. He would really…I don’t know, he would disown me and freak out.

Rodriguez: We retained the sexiness of it and people, like in the comics, the world in the comics, they just think Nancy is the sexiest person in the world and you did that. And that’s all we needed.

Jessica, Bruce Willis’s character is kind of a father figure to you. Did you think it was weird how the two of you became involved?

Alba: Nancy doesn’t think of him as a father, she thinks of him as her knight in shining armor. I just came at it from that point…she just waited till she was old enough to be with him and have that relationship completely. I think she always looked to him as her soul mate from the beginning. She’s kind of an old soul from when she’s a little child, talking to him and reasoning with him, saying that she’s trying everything and she’s going to write him and so, I didn’t think it was creepy at all.

Rodriguez: Yeah, it’s a great love story cause he doesn’t realize she’s grown all those ages, she’s like the only person there for him while he’s in prison and he comes out. Frank got the idea cause he was at his mother’s house and there’s this beautiful woman walks in, and there’s the kitchen, and he’s looking at this woman, he’s like, “Oh my god,” then she turns around and says “Hi, Uncle Frank!” And he’s like “Oh my god. My little niece as grown up. I feel like such a heel for looking at her.” (laughs) But she’d become a woman right before his eyes; he hadn’t seen her in years and that’s where he got the idea. And I had some of that when I first met you, you came and read for The Faculty, you were like 16, she was kinda dorky, really kinda thin. And I was like, “She’s so cute.” And I was really looking at her cause she was an Alba and there were very few Latin actresses, and I was really watching her from then on hoping that she would still be around for another movie. And then, now she’s like, it’s almost like that feeling. I remember when she was just a little girl, and now she’s like, oh my god.

Benicio, how did you become involved with the project? And what was it like to work with Tarantino?

Del Toro: I was approached by Robert. I think we met at the Vanity Fair thing –

Rodriguez:  Yeah, it was an Oscar party.

Del Toro:  And he said something really strange, he said to me, “Don’t cut your hair.” Cause my hair was pretty long, he goes, “Don’t cut your hair.” I go, “Ok.” Then I met him here at the Four Season and he showed me…he had done a trailer of the opening sequence of the movie and it just looked amazing.

Rodriguez:  Were you familiar with the books?

Del Toro: I wasn’t familiar with the books, no. I was familiar with Frank’s work in Batman and stuff. Since then, I just…my preparation was really talking to the Wizard about…he got that nickname, I gave him that nickname.

Rodriguez: He walked in and he’s like, “The Wizard.”

Del Toro: We just walked in and everything was green and I had seen how it looked already cause he had shown me the beginning of the movie, the opening sequence. It was like being in the office of the Wizard of Oz.

Rodriguez: He worked on it—it was interesting to watch his process. He worked on it with the book, he got the makeup. He showed up on the set and we had three jacket choices for him. That was part of getting into the characters, just putting on the costume and he wanted to look as much like the character as possible. Everybody did cause they were really playing a character and they could cut loose and we did one test of him, he put on his jacket, the one he liked, and we put him in front of the camera. This is the test on the green, and right away – I’ve got the footage, I’m going to put it on the DVD, cause he walks out and turns around and is like…he was already in the character. He just walked out and I was like, “It’s him.” His eyes were doing this really spooky thing and Frank was getting creeped out. We hired Benicio, but somehow we got Jackie Boy. It’s the best thing in the world to see an actor transform and within a day.  Because we shoot very fast.

Del Toro: Yeah, the Wizard goes really fast. He makes it easy and cheap.

Rodriguez: That’s the Latin way. Faster, cheaper, better. He’d come in and he’s got half a day to find that character. He did pre-work, he showed up, put on the costume, and he’s doing it.

Del Toro: You know what happened – you trust. You just trust and you throw yourself in it.

Rodriguez:  You’ve gotta go with your gut.

Del Toro: It becomes a rehearsal that becomes glorified in a way.

And what about the sequence where you’ve got the gun barrel in your head and you’re in the car?

Del Toro: That’s when Quentin came in and what do you call it, the guest director?

Rodriguez: Special guest director! I was like, “Hey, we got a special guest director today.” It was strange, but you guys flowed with it. You’d think it’d be weird, with suddenly a new director coming in, but the sequences were all kind of stand alone. They were all prepared for anything. And they loved it.

Del Toro: We sat down and we talked about it. Is it a voice over? Is the character going to really talk? And Quentin said, “Well if you talk like this, we lose the voice, come back down, get the voice.” And it was all done there on the spot.

Rodriguez: The coolest thing is I kept the camera rolling so I’ve got a lot of that footage. There’s one sixteen -minute take where just kept rolling from the position of the real camera, not like behind the scenes, the real camera. So you are just like, you get to see all process. You actually get to see Quentin come into frame and give y’all direction. You guys were just going off. 

Del Toro: It was like organized chaos.  It was like this – people all talking at the same time…

Rodriguez:  All over the place. It was just great.  People are going to learn a lot from seeing that. I’m going to put that on the DVD. An uninterrupted 16 minutes and you see pieces that we used and you see a lot in between with Quentin coming in and being like, “No, I think we should do it like this.” Effects guys coming in and fixing your neck.

Del Toro: We had a great group of effects guys.

Rodriguez: It was great to see you guys be that creative on the spot cause we’re not cutting, we’re still rolling. You hear the AD going, “You’re still rolling,” and the sound guy going, “Uh, we need to change the battery.” While we were still rolling, you guys were being so creative.

Del Toro: The clock was ticking the whole time. You could hear it.

What was it like working with the green screen?

Del Toro: For me, it was intimidating when I walked in and everything was green, I thought I’d puked. But then after that it was just…it reminded me of theater.  I trained as a theater actor and you had a bare stage and you had to pretend-

Rodriguez: One prop.

Del Toro:  One prop and you are in the middle of 8th Ave. and traffic is just going by. So it reminded me a little bit of that and that made it fun, going back to basics in some ways for me.

Alba: That’s exactly… I’m not very experienced in theater. The only training I really had was David Mamet’s theater company, the Atlantic Theater company. And that’s all I did was go on these little stages and imagine things, but they were in small rooms, but you still had to shout and project your voice, and everything was little bit bigger. With Robert, it gets very specific. He fine tunes your performance. So it's kind of a marriage of film and theater, I felt.

Robert – working from a comic, were there some things that couldn’t be translated to film, things that you had to do differently?

Rodriguez: You’d do different things. Sometimes I’d ask Frank, “You completely jumped screen direction here.” And he’s like, “Oh, that’s the way you lay out the wording.” Judging where things lay, you have to lead the eye to tell the story that way, wherein editing and filmmaking, you have to almost go left from right and make sure when you cut, you don’t disorient the audience in any way. You can do that in comics; you can’t do that in movies. It was just some adapting that took place.

And that’s kinda why we shot on green screen cause we could then put in a background and strip it down to its bare essentials so that you are always focusing on the actor or the character or whatever it is you really wanted to draw attention to and not have this over stimulus that happens when you shoot on a real set.  Shot against a green screen, I could pick and choose which faces we’re gonna see, how much of anything we’re gonna see, and you can do close-ups ideally on everything in the way its composed and that’s the beauty of Frank’s work and what I wanted to do with the cinema. So it became very specific. Sometimes, you felt like you were in a theater stage then I would come in and be like, “Well you kind of have to do this because of the way we are laying it out.” It became very specific, down to like an eye blink or something.

Jessica and Benicio, how did it affect your process as actors to take direction from both Frank Miller and Robert?

Del Toro: One at a time. That’s it basically. I mean, I think that...I’m kinda like, I tend to like put a face with the director. I for the most part, I turn to the Wizard, cause he hired me. But I did have conversations with Frank, and Frank did have input on stuff, a lot of stuff.

What kind of stuff?

Rodriguez: Just knows so much about the characters.

Alba: The character, the backstory.

Del Toro: Also like, “Hey you know maybe you should have a cigarette here, because we’re doing, we already, you know we’re doing the scene where my head goes in the toilet with the cigarette on,” and “Ok, so I’ll pull out the cigarette here, on this moment here.” You know, stuff like that. And from that to the background of the character. So, that was no problem whatsoever.

Alba: It was very self-indulgent I think, because we just kind of got to talk each director’s ear off about our characters, and we kind of really like talking about characters we play and ourselves, cause we’re all kind of narcissistic.

Rodriguez: There were some things that I could to answer, and some things I knew that, “Oh, we gotta go to Frank for that. I don’t know the answer to that, let’s go find out, I want to know. Hey Frank, how come you did this?”

Rodriguez: I told to Frank, cause sometimes being a good director is just being a good audience. You don’t really have to go in and tell them all the time, “Do this do that do this do that.” Sometimes you just want to create that environment where they feel safe enough to do things that they're gonna suprise you. We had such terrific actors, unless we had something really specific we wanted or needed, it was really just seeing them bring it to life. Having material…the material is very self-evident, they're just bringing it to life, and that's what you want to see. You don't really want to get it the way of that. So you don't want to have to direct, necessarily, if you don't need to.

Robert, how do you choose what you want to direct when you pick a project?

Rodriguez: It just depends on how it grabs you. It's got to be something that excites you. that's why I pursued Frank just like a wild dog, trying to find him so we could do this movie. Cause once I got in my head that this it was possible and I did a test and I saw what it was looking like, I knew I wouldn't get this excited about another project for a long time. I had to hunt him down and find him and convince him somehow that we were gonna do this movie, cause I could already see it and I wanted to do it, really bad. So, I just felt right. That’s why nothing would get in my way. And then the DGA goes, “Oh you can't do the movie like that.” And I’m like, “Well, I'm leaving.” I can’t stop now, this is like a train that's rolling and everyone jump aboard cause it's just too new, it's too right. And it feels like that way for everything.

The Spy Kids movies as well. I just felt it was a way to do something about my family in a way that was entertaining, by just making them spies.  It’s my family as spies basically. And this new movie that I'm doing my little kid came up with, my seven year old. The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl. We're playing in the swimming pool and I'm playing shark and he said, “Hey you're shark dad, I'm shark boy. Hey let's make a movie about the shark boy.  I'll be the shark boy.” I said, “Yeah yeah, whatever.” So we're drawing it out and it became this movie, and I got really excited about that; getting to work with my family on a movie for other families. And so I thought, “This is something that I can wake up in the morning and work on, put all our imagination into.” So, really the ideas; the bad ideas and the ideas you don't get excited about fall away, and the ones that come forward are the ones that get your blood pumping; that get your heart pumping. And the ones you can't sleep until you do ‘em, those are the ones that keep me up all night; keep me working.

Jessica, can you talk a little bit about that other comic book film you’re making, The Fantastic Four?

Alba: Fantastic Four couldn't be more different. Fantastic Four is a family movie. I play a scientist who has a problem expressing her emotions, and her DNA was altered and when she does express her emotions she goes invisible. So when she's screaming she goes invisible, when she's having a melt-down she goes invisible, and she's completely frustrated. And the man that she's in love with ignores her and she goes invisible. So it's very frustrating. It's very big and it's a huge movie for Fox and there's a lot of pressure that it does well. So, it really couldn't be more different.

And what about Into the Blue?

Alba: I did that a long time ago. Jim Cameron has been sort of kind of talking about maybe doing a comic book that involves scuba diving. It's sort of like this girl under water. I had been talking to him about possibly doing something like that, and this movie came up and I hadn't scuba dived in seven months, and they were going to give me a decent paycheck to scuba dive in the Bahamas for five months, and I was like, “Cool.” That's honestly why I did that.

Robert, can you talk about what will be on the DVD?

Rodriguez: We shot the full stories of the books, and I knew we could truncate it down, knowing that we weren't going to lose any scenes; eventually they would all be available for people to see. So the DVD will come out with the theatrical cut, and then there'll be a separate disc that's got the individual episodes separated with their own title card, and you can just watch The Big Fat Kill from beginning to end, the full cut. That's a single story. Then switch over and watch The Yellow Bastard and that's forty five minutes. It'll have all the material back in. So it'll be like the experience of picking up the book, where you pick up one story and you read it from beginning to end. And it'll have all the material in it. You can have, you know, shuffle your own version of the movie and just watch them all separately.

It's not going to feel like, when you watch the separate disc with these materials back in, like, “Oh, I can see why that was cut.” It's a really terrific themed action scene. A lot of the stuff that people will find…I think it's going to be somewhat revolutionary to see those kind of scenes that were cut out, be put back in another format because they seem perfectly fine and they work, they just needed to be taken out for the long haul of the feature. I think it really gives another life and another experience, more akin to reading the books by doing that. That's what makes it easy for us to say, “Let's just shoot everything with a variety of effects, and then if we edit stuff out, we're not really cutting it out and people are never going to see it, they'll be able to see it in a purer form, in a different format.”

And then I'm gonna add on another…it'll be a twenty minute film school, probably for this one, cause there's so many things that - and I want another ten minute cooking school to be “Sin City Breakfast Tacos,” which I'll make a home-made flour tortilla, and it's the best meal you can probably ever learn, so yeah.

Questions? Comments? Manifestos? Send them to me at thomasleupp@joblo.com.

Source: JoBlo.com

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