Set Visit: The Eye

It was a Saturday afternoon in downtown Los Angeles . After a short trip on the metro, I walked along the not so crowded streets (you should see it during the week). High above are the towering buildings that watch over the drunken, the lost and the journalists on their way to a set visit for a Jessica Alba flick. And not just your average Jessica Alba flick, one that is a remake of a Chinese horror film about what happens when a blind woman gets an eye transplant and creepiness ensues… it is fittingly titled, THE EYE.

As I found my destination, the sun peaked out behind a few scattered clouds. It is there that I walked into The Standard Hotel. But there was nothing standard about it. It has an art deco feel almost like an Argento nightmare with shades of David Lynch and a soundtrack filled with Coldplay. This was where it was going to happen; I was about to get a few words with the lovely Jessica Alba, along with a few other journalists. I strolled through a long hallway and pushed the call button for the elevator. When it arrived, it took me to a familiar site. On the roof was a beautiful pool with a few waterbed gazebo’s and these long and comfortable couches with tables set up alongside. Looking around, one of the other dudes made the realization that we were standing in the same place where they shot the final sequence in CRANK. Well you can imagine how that made us all feel, the excitement of standing exactly where Jason S kicked some bad guy ass.

Soon after that realization, the reason why we were there arrived. First, we spoke to Jessica’s leading man, Alessandro Nivola who “wasn’t even supposed to be here today”, yet he came to chat it up and he seemed like a pretty cool guy. His view of the film and his directors was very hopeful and he was positive that this was going to be one of the better remakes. Wait and see folks, after all, it could be better than a GRUDGE 3. Then again…we shall see. But he was a really positive dude and I appreciated the time he took to speak to us. And he dug the waterbed gazebos.

After that, directing team David Moreau and Xavier Palud joined the lovely Jessica Alba for a little chat. It was there we talked about Jessica’s wonderful skills as a violinist and the “good cop/bad cop” strategy of two directors for the price of one. And one thing that struck me about Ms. Alba is that the many times the films “actor wranglers” (it’s what I like to call them) would come and tell her they needed her back on set, she would calmly say, “a couple more questions”, and gave us as much time as she possibly could. Not only is she beautiful, she is sweet, willing to share her food and gave as much time to talk as she possibly could. What a classy dame.

After the chatter, we were all lead onto a street just outside the hotel where they were filming a scene with Jessica getting out of a cab. Yes, you may think that to be not very exciting, but hold your breath.  Are you ready? They had a rain machine. Yes, I am serious. You see, it makes it look like it's raining. They are not shitting you at the Universal Studios tour when they say they can make rain. Not only did they have rain but they had picture cars (which, if you took the above mentioned tour, you would know what that is) and they had extras (not Ricky Gervais though). We were watching alongside some passerby’s who were getting a glimpse of movie magic. And sadly, when the rain started to pour, I was so excited to get rained on by Hollywood rain, but the PA didn’t want us to be in that area because that would mean she would have to get wet too. See, she had to keep the wolves at bay… tough job.

But in the end, I got to hang on the groovy rooftop that CRANK made famous and I got to talk to Jessica Alba. I also got to meet the directors behind THEM (ILS in French), which has a whole lotta great word of mouth. I’m looking forward to checking it out and The Arrow had some great things to say about it. Now the question is, can they make this fresh and not a stale and unnecessary remake? Alexandre Aja made THE HILLS HAVE EYE’S work in my opinion, so it is possible. And frankly, I’m sure many of you would have no problems watching Jessica Alba get out of a taxi cab.

Jessica Alba

Alessandro was saying how the style of you guys shooting is very conducive to working with both of you together. How do you guys work together, and how is it working with Jessica and Alessandro together?

David Moreau:  Working with Jessica was a nightmare, but hopefully she’s not here. [Laughter] Working with Xavier is great.  We basically do everything together. It’s not about… it’s about pre-production everything together.  And when we are on the set, maybe there is one who speaks more than the other.  It is pretty similar to working with one director.

Jessica Alba:  They’re excellent.  They really compliment each other. They’re like a great married couple - the ideal marriage.  They really are each other’s ying and yang.

Does that make it feel like good cop/bad cop, or like mom and dad?

DM:  I think good cop/bad cop, but I won’t say who is [the] good cop.  Or mom and dad, no, I would say more good cop/bad cop – oh, everything I think. 

JA:  [to David] But you guys have the same vision, right?

DM:  No.  [Laughter]

JA:  No?

DM:  We are just about a ping-pong, you know.  When you are alone facing your own doubts, there is just you and the left and right part of your brain.  When you are two [people], you are exposed more and say, “Oh, we should do that,” and then the other one is like, “Oh, I don’t know.”  It’s just about emulating.

Xavier Palud:  [You need] to be concentrating on the story. 

DV:  Maybe it is good for another movie, but not for this one.  We follow the same light. 

Jessica, what was your chose for going to the thriller. [It’s] something we haven’t really seen you get involved in.

JA: I wanted to do it for a long time.  I wanted to do something that transcended the genre.  “Fantastic Four” is a big Hollywood comic book movie but what attracted me to it is that the female superhero was more a maternal character in a family dynamic and that to me was more interesting than just a girl in leather who’s sexy cutting people heads off.  So purposefully went to doing a comic book movie that to me sort of goes into being a family movie as well.  And in this I think it’s really intelligent and it’s a beautiful story of this girl’s journey about gaining her sight and dealing with it.  Never having it, gaining it, and losing her sanity.  And it just happens to be wrapped up in a horror movie.  I just think that is so much more interesting than just running around in a white t-shirt or something.

DM:  [Jessica in a white t-shirt] sounds kind of interesting. [Laughter]

JA:  I totally appreciate that stuff, I do, but it’s a lot more interesting for me to play someone who is blind and a classical violin player than, you know.  

DM:  Than running around the streets with a t-shirt.

JA:  Yeah, with a t-shirt.

What was it like learning the violin?

JA:  It’s impossible!

DM:  Don’t say that!

JA:  It’s bullshit!  It’s absolutely impossible.  And [the director] picks really difficult music so the music I am learning is the music people play in university after they’ve been playing since they were five.  So they play their entire life, go to university, and then they play Mozart.  No!  That’s what I’m doing now.  Three months learning how to even hold the instrument.  I haven’t memorized all the…

DM:  All the notes are accurate.

JA:  All the notes are accurate.  I am playing the actual notes of the music.  It just sounds like a cat in heat.  Whaa Rrraaa Rhe  [Laughter]

How many hours a day you rehearsing for that?

JA:  Average, an hour and a half when I can.  Three hours yesterday.  Fifteen minutes during my lunch because I’ve been working 16 hour days and I really only have 15 minutes to study this wonderful piece that he chose to be in the movie.  It’s very difficult.  It takes a lot of dedication and hard work but that’s why we’re in this crazy ass business because we get to do silly things and pick up an instrument that I would never in a million years pick up.  I have a great appreciation for it and I want to represent musicians and people who are blind in the best way I can.  I don’t take it lightly.  It’s a nice challenge to have I have to say.

Can you describe what we are going to see today?

DM:  We are shooting the beginning of the movie where we see [her character] for the first time and she’s getting out of the cab under the rain.

JA:  Can you please tell them, no we won’t tell them how difficult it was.

DM:  She is blind.

JA:  I have my violin strapped to me, my purse, a cane and an umbrella – and it’s torrential downpour.  And I’m like, how the hell am I suppose to get out of the taxi?  So I have someone pushing out, that you can’t see.  Yeah, it was not a cute thing.  For a few hours I was soaked, but it’s going to look great.

How challenging was it to play someone who was blind?

JA:  It was very [challenging].  It was weird, [the idea] of losing your sight is very daunting so I would walk around my house and I walked with a cane and sleep shades on in complete darkness.  You get really claustrophobic.  Even just drinking water and anything, it just feels very claustrophobic.  There have been a few little panic attacks and nightmares about being blind.  It’s a really different reality.  It’s a really very different reality to live.  Now I look for Braille everywhere.  There are no menus in Braille.

So if someone is not sighted and they go to restaurant, they just have to trust whoever is reading the menu to them.  There are just things that I never would even think about.  You know on soda at McDonald’s they have a little bit of Braille on the lid, that I really wasn’t aware of.  It’s definitely interesting.  But people who are blind can function in the world just like everyone else.  I always thought it was always such a handicap that you couldn’t really do what everyone else does, and they do everything.  This woman that we met in New Mexico, who they found, she’s 25 years old.  She’s a classical musician, she’s a singer and she’s a vocalist.  She lived in London for two years.  She lives in Boston now.  She travels by herself all the time.  She doesn’t need anybody to get around.  And, she competes with people who are sighted for concerts.  She’s really inspiring, and she’s kind of my inspiration for the movie, for sure. 

Alessandro Nivola

Can you kind of talk about what ‘The Eye” is, and how you got involved [in the movie], and working with Jessica?

It’s a thriller about a girl who has been blind most of her life, gets a cornea transplant, and has real trouble making the adjustment into the seeing world and starts hallucinating. I play a neuro psychologist that she goes to see to ease her transition. He is initially fascinated by her disorder and then starts to fall for her a bit, and he ends up jeopardizing his career to try to help her track down who the donor was.  He drives her down to Mexico where all hell breaks loose.

[The movie] was just something that came along. I had just finished a movie at the end of last year in New York .  I came and met the two directors.  [They are] two French boys about my age and they had done this one film in France that was called, “Them”.  I was really impressed with the movie they had done.  It was also a thriller and they had a very, almost old-fashion style about it.  Nowadays everything is chopped up so much, you know every two seconds there is an edit, and they had this sort of confidence to hold these shots for much longer and created a reality in the world of the film that I feel is crucial to the fear factor in these kind of movies.

Because if you are able to disassociate too easily with the world of the film it becomes hard to imagine yourself in those type of circumstances.  The more real the world is, I think the more scary it is.  And they had a real knack for that.  And also, their film was about a couple, a man and a wife, who get terrorized by young people in Bucharest.  There was something really believable between the couple.  In the first 20 minutes they had established a rapport between them that was believable and so then everything that unfolded from there was formed by their real relationship.  That was important in this [movie] because my character is not involved so much in the horror element of the story, so it was really important that my scenes with Jessica play out in a specific and believable way.  It seemed like they were the boys for the job, and that was that.  And, two months in Albuquerque, which I’m glad are over.

How is it working with two directors at once? Had you done that before?

I never have.  It’s all the rage.  [Laughter]  I’m sure I’m never going to with [just] one director ever again.  I didn’t know how that was going to work.  I kept asking them but they couldn’t seem to explain it but once we started working it was obvious how it worked with these two anyway.  David is a very extroverted, sort of charismatic persuasive guy who despite his broken English has an easy time talking to the actors, and to corral everybody on the set.  He’s very dynamic that way.  Xavier is much shyer and quieter and more visual.  There was a sort of ying and yang to their dynamic together.  They didn’t seem to argue much.  The only time I heard them argue was when we had been filming nights all week and Xavier was afraid to have David drive him home because he had nearly crashed the car the night before.  So other than that it seemed to go very smoothly.

Is there a different style each of them shoot in, rather than like one will shoot the real hard stuff?

No.  They both seem to be on the set the whole time.  They would kind of whisper to each other between takes and confer about their thoughts.  I spent a lot of time with them because there isn’t a lot to do in Albuquerque, so we’d hang around their house most days with our laptops open on the piano trying to find the lyrics to all these songs that we butchered.  I got the sense that they’d spent a lot of time together.  They had grown up together for quite a few years.  They had very similar taste in movies.  When we watched things together they both tended to point out the same kinds of visual things that they liked.  Obviously, they have an easy language and rapport together.  I don’t know why [having two directors on one movie] is happening so much.  I guess it’s such a hard job that once you realize you can do it with somebody else that you might as well go ahead; although apparently they’re sharing the fee. 

Over the last few years we’ve had “The Ring” and “The Grudge” and all these other movies that have come here and done very well.  Do you think this is the next step in that continuation or is it completely different?

The challenge anytime you’re making a movie and trying to test the genre is to bring something that feels different to that.  I think, from what I can tell [is that] they’ve set out to make a movie that has some kind of feeling of reality.  Increasingly, the horror movies that I’ve seen just dispense with any kind of attempt to create a reality in the world of film, and it’s just one kind of ghoulish moment after another.  I think this was a perfect movie for Jessica to do also because she has ambitions to be taken really seriously as an actress and she hasn’t had the opportunity until now to do a role that enabled her to play a real character, and to behave in ways that didn’t involve action and comic book heroes and all that kind of thing.

What is it about Jessica and this movie that is going to [help her career]?

I think the nice thing for her is that she is very unadorned.  She’s not caked in makeup.  She has a very real look and she’s a very beautiful girl that comes across very natural.  There is a feel about the movie that is very understated.  I think that she’s able to talk and behave like a real person and she does it in a really classy way, a very quiet and understated way so I feel like it’s going to be important for her in that way.  And they’ve populated the film with really good actors.

Do you have any “Laurel Canyon” style love scenes in the film?

Sadly not.  I’m doing a movie with Jessica Alba and there’s no naked scene in the pool.

"THE EYE" is slated for release on
October 12th, 2007

Source: JoBlo.com



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