Jes­sica Biel ramps up her tough im­age

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Front Page -

AC­TRESS Jes­sica Biel knows she has a lot to live up to.

‘‘ He, as ev­ery­body knows, is good at ev­ery­thing,’’ she says of her fi­ance Justin Tim­ber­lake.

Yet it would ap­pear pop su­per­star-turned- movie ac­tor Tim­ber­lake needs to be good at ev­ery­thing to keep up with Biel.

This life- long tomboy, who claims she only found a taste for girly fash­ion in the past five years or so, does not like to stop.

‘‘ I’m not much of a take- it- easy kind of per­son,’’ says Biel, who climbed Tan­za­nia’s Mt Kil­i­man­jaro in 2010.

‘‘ I love, love, love the adrenalin. Snow­board­ing, that’s one of my great­est hob­bies. Fast, fly­ing down a moun­tain, hit­ting a jump, crash­ing, maybe not crash­ing, who knows?

‘‘ I’m a huge diver. I love, love, love scuba. Sky­div­ing, I’ve done a cou­ple of times . . .

‘‘ I have a re­ally hard time just lay­ing on a beach. Some peo­ple can lay on a beach for­ever; I’m there for 15 min­utes and I’m like, ‘ OK, vol­ley­ball any­body? Pad­dle­board? Swim­ming?’’’

Per­haps, luck­ily for Mr Tim­ber­lake, Biel gets a lot of her ex­cess en­ergy out on movie sets, where she has over the years kicked butt in films such as The A- Team, Stealth and her lat­est ef­fort, To­tal Re­call.

‘‘ I thought I got rid of that a long time ago,’’ she says of her on- screen tough- girl rep­u­ta­tion.

While she has ven­tured far and wide of late, from British pe­riod com­edy in Easy

Virtue to ro­mance in Valen­tine’s Day, she con­cedes tomboy is her de­fault set­ting.

‘‘ As a kid I was a gym­nast, I played soc­cer, I was con­stantly be­ing asked to be phys­i­cal. So that’s who I am, in a sim­ple way,’’ she says.

‘‘ It’s rare to be able to use your body in the way we can in these kinds of films. Specif­i­cally be­ing a woman I don’t do a lot of these things on an ev­ery­day ba­sis, but I find it re­ally ful­fill­ing.’’

In To­tal Re­call, a more se­ri­ous- minded re­make of the corny 1990 Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger sci- fi ac­tion flick, she gets her tough- girl pants back on to play a woman who may or may not be the saviour of the movie’s hero, Colin Far­rell.

‘‘ I hadn’t done any­thing re­ally phys­i­cal in a while, so the train­ing . . . my favourite, al­ways, the train­ing,’’ Biel says of a reg­i­men that in­cluded box­ing, park­our and marks­man­ship.

‘‘ The hard­est thing to do with a gun that has a huge kick­back is to not blink.

‘‘ It kicks a fire­ball in your face and you’re like, ‘ I’m sup­posed to be such a bad- ass right now but I can’t stop blink­ing!’ ’’

The guns took a back seat to raw girl power for a spec­tac­u­lar fight se­quence in a lift be­tween Biel and the bad­die of the piece, Kate Beck­in­sale.

That Beck­in­sale’s hus­band, Len Wise­man, was di­rect­ing added an un­usual pres­sure.

‘‘ I didn’t want to mis­tak­enly hit Kate in the face with her hus­band watch­ing,’’ Biel laughs.

‘‘ It was re­ally dif­fer­ent to fight with a woman.

‘‘ Usu­ally, it’s these big, burly stunt guys who take punches all the time, so if you make a mis­take, it’s OK. But that’s Kate Beck­in­sale, I don’t want to hit her, at all. I don’t even want to touch her!

‘‘ It was a very po­lite fight, just con­stant apol­o­gis­ing.’’

Be­sides the train­ing, Biel was also into the chal­lenge of cre­at­ing an on- screen

re­la­tion­ship with Far­rell. The Ir­ish­man him­self wasn’t a chal­lenge.

‘‘ He has chem­istry with the ta­ble, you know,’’ Biel says.

It was more that her char­ac­ter had to win over a man whose mind has been so messed with he can’t re­mem­ber hav­ing a re­la­tion­ship with her.

‘‘ I mean, re­la­tion­ships are tough as it is. Can you imag­ine that? The love of your life is like, ‘ I don’t re­mem­ber!’ It’s ter­ri­ble,’’ she says.

Has she ever come home to find her real- life fi­ance look­ing at her with a ‘‘ Do I know you?’’ ex­pres­sion?

‘‘ I’m sure he has. Just to p--- me off. An at­tempt at hu­mour, at least,’’ she says with a smile.

For his part, Far­rell says Biel was ‘‘ a dream to work with’’.

‘‘ She’s funny, man, I had a laugh work­ing with her. She’s tough as well. I came into the stu­dio one day and I heard some­one hit­ting the mitts in the cor­ner, it sounded like they were giv­ing it an un­mer­ci­ful beat­ing.

‘‘ I looked over and it’s Biel. She’s tough.’’

Now 30, Biel was just 14 when she was cast in goody- two- shoes TV drama 7th Heaven. She stayed a decade, but low­ered her in­volve­ment in her early 20s when her movie ca­reer be­gan to gain trac­tion.

To­tal Re­call hinges on the premise of hav­ing false mem­o­ries im­planted.

If Biel was to have any­thing im­planted, she says it would be the school and univer­sity she missed out on by work­ing through those years.

‘‘ I had a year and a half [ at a univer­sity near Bos­ton], so I had the ex­pe­ri­ence, but I re­ally should have stayed,’’ she says.

‘‘ I missed out on a cou­ple of years liv­ing with my girl­friends in crazy apart­ments and liv­ing abroad for a year – I wish I had gone to France and re­ally learnt to speak the lan­guage. I’m close but if I could get re­ally ab­sorbed with the cul­ture . . .

‘‘ But I don’t know when I’m go­ing to do that. I feel like I missed out on a cou­ple of key years.’’

That French gap- year seems less and less likely as she forges on with what she calls a ‘‘ sur­vivor’’ work ethic: ‘‘ I’m some­one who will work tire­lessly un­til I achieve what I’m look­ing to achieve.’’

Though she’s been a work­ing ac­tor more than half her life, she still wants to learn.

‘‘ I don’t mind be­ing the ju­nior part­ner on set, I’m quite happy to learn from the se­nior ex­ec­u­tives. Plenty of time to be­come one of those,’’ she laughs.

Her re­cent time on Hitch­cock along­side the likes of An­thony Hop­kins, He­len Mir­ren and Toni Col­lette pro­vided one such ex­pe­ri­ence.

‘‘ I would get cof­fee for any of the peo­ple on the Hitch­cock set, take out any of their trash, just to get a tid­bit of wis­dom they can pass along to me. I don’t care at all, I’m just happy to be there.’’

Biel’s also branched out into pro­duc­ing, push­ing through indie flicks The Tall Man and The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. The big­gest sur­prise there? ‘‘ The time it takes to get some­thing on screen can be years,’’ she says.

‘‘ That’s nor­mal, which I didn’t re­ally know. I thought, ‘ Why is this not work­ing? What am I do­ing wrong?’

‘‘ De­spite the fact it’s been hard, it’s been quite an en­light­en­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.’’

Mu­sic is an­other field into which Biel is dip­ping a toe.

She has a pas­sion for it that ex­tends be­yond Tim­ber­lake’s influence.

‘‘ I’m con­stantly lis­ten­ing to mu­sic, chang­ing the iPod, set­ting the mood.

‘‘ In the morn­ing, with make- up and hair, we had Feist, Go­tye . . . mu­sic is an amaz­ing thing, that’s re­ally the in­ter­na­tional lan­guage, isn’t it?’’

She’s done a spot of mu­si­cal the­atre in re­cent years and sang two jazz- style songs on the Easy Virtue sound­track.

‘‘ I like oldies clas­sic, jazzy stan­dards, such as Chet Baker, Nina Si­mone, Aretha Franklin, I re­ally love that style,’’ Biel says.

An al­bum is un­likely, but she does have an itch to get on stage.

‘‘ My se­cret dream is to be a lounge singer, sit­ting on the pi­ano singing away at cock­tail hour . . .’’


Now show­ing Vil­lage Cine­mas

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