Jessica Alba's effortlessly fantastic

Jessica Alba

SYDNEY : Watching Jessica Alba work the red carpet effortlessly, it's easy to forget that she's still only 26 and looks even younger. Wearing an outrageous pair of boots that could've been lifted from the Sin City set, the California girl takes the hormonal screams and the occasional grab at her elbow in her stride. This isn't Beatlemania, but it's a disconcerting experience for the casual observer.

Standing behind her on the red carpet outside a Sydney cinema, I make a rather obvious, and some might say, shallow observation: Alba is stunning. Her smile alone justifies the invention of motion pictures. This woman was born to play the iconic Nancy, the mesmerising exotic dancer in Sin City, and is surprisingly comfortable with her sexuality on screen. But Alba is adamant that a character's sexiness doesn't influence her project choices.

"It was funny that Sin City became what it became because I never read the comic books or saw the illustrations for the movie," she told me over a glass of mineral water at the InterContinental Hotel the next day.

"All I'd done was read the script. It said that I had a few scenes opposite Bruce Willis, which sounded great to me. And then I turned up in Texas and (director) Robert Rodriguez told me what I had to do and I went, 'Oh my god! What the hell?' So Sin City became something else altogether.

"My intention is never about taking the sexy role, or being the sexy one in the movie."


But the trouble with being Jessica Alba is, you usually end up being the sexy one in the movie. Born to a French-Danish mother and Mexican-Indian father, her genes were always going to be marked "exotic beauty". It's a lazy label for someone who is as American as blueberry pie, but Alba can't escape her sexuality. Even in the family-friendly Fantastic Four: The Rise of the Silver Surfer, out now in Singapore cinemas, Alba finds herself portraying a superhero in the tightest, figure-hugging Spandex suit. Her character, Sue Storm, might be blessed with the gift of invisibility, but she's also noted for her ability to squeeze considerable cleavage into a restricted area.

Her erotic turn in Sin City was voted MTV's Sexiest Performance of the Year, and Alba is now a fixture on men's magazines' top 10 sexy lists. Does she enjoy it?

"Why do I get all the sex questions?" She replied, masking her irritation with a self-mocking joke. "The other actors (in the Fantastic Four) get all the intelligent questions about their careers. But I'm not going to complain.

"You know, it is part of being in this business. Magazines need to do whatever it takes to keep them in the news. Compiling a list of sexy people is just a way to achieve that. Because I'm lucky enough to be employed in the movies, thank God, I just happen to be in the limelight."

Being attractive undoubtedly helps. The popcorn crowd will happily fork out for a Jessica Alba movie such as the mediocre underwater adventure caper Into The Blue when the posters depict her in a skimpy bikini.

She then confirmed every geek's fantasy when she portrayed a dirty dancer in a cowgirl costume in Sin City.

To her credit, Alba continues to take roles in smaller movies to stretch, if not break, the bonds of being a sex symbol. She played the title character in the period drama, The Sleeping Dictionary, which was filmed in Kuching and has just finished the psychological thriller, Awake, with Hayden "Darth Vader" Christensen.

"That's the way I see my career going. I'm going to mix it up," she said.

"I definitely gravitate towards more challenging roles. I just finished a horror movie remake (The Eye) in which I played a blind classical violinist, so I had to learn to play the violin, which was impossible! And I had to learn Mozart and Beethoven. My God! That really was impossible."


Before the Hong Kong horror remake, she has to promote the all-American superhero sequel. When Fantastic Four came out in 2005, the comic book adaptation underscored the increasing irrelevance of the movie critic. The movie was a critical flop, but a commercial smash, taking over US$330 million ($461 million) at the global box office.

"The critics certainly underestimated the fan base of the Fantastic Four comic books," Alba insisted.

"The characters were a light-hearted, cheeky family of superheroes. It's not meant to be a dark, violent comic book. The real comic book fans saw it. Families saw it. Parents didn't have to worry about covering their kids' eyes or ears. That's why it was a big hit."

But the original story left a little to be desired. There was a whole lot of talking and what the Fantastics had to say wasn't all that fantastic. Alba received a dreaded Razzie nomination for the year's worst performance, which she can now laugh off. Just.

"I won a Razzie nomination, yeah!" She cheered, punching the air. "I read somewhere that Halle Berry won an Oscar and a Razzie in the same year, so it's about as relevant as that."

Nevertheless, there is a conscious effort to ensure that Fantastic Four: The Rise of the Silver Surfer is a superior movie.

"Of course we want to make a better movie," she said. "It would've been foolish just to throw it out. Besides, it was easier to get back into character because we all had so much chemistry together."


Like the rest of the cast, Alba is signed on for a third movie in the Fantastic Four franchise, but before that, the industrious actress will focus on The Eye, Awake and Sin City 2.

There's no time for any more Tiger Beer commercials. Alba blushes when told that she is perhaps more famous in South-east Asia for a one-off beer commercial than for her movie resume.

"Really? They showed the Tiger beer thing in Singapore for that long? Ha. I didn't know that," she said.

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