Jessica Biel stars as a single mom who learns to deal with the loss of a hand in the dramatic movie Home of the Brave co-starring Samuel L Jackson and Curtis Jackson. Biel plays a young soldier who returns from the war in Iraq minus a hand. How she handles the challenge of getting on with life is just one of the stories told in Irwin Winkler's Home of the Brave.
Jessica Biel Knew What She was Getting Into with Home of the Brave: Definitely, definitely. I think everybody just felt like we knew we were making something important. I didn't know what it was going to turn out to be like. I didn't know about anybody else's performance. All I knew was what I was doing every day and how I felt. It just kind of felt like an excitement, a little bit of a thrilling experience because we were doing something really poignant and very timely and really, honestly, kind of important to show this aspect and this side of war. So yeah, we kind of felt it. We felt it but it's also just work and thinking a lot about character and about performance. We really focused on that, usually. I definitely felt it but I didn't concentrate on it. I just was really just trying to do the best performance I could.
Making the Combat Scenes as Emotionally Realistic as Possible: "I thought a lot about that because I was trying to bring a balance of, Okay, she's trained. She's very smart and able and strong, but this is a situation that she could never prepare for. She's a woman. How would I feel? How would I really feel? What would I do? Would I be calm and cool and collected or would I be freaking out? Id probably be freaking out and trying to maintain protocol. That was the dynamic that I was trying to show in there, that these are people. Yes, they're trained to kill and trained to protect and provide, but when you take all the guns and fatigues away, we're talking about like 19-20 year old people, young kids. Just kids.
Starring in Home of the Brave Had a Lasting Affect on Jessica Biel: It's made me a lot more aware. It's given me a much greater appreciation for the soldiers. You watch the news and you think, 'God, this is horrible. Everyone's dying and everyone's having their legs and arms amputated.' But you don't think any further. You don't really think about, Well, what is that like? How do you come home? I didn't have a clue how difficult it was until I actually started speaking with a couple female amputees and a couple sergeants who also had families and who experienced this. It just never ends. It's hell. These women, what these people go through, just the pain never ends. The judgment never ends. This war, some people are supportive, some people aren't supportive. I just can't imagine it. I really have a different perspective on it now.
Biel says the female amputees were open to speaking with her about their injuries. I didn't even have to convince them. I work with a couple charities - even before I actually started working on the film, which is just sort of coincidental - called Serving Those Who Serve and Rebuilding Together. Both are charities that are supportive of veterans when they come home. First in the hospital and paying for the families to join them for rehabilitation, and then coming home and then basically rebuilding their home and helping them start to slowly step back into normalcy. We called them and said, 'Who can I talk to?' My father is also part of it so he called for me. He said, 'Would there be a woman who had something similar to this injury that would be willing to speak with us?' This one woman said, 'Absolutely, no problem. I would love to.' There was not even a question.
It was basically on the phone call to her [that] I said, 'I want to do your story justice and I hope that if you will be honest with me and open, that I will be able to take this information, not tell anybody about it but use it to make choices for this character that you will be proud of.' I told her that and she never questioned me. I don't think she felt uncomfortable. She was really extremely open and told me some really intimate details of her recovery and her emotional state.
A Special Glove Helped Biel Get Into Character: I think it was easier to get into it. Wearing this glove that I wore, it made me really aware of my hand at all times, which I think was important because I would be aware if I didn't have it. If the arm was gone, you'd be aware of it. But when you have it, you're not aware. So having something on my hand and having to keep my hand still at all times was really helpful to keep me conscious of the fact that I'm wearing a prosthetic and that people are looking at it. It was easier to really feel an honest emotion of embarrassment or anger. Wearing it just sort of helped it along, helped everything. Kind of like stepping into the corset for The Illusionist. It was like, Boom! Once it was on, I was there. I was transported. Once this hand was on, it was like, Okay, I'm here. I'm this person again. It was so helpful for me.
Biel even attempted to perform everyday tasks wearing the special glove. I wore it around on set every day, pretty much all day long. But I didn't want to wear it too much because I didn't want to be comfortable with it. What was interesting, I was in wardrobe fittings and not wearing this glove because it hadn't been prepared yet, and tying shoes. I was trying on a pair of shoes and tying these sneakers. I was tying it with both hands and realized, Wait, I only have I can't So I had to try it with one hand and realized that doesn't work. So we just stopped, literally stopped the wardrobe fitting going, 'This is wrong. We have buttons. We have hair ties and clips, and I can't clip anything. I need Velcro for the shoes. I need clips for the hair.' Those are the things that we started to realize, after thinking about the prosthetic and using it a little bit, that you don't remember the small little details that you use both your hands for and how important both your hands are - and how much you miss one hand when it's not available.