Mother-to-be Jessica Alba’s baby bump was barely visible at the Los Angeles press junket for the Lionsgate thriller The Eye, but the actress thinks it’s very noticeable. “You haven’t seen my tummy! My tummy is like poof [indicating big and round],” said Alba, laughing.
Being pregnant has already taken a toll physically on Alba. The actress thought she knew what to expect, but never anticipated being so tired. Pregnancy's also made Alba change her personal style in clothing. Choosing what to wear has become a lot more complicated. “I probably dressed more kind of like a tomboy before,” admitted Alba. “You know, jeans, T-shirt, sneakers... I could kind of get away with [that]. Now, nothing fits. The jeans, you’ve got the panel so like the t-shirts are all like stretched in the wrong places and my shoes are too small. Everything is just different. I’m just all about cashmere sweaters and leggings, kind of.”
Alba’s tackled comedies, dramas, and action films, however she labels The Eye one of her most difficult roles to date. Alba stars as Sydney Wells, a concert violinist blind since childhood yet fiercely independent. She’s accepted her physical disability however her sister convinces her to undergo a double corneal transplant. While adjusting to the return of her sense of sight after 20 years of blindness, Sydney begins to see strange images she can’t explain…
“It was intense having to play violin and having to play somebody who is blind and becomes sighted and starts to lose her mind a bit, seeing things that aren’t there and, yeah, it was quite challenging and definitely why I wanted to do it,” explained Alba. “I like horror movies and I’ve wanted to do one for a while. I’ve read many over the years and, to me, this one, the psychological thriller aspect of it, I felt like it was intelligent and complex.”
Surprisingly, Alba found playing blind less difficult than having to play Sydney adjusting to seeing again following the operation. “Because I’m so used to seeing, having to then… Like in this room, instead of looking at anyone’s face, I’d probably focus more on the table because that’s the one thing that stands out; the white of the table,” said Alba. “You kind of pick up on things differently.”
Alba did her research for the role, including meeting with a woman who is blind in order to figure out her character’s mindset. “I learned from her that just because you are blind and have this handicap that it really doesn’t need to impede anything in your life except for driving,” explained Alba. “That’s the only thing she doesn’t do. She travels by herself, takes subways and taxis. She goes to Europe. She was walking on the wrong side of the road in England, you know, crossing the street and people who are sighted still can’t really figure that out. She’s fine doing that.”
“I just thought it was incredible that she gets around in life and, to be honest, most cities aren’t equipped with Braille so she has to rely on other people to tell her if it’s a women’s room or a men’s room, or what’s on the menu if she wants to buy something. And when she goes shopping, she has to trust that the sales clerk is telling her the right colors so she can label everything properly.”
Alba was adamant that her character wasn’t defined by her disability, that instead it was simply part of who she was. The fact it’s Sydney’s sister (played by Parker Posey) who pushes for the surgery and not Sydney herself was an important part of the storyline for Alba. “She was fine with it and totally functioning in the world and quite independent and self-sufficient. She had a regular job. It’s not like she had a job for someone with special needs or anything. She was totally fine. It’s kind of society that tells you that you need to be like everyone else, was a reason why she did it - primarily her sister. When she got her sight is when she actually became more handicapped than ever and she sort of fell apart.”
The Eye presented a lot of different challenges for Alba, from getting into the character to preparing physically for the role. Alba says there was a lot of running involved as well as some very cold shooting conditions. “It was below zero when we were shooting [the end]. I think it was negative two. It was so cold and I just had a little jacket on and so that was tough. We were shooting nights for about two weeks. And then I guess in the burning building, in the burnt Chinese restaurant, because it was such a transition going from when everything was there, then it wasn’t. Then, I’ve got four pages of dialogue that I’m just going on and on and on about everything that’s happened. That was pretty tough.”
The Eye is based on the 2002 Asian horror film of the same name written and directed by the Pang Brothers and co-written by Jo Jo Yuet-chun Hui. Alba had her own approach to the character and didn’t reference Lee Sin-Je’s performance in the original film while preparing to take on the starring role in this Americanized version.
“I definitely did my own interpretation,” said Alba. “I appreciated her take and how stoic she was and sort of quiet her performance was. But, she comes from an Eastern way of looking at ghosts. It’s kind of a part of the culture, the mysticism, and it’s a little more accepted. In Western culture it’s like crazy and ludicrous and it’s like you’re losing your frickin’ mind. There’s no way. So, we sort of approached it with more of a Western mentality about it where everyone thinks she’s going crazy and she starts to question her own sanity.”
And speaking of ghosts and horror stories, Alba’s not a fan of super gory films but does have a short list of scary movies that left an impression on her growing up. “I saw Nightmare on Elm Street when I was five. I snuck behind my parents couch and I watched it. I didn’t sleep in the middle of my bed forever. I think all the way up until I was 13 I still didn’t sleep in the middle of my bed because I thought I was going to be sucked in. I’ve watched Poltergeist and anything that has demons or ghosts or this thing that is torturing your soul and no one else can see it. It’s crazy. Psycho is a good one, The Birds, It.”