She’s played her share of otherworldly and comic book characters: a dark angel, an invisible woman and a stripper with a gritty past. For Complex, sultry star Jessica Alba slips out of her superhero persona and into something more comfortable.
This feature originally appeared in Complex's June/July 2005 issue.
At only 24, Jessica Alba, the olive-skinned, luscious-lipped offspring of a Mexican–Indian and Spanish father and a French–Danish mother is getting serious. She’s serious about her acting, her new man and her three major films this year: Frank Miller’s Sin City, Fantastic Four and the shark infested Into The Blue. We persuaded Hollywood’s favorite heroine to step off the comic pages and into ours.
Yeah, I’m pretty nerdy, I guess.
Tell us about the last time you felt really nerdy and unnatural.
Well, it’s not unnatural for me to feel nerdy. I do goofy things all the time. I trip, I knock things over. The other day, I bashed myself in the head with a door. I was in my boyfriend’s car and I closed the door with my head still sticking out.
You slammed your own head in a car door?
Yeah. I wasn’t used to his car, so I closed the door on my head. I’m not a coordinated person; I just play coordinated people.
So, who’s this boyfriend?
His name is Cash.
Yes. See? No one cares who I’m dating when they’re not famous.
I did this interview one time with someone like The Hollywood Foreign Press or something and they were all excited. They said, “Who are you dating? You have to tell us!” And I said, “He’s not famous.” And they went, “Oh. Well, okay. But we still want to know.”
Well, truthfully, we do know. Cash Warren is a producer you met while filming Fantastic Four. He graduated from Yale, and his father was an actor and a basketball player. Also, you smashed your head in his car door.
Wow. You know a lot.
It’s part of the job. Are you serious about Cash?
Do you see yourself marrying him?
No, it’s not a surprise. I think all in due time. Everything will happen when you’re ready. But I don’t feel comfortable talking about my relationship.
Too late! Did you have a favorite superhero growing up?
I loved He–Man. Remember He–Man and She–Ra? I liked Thundercats, but I loved He–Man. I had Skeletor’s whole dungeon thing.
You had action figures?
And you’ve been an action hero, right?
Have you ever gotten in the tub and had yourself battle Skeletor? Or, more aptly, Merman?
No. There’s kind of a disconnect with all that stuff. I guess I just look at it as work.
Speaking of work, word is for your role as a dancer in Honey you took six hours of dance a day. Were you similarly dedicated in preparing to play a stripper?
You know, I was terrified! I looked at the drawings of Nancy in Sin City and I was like, Whoa! That girl has some knockers! Plus she was in boots and naked and flipping a cowboy rope around. I didn’t understand how all of that was going to happen, to be honest with you.
So how did it happen?
Well, I didn’t have a choreographer. And that made me scared. Like I said, I’m a bit of a goon so when left to my own devices I tend to do stupid stuff. Knowing me, I’d be on stage and my chaps would split or my top would come off.
I know, right? So I went to a lot of strip clubs and got a lot of music and listened to it alone. I got a lasso and listened to the songs and twirled my rope to the different rhythms.
Yes, go on.
I started out clothed, but then as I got more comfortable I danced in shorts and boots and then in a bra and underwear.
Nice. So is Cash glad you put in all this work?
[Laughs] No comment.
It seems like you’ve come into own your sexuality a little more in the last year. True?
Absolutely. But I’m still shy. I haven’t done a sex scene or nudity. I mean, I play a stripper but I don’t take anything off. I was really just dancing. I took the role to be in a cool black and white Robert Rodriguez movie.
Sort of a Flashdance stripping–without–nudity thing?
Kind of. It wasn’t about the dancing. It was about playing a naive, sweet character. I wanted to try someone who was discovering something—get away from the powerful, mouthy, urban, in–your–face girls.
...Who can fly and stuff.
Yes. I think that was my way of rebelling against my parents who were very cool and free. I didn’t listen to secular music, and I’d go to church three times a week. I had this one boyfriend, and a couple times my grandmother caught him and my best friend in the closet praying. She called them the “closet boys.”
Okay let’s leave that alone. Sin City was filmed entirely in front of screens in a studio, right? Was that hard?
No. Actually, it made me more comfortable. I mean, would you want to film out where there’s traffic and people and lights and construction and all that bullshit? Or be in an environment where there’s no yelling and you’re not invading anyone’s space? Oh, plus, you’re not freezing your ass off. I appreciated it. We didn’t have to rush through everything. Every performance was very specific. Since the shots had already been drawn out in the comic book, we knew exactly what we wanted.
Okay, now tell us about your latest movie, Fantastic Four.
It’s a big, fun movie about...at the end of the day, it’s about family and sticking together. The Fantastic Four are exposed to radiation and they get these powers. Then they become superstars and get pulled in all these different directions. My character tries to bring everybody back together.
And what about your third movie, Into the Blue?
Well, I wanted to brush up on my scuba diving. I started scuba diving when I was 13, but I haven’t been in a long time. So I thought it would be cool to play a shark wrangler and go into the Bahamas and shoot for four months and dive every day.
Was it cool?
It was cool, but also scary. I’m scared of sharks and we were working with a lot of sharks. We sunk a plane in the middle of the ocean and we chummed the water so this pod of wild sharks would be around all the time. When you watch the movie, even when you don’t see the sharks on camera, they’re always there. Big ass sharks. Scary sharks. And we didn’t have wet suits or chain mail or anything.
Are you still scared of sharks?
Yes! Absolutely. Every day I had to think, I’m not going to get bit today. You know, they don’t want to eat people. People don’t taste good to them. They want fish. But they’re stupid so sometimes they think you’re a fish.
Don’t let them hear your say that. According to the Internet, while you were filming the remake of Flipper you were kidnapped! Is that accurate?
You were never kidnapped?
Yes. That’s true.
Why did they have that provision?
I don’t know. It was weird. Maybe they were so popular they didn’t want other actors looking at them.
What was that like?
Weird. How would it feel if you went into an office and they said you couldn’t look at anyone or talk to anyone?
Wait, you couldn’t talk to them either?
Not unless they spoke to you first. It was bizarre. But I guess that’s what happens when you become a big star.
Have you seen any of those people since?
Yeah. I didn’t work with Tori when I did the show, but I’ve seen her since then.
Did you kick her ass?
No. It’s just Hollywood bullshit. I didn’t know if it was the actors saying, “I don’t want anyone to look at me,” or if it was Fox or Aaron Spelling or what.
Do you have anything in your contract like that? Do you need all the yellow M&Ms removed?
Let me see...what’s the worst thing in my contract? No. I don’t have anything real good yet.
Okay, let’s think something up.
What’s on my wish list, you mean? Water. How about that? I want water.
We can probably sort that out.
I insist on only having the big waters! Little bottles of water irritate me. I only want liters!
Styling by Gabriel Feliciano/Art Department; Hair by Robert Ramos for Redken/celestineagency.com; Makeup by Garrett Gervais/MS Management
First and Fourth Image: Corset by Jennifer Nicholson; Shorts by H&M; Stockings by Victoria's Secret; Shoes by Cesare Paciotti
Second Image: Sweater by Tsubi; Bra by Calvin Klein; Shorts by Fornarina; Stockings by Victoria's Secret
Cover, Third, and Fifth Image: Cardigan by Sacai; Bra by Calvin Klein; Belt by Frock; Shorts by H&M' Stockings by Victoria's Secret; Shoes by Jennifer Nicholson