Hollywood Sliding Doors: Jessica Biel edition
Many of you have emailed about Jessica Biel’s quote in the new issue of ELLE magazine. You know, about the fact that she could have been Allie Hamilton to Ryan Gosling’s Noah Calhoun in The Notebook? Apparently it’s the “role that got away”:
“The Notebook. That’s one that I wanted so badly. I was in the middle of shooting Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and I auditioned with Ryan Gosling in my trailer—covered in blood. [Director] Nick Cassavetes put me through the wringer in an interesting, excitingly creative way. But there’s a million that get away. We’re gluttons for punishment. It’s just rejection.”
That’s the quote that’s making headlines all over the place and prompting you to fill my inbox with more “as IFs” and “sit DOWNs” than I can remember. But it’s actually not the only one. She spends a lot of time during the interview Sliding Doors-ing herself into a series of roles, like almost every role, and the fact that she did not land any of them, and admits to it, may elicit from some of you a sympathetic response. Please. I urge you not to bother. That’s not how she means it, so you may as well save your time. This is not about her feeling badly about not being good enough, this is about her feeling that she WAS good enough, and that in a more equitable reality - her Sliding Doors reality - those parts should have been hers.
It’s a good photo shoot. I like how it’s been styled. Apart from her strange open mouthed sexbot expression on the cover, she looks beautiful and fresh. And then, here it comes...
In addition to The Notebook, there are several more that “got away”. I’ll list them for you below:
Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises: “Another one that got away. I was gutted. I mean, to work with Christopher Nolan in that kind of role?”
Fantine in the upcoming Les Miserables: “I felt terrified when I was auditioning for Les Miserables, the movie that Tom Hooper is doing. I was terrified to sing in front of him. I auditioned for Fantine, and I sang “I Dreamed a Dream.” I didn’t get it. I would have loved it.”
So...she’s always losing out to Anne Hathaway.
But, um, can we just go back to Fantine in Les Miserables? Because for those of us who love Les Miserables...
Can you f-cking imagine if Jessica Biel was cast as Fantine???
Seriously, Victor Hugo would have probably preferred dinner with Napoleon III.
But this is why it’s the ultimate insult, non? In Jessica Biel’s mind, on the other side of her Sliding Doors, she IS Fantine. The best Fantine. Better than anyone else. Catwoman too. And Allie Hamilton. There’s no acknowledgement there about how those decisions turned out, there’s no graciousness that follows like, “But now that I’ve seen the movie, I can’t picture anyone else other than Rachel McAdams. She’s so great in that role.”
Of course not. Jessica could have kissed Ryan Gosling in the rain with way more passion; she would have jumped in the water with much more charm; she would have been so much more convincing as the girl he could never forget, for whom he built a dream house and stayed loyal.
But, you know, still she keeps trying. Still she lost all that weight, gave up her muscular, athletic body so that she could take the shape of a wisp, to be more like the girls who keep beating her, as if that can make up for actual talent. You want talent? Here’s her high school play approach to a Hollywood audition:
“I’m thinking, This is a period piece. Or this person is an ex-addict in rehab. I need to walk in there and not have a great blowout and a great dress. And I’m always putting myself on tape. The people around you say, ‘This is the one that’s going to change your career!’ And then nothing happens. And you’re still doing what you’ve always done. I’m still dressing up and looking ridiculous. I just did three tapes while I was in Toronto for three different projects - and I didn’t get any of them. When there’s a great female part, there are 30 amazingly talented women gunning for it.”
So...what you’re saying is... you’re one of those 30? That’s obviously how she self-classifies. Jessica Biel has always considered herself in the same category as Keira Knightley, Michelle Williams, Carey Mulligan, Anne Hathaway, Natalie Portman...
When she really belongs in a category with people like Michelle Rodriguez and Rose McGowan. And there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with playing the physical asskicker in an action blockbuster that doesn’t require character development. That is a real career. And, frankly, it’s her only career. But it’s a career she looks down on. It’s a career she thinks she’s too good for. Not unlike her boyfriend and his music. Which... I suppose is the folly that holds them together: she believes in her acting the way he believes in his.
And if Hollywood continues to be unfair? If they continue to overlook her abilities and deprive us of the kind of historic performance like the one she delivered in Powder Blue? Well, it turns out Jessica Biel is a poet too:
“Absolutely (I’ve considered not acting anymore). I’d love to write. I wrote a lot of short stories and poetry when I was a kid. That was my creative outlet. I’ve written a short film, and I write poetry.”
Oh well, maybe Margaret Atwood should retire. Here’s my favourite poem by Margaret Atwood. It’s called They Eat Out.
They eat out
By Margaret Atwood
In restaurants we argue
over which of us will pay for your funeral
though the real question is
whether or not I will make you immortal.
At the moment only I
can do it and so
I raise the magic fork
over the plate of beef fried rice
and plunge it into your heart.
There is a faint pop, a sizzle
and through your own split head
you rise up glowing;
the ceiling opens
a voice sings Love Is A Many
you hang suspended above the city
in blue tights and a red cape,
your eyes flashing in unison.
The other diners regard you
some with awe, some only with bordom:
they cannot decide if you are a new weapon
or only a new advertisement.
As for me, I continue eating;
I liked you better the way you were,
but you were always ambitious.
Also attached - Jessica Biel out with a friend in Hollywood yesterday. Click here for more photos of Jessica Biel in ELLE.