The truth about Jessica Biel? She has nightmares about losing her perfect pearly whites.
“I dream sometimes about my teeth falling out,” she said during the Los Angeles special screening of Tribeca Film and Well Go USA’s “The Truth About Emanuel.” “I chew and I’ll have to spit out hundreds and hundreds of teeth. There’s no way that it’s all mine. It’s like I have teeth in there to spare.”
Biel’s costar Kaya Scodelario and the film’s writer-director Francesca Gregorini were also on hand at the Arclight on Dec. 4. Unlike Biel’s dental nightmares, Scodelario, whose character Emanuel is haunted by recurring dreams and fantasies of water (the film was originally titled “Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes” when it made a splash at Sundance), experiences the inexplicable sensation of almost falling in her sleep.
“I don’t really dream that much,” she said. “I get that thing when you’re falling asleep and you think you’ve tripped over. I hate that. That scares me every time.”
Biel plays a troubled woman who’s convinced that the doll she’s raising is her real-life baby. She said shooting with the prop for weeks on end affected her behavior toward the inanimate object.
“She was alive for me in a sense, not to sound totally insane,” Biel said. “The scene was over and I would still hold her and she would go back to my trailer with me. I would rock her. She was so alive; the weight of her was real. It was odd, even our crew would say things to me like, ‘You’re holding that thing like it’s a real child.’”
Meanwhile, Scodelario, whose character inadvertently feeds Biel’s delusion by playing along with the doll-rearing, became attached to the lifeless doll.
“It freaked me out because I’ve never been around kids; I’ve never babysat,” she said. “The doll was the same weight as a real baby so as soon as you hold it, you naturally hold it like you would a baby and protect it. So it kicked up some instincts, which was scary.”
Gregorini initially created the entire project for Rooney Mara, who also attended the preem. When the film took three years to get off the ground, she was forced to cast someone else for the lead, as Mara could no longer pass for a teen. However, she did receive a co-producing credit.
Like most art, Gregorini said the film was an outlet for exercising her demons.
“I am dark and twisted and now I’ve gotten it out,” she teased. “It takes a very long time to make a film so I feel like you should make something worthwhile that talks about things that are of some import to you. And to me, the themes of abandonment and heartbreak and mortality are super important. I sort of grapple with them on an existential level and on a reality-based level. I think it’s just what I needed to write at the time, sort of things I was going through, things that I went through that still haunt me.
Despite the challenges, the project was a labor of love for her.
“It’s definitely shaved a couple of years off my life,” she said. “But apparently, it’s very character-building. I’m a lot less sexy than when I started this process, but I’m a more well-rounded person. Hopefully more lovable in that sense.”