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Jessica Biel makes Hoosierland feel like Hollywood

A chat with Jessica Biel on her labor of love

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Last night, Indy felt a little like Hollywood as the glamorous actress Jessica Biel made her way down a red carpet at the sumptuous Scottish Rite Cathedral. Of course, people know Biel from the TV series 7th Heaven and the 2003 remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. She came to Indy for the screening of her new movie, The Book of Love — the opening film for the 25th annual Heartland Film Festival, which is running through October 30.

Biel beamed with pride as she discussed the passion project, which is exactly what Heartland would call a "truly moving picture." Jason Sudeikis stars as Henry, a New Orleans architect who befriends a homeless teen girl named Millie (Maisie Williams) after tragedy strikes him and his pregnant wife, Penny (Biel). Henry ends up helping the troubled teen build a raft to sail across the Atlantic Ocean in search of her long-lost father.

Although she doesn't have a whole lot of screen time, Biel was a strong force in this project's life since its conception.

"I first read the script nine years ago. And by the way, it's had about 26 rewrites. It changed a lot. My character, Penny, was pregnant and not pregnant and pregnant again," Biel told NUVO with a hearty laugh.

By the time the film finally got off the ground, Biel was eight months pregnant, and the cast and crew had only five days to shoot with her. But in the midst of the chaotic production, everything clicked in place to bring this labor of love to life.

Jessica Biel in The Book of Love
  • Jessica Biel in The Book of Love

"We did it in a really short amount of time with a very small budget and had a lot of challenging elements — my physical ability being number one at the time. We also had dogs, boats, kids — a lot of elements," Biel said.

Biel ultimately mirrored the spirit of Heartland, talking about working within the constraints of independent film with both mild frustration and great fondness.

"Looking back at it now, of course there are things I want to change and of course I wish we had more time and more money," she said. "But I’m really proud of what we did."

Dean Devlin, the founder of the company distributing the film — Electric Entertainment — perfectly summed up why the film is a good fit for Heartland.

"This is a movie that was made from love and passion," Devlin said. "It has a soul. And Heartland has been unabashedly celebrating movies with heart and soul for 25 years. I cannot think of a better place to launch our film."


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