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THE LOVE GURU

The Guru's Disciples
To bring Myers' distinctive brand of comedy to life in "The Love Guru,” the filmmakers knew they would need a supporting cast that would be capable of keeping up with him in the film's equally hilarious co-starring roles. This was especially true for the part of Jane Bullard, the young, gorgeous female owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs who is determined to undo the "Bullard Curse,” which has left the Maple Leafs without a coveted Stanley Cup since her father bought the team in 1967. Jane needed to be tough, smart, beautiful – and completely vulnerable to Guru Pitka's mysterious charms.

The answer to the riddle of who could encompass all those qualities came in the person of Jessica Alba, one of today's fastest rising stars, whose roles in such films as "Sin City” and "Fantastic Four” have brought her a huge global following. But what took Mike Myers by surprise were her comic chops, which had yet to be showcased on screen.

Myers says, "Jessica Alba is very beautiful, but she's also a sweet, dedicated, talented and wonderful human being who has become one of my favorite co-stars I've ever worked with. And she's really, really funny. She knocks her scenes right out of the park.”

Schnabel concurs: "She came to this film ready to laugh and to create a wonderful sense of play and then she took it to a level neither Mike nor I could have imagined. Of course, she's absolutely stunning, but her comic ability is really what surprised and delighted us and I think people are going to love what they see.”

One of the things that struck Schnabel right away was Alba's chemistry with Myers. "There's this wonderful romantic feeling between them as they dance around one another, taking one step forward and one step back,” he says. Alba says the chemistry was born in part out of her love for Myers' exuberant style of comedy. "He has always reminded me of Peter Sellers, the way he can completely transform himself into these outrageous characters. Yet, they all have a heart and soul, so you're always rooting for them. It's a balance not many other comic actors can strike,” she observes. "He's really tapped into this inner-child kind of playfulness that's very inspiring. With this film he's also tapped into something that's going on right now, with so many people reading self-help books and trying to find new ways to change their lives.”

Working with Myers turned out to be a fresh challenge for Alba as an actress. "He likes to do a lot of improv and you never know what he's going to come out with, so you really have to stay on your toes to keep up,” she says. This was especially true in the scenes where their subconscious feelings for one another start to emerge. "They meet under such unconventional and bizarre circumstances that I think they both are immediately resistant to these feelings, so they try to put a lid on them, which is part of the fun,” explains Alba. Equally challenging for Alba was getting into hockey, a game she admits she didn't have a clue about before she was cast. "I got a very intense crash course in hockey on this film,” she laughs. "Basically there's lots of testosterone, a lot of funny guys and some real fragrant outfits. But I wouldn't dare get on skates. I leave that to the pros.”

Alba might have been able to avoid the blades, but not Romany Malco. For the role of Darren Roanoke, the so-called "Tiger Woods of hockey,” whose unhappy love life has led to an agonizing losing streak for his team, Malco had to head straight to skating boot camp. Best known for his role as Mary-Louise Parker's "business” associate, Conrad Shepard, on the acclaimed Showtime comedy "Weeds,” Malco might be a comedy veteran but he was a definite hockey amateur, barely able to wobble across a rink when he won the part. But, with a lot of devotion, he was able to turn that completely around.

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