It's one thing to be a leading lady, but having that billing at the MTV Movie Awards can mean something else entirely.
Jessica Alba is getting to find that out, since the "Fantastic Four" and "Sin City" co-star presides over this year's edition of the traditionally irreverent event, in which she's also a three-time nominee.
Recorded June 3 at Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, Calif., the event will be televised by MTV on Thursday, June 8. The comedies "Wedding Crashers" and "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" lead the nominees with five bids each.
Among scheduled presenters are Jamie Foxx, Kate Hudson, Matt Dillon, Kate Beckinsale, Ludacris, Justin Timberlake, Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell, "X-Men: The Last Stand" co-stars Rebecca Romijn and Famke Janssen, and "Superman Returns" colleagues Brandon Routh and Kate Bosworth. Being on MTV, the show also involves music, with Christina Aguilera and the punk-rock act AFI performing.
"I was thrilled," Alba says of being asked to host. "It's the most fun award show to be at. It's crazy, and it's all fan-based, so there's always a lot of energy. You get a nice mix of movie people and music people, so it was an honor to be invited.
"I was like, 'Really? The kids want to see me?' As odd as it may seem, I don't make movies for myself. I make them because I like to entertain people, and doing this validates that."
So do Alba's MTV Movie Award nominations: best hero and best on-screen team for "Fantastic Four," and sexiest performance for "Sin City." While pleased both films were box-office successes, she adds, "The other side to what I do is the more indie, artsy kind of character-driven material that maybe doesn't appeal to the mass audience. Right now, this is what my thing is, so I'm just going with it." That also covers the "Fantastic Four" and "Sin City" sequels she'll soon begin filming.
"I am seeking out more indie stuff now," says Alba, who co-stars with Hayden Christensen of "Star Wars" fame in the upcoming independent release "Awake." "It's just a matter of picking the right thing, because there's so much out there. Based on what I've done, people will be aware of it, so I want to do something I'm really passionate about."
Hosting the 2006 MTV Movie Awards involves much more for Alba than merely showing up for the ceremony. The concept of making the event a movie unto itself required considerable production time, and Alba admits her role became "a bigger deal than I thought, but it's fun. It's really something I'm choosing to do, so it doesn't feel like a job. I get to do skits with different comedians, which is a blast. It's like the 'MTV Movie Awards Movie,' so it's a different take than the show has had in the past."
Still, Alba is very familiar with the program's home base. "I've done a lot of stuff with MTV. I did Cameron Diaz's show 'Trippin,' and I'm always doing 'TRL' whenever I have something coming out. It's a great demographic, and those are certainly the people who are showing up at the movies and buying products. The fact that they like me is a bonus."
Fashion designers must feel the same way about Alba, since she's a red-carpet regular at events promoting their industry.
"I've always loved fashion," she says, "and I appreciate everyone who dresses me for things like award shows. It's like a form of art, so I give props to anybody who chooses any sort of artistic endeavor as a job. I'm attracted to that, obviously."
Also a known commodity in men's magazines -- even those that use photos of her without her approval, as Playboy did recently with a promotional shot from her 2005 movie "Into the Blue" -- Alba doesn't feel her fame has eclipsed her chances of landing parts she's wanted.
"People certainly have opinions of me," she says, "but I am a proper actress. I've been doing this for 14 years, so usually when I sit down with [filmmakers], they get it. You don't judge people's abilities from giant comic-book movies. They're fun and they're entertaining, but nobody's trying to win an Oscar in those."
Alba had the best of both worlds during her two seasons of "Dark Angel," the Fox fantasy-adventure series about a genetically altered messenger.
"It was very different for television," she says. "It really was outside the box, a bit like an indie film in its way of thinking. If I showed any emotion, I would get screamed at, because my character was supposed to be robotic or just sad and pissed off. Usually, they don't allow 18-year-old girls to be that way."
Alba guarantees that won't happen at the MTV Movie Awards, since she knows from previous appearances what the backstage atmosphere is like.