Biel and director Bill Purple on finding the right tone for 'The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea'

By Devan Coggan
Updated April 15, 2016 at 12:00 PM EDT
Credit: Rob Kim/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival

Jessica Biel and Justin Timberlake may be best known for working in their separate spheres of movies and music, but Bill Purple’s new indie dramedy The Devil and The Deep Blue Sea found the husband-and-wife team collaborating on the same project.

Timberlake wrote his first-ever score for the film, which stars Biel as a young woman who dies in a car crash. Her husband (Jason Sudeikis) is left reeling after her death, and he works through his grief by teaming up with a young homeless teenager (Game of Thrones‘ Maisie Williams) to build a raft to sail across the ocean.

“I think it’s the human story that is being told,” Biel told EW at the Tribeca Film Festival, where the film premiered this week. “It’s very relatable. Everyone has experienced grief and loss and tragedy, but this script had such a nice balance of lightness to the darkness. … So we felt this responsibility, like, this has to be told. This is important. Not only is it grounding and moving, but it’s fun and it has a whimsical quality. It’s almost like a little fable.”

Biel, who also served as a producer on the film, first read the script years ago, and when she fell in love with it she passed it on to her husband to read. Timberlake then approached Purple and asked if the director had anyone in mind to write the film’s music.

“[Timberlake] said, ‘I’d be into that, if you thought it was a good idea,’” Purple explained. “And I was like, ‘Alright, cool, let’s see what happens.’ Cut to two years later when it becomes very real, like, oh wow, we’re making this finally, and we’re like, ‘So Justin, do you still want to do the score?’ And he’s like, ‘YES!’ He jumped at it. I think it had been something that percolated in his mind for a while of wanting to try. He did an amazing job.”

Even though Timberlake and Biel were working on the same project, Biel says they both tried to stick to their own strengths and not interfere with the other.

“Justin’s not the kind of artist that you micromanage, you know?” Biel said. “I don’t really know what I want to hear. I just know I want it to be good. I want to cry at the moment I want to cry, and I need to laugh at the moment I need to laugh. … I don’t speak music language the way that he does.”

“You let Mozart do his thing,” Purple added. “You just get out of his way.”

The 2016 Tribeca Film Festival continues through April 24.