Sunday, May 1, 2011

Eva Green Interview

This article was published in the May 2011 issue of ICON magazine. It has been re-published with permission.

The Good Witch
Currently starring in the arthouse drama Cracks and the TV series Camelot, actress Eva Green says she has ambitions to soar beyond the dangerous, mysterious roles that have become her trademark. Too bad she’s so bloody good at playing them.

By R. Kurt Osenlund

IF EVA GREEN HAD HER WAY, she’d be starring in a remake of Mata Hari, the 1931 espionage drama that saw Greta Garbo don the bejeweled headdresses of the titular dancing spy. The larger-than-life character is the one 30-year-old Green says she’s most desperate to play, which, of course, couldn’t make more sense.

Widely regarded as the 20th century’s foremost femme fatale, Mata Hari, who in 1917 was executed for allegedly spying for Germany during World War I, would prove the ultimate conquest for Green, whose relatively short filmography is already brimming with vamps and vixens to be reckoned with.

“I think it’s always interesting for a character to have a secret,” Green says in a recent phone interview, the poor connection no match for the rich timbre of her distinctive voice. “Something dark for the audience to discover.”

“Dark” and “secret” are words that spring to mind just from looking at this French actress, her ambiguous pout and smoky-eyed stare as unnerving as they are sexy. Over the past decade, Green has portrayed a witch in The Golden Compass, a princess capable of murdering her own son in Kingdom of Heaven, and the enigmatic double agent and Bond girl Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale (“It made me famous,” Green says of the latter).

Green with Daniel Craig in "Casino Royale"
But femme fatale archetypes, Green insists, aren’t the only characters she’s after, nor is fame a primary pursuit. Her upcoming films include the German-made cloning drama Womb and the Sundance selection Perfect Sense, two little-known projects in which she plays a “nerdy, shy character” and a “normal character,” respectively. She can currently be seen in Cracks, a boarding-school period piece from Jordan Scott, daughter of Green’s Kingdom of Heaven director, the great Ridley Scott. While she certainly meets Green’s criteria of dark and secretive, Green’s character, an ostensibly id-driven English swimming instructor known only as Miss G., doesn’t wield any literal weapons or ensnare men. She does, however, bewitch the bevy of teenage girls who idolize her, and are entranced by her feminist impulses, her wild stories and her worldview, which bucks the norms of the film’s 1930s setting (smoking and preaching the supreme merit of “desire!” she’s like Mona Lisa Smile’s whore cousin).

“Don’t think; do!” Miss G. tells her captivated pupils, whose social hierarchy is dependent upon who can best fill the role of teacher’s pet. But is Miss G. as free-spirited and forward-minded as she seems? Green, who in her own life is more thinker than doer (“I should cut off my head sometimes in order to get things done,” she says), had a blast constructing, then deconstructing, her complicated screen persona, who’s surely the main attraction, if not quite the main character. Known for her bold fashion sense and occasional modeling gigs (Emporio Armani, Dior), Green worked closely with costume designer Alison Byrne to develop a look for Miss G., whose flowing frocks and glamorous headbands and hairstyles evoke film actresses of the era.

Green as the mysterious Miss G.
“We wanted her to look very much like a movie star,” Green says, “Marlene Dietrich, Bette Davis. I imagine that Miss G. is sewing during the night—everything has to look perfect.”

But, naturally, everything is not perfect, and as the mystique of Miss G. unravels, her wardrobe does, too. Jewelry, tailored jackets and finger waves give way to frumpy housecoats, unkempt coifs and no makeup. It comes as no surprise that Green reveled in the character’s downward spiral, digging into the aesthetic and dramatic opportunities of a classic movie breakdown. But the arc of Miss G. is what appealed to the actress
most—the chance to embody a strange woman with a wide, metamorphic range of “colors,” a word Green drops a lot when discussing the parts she chooses.

“It’s difficult to find good, multi-faceted roles in movies for women,” she says. “I need to fall in love with the character. I cannot just do something for the sake of it or for the money, otherwise I think I’d die. I have to fall in love with it. I’m picky—too picky, probably.”

Green in "The Dreamers"
Green’s discriminating instincts haven’t exactly steered her wrong. Along with a perceptive mentor and a whole lot of nerve, she has them to thank for her breakthrough. In 2002, when Green was discovered by Italian provocateur Bernardo Bertolucci and offered a major role in his forthcoming film The Dreamers, she was urged by her family and entourage to decline. The 2003 movie, which co-stars Louis Garrel and Michael Pitt and shows a whole lot of skin, didn’t scream “wise career move” to Green’s camp. But Green ignored the warnings, having long been a fan of Bertolucci’s controversial classic Last Tango in Paris. The Dreamers, a daringly beautiful film (which, incidentally, features Green doing Garbo while play-acting scenes from Queen Christina), became an arthouse and critical success, and it gave Green a helluva first experience as a bigscreen actress.

“I had to pinch myself every day, like, ‘Oh my god, I’m in a Bertolucci movie,’” Green says. “We used to go to his house every weekend and he’d talk about the cinema and music and art. It was just amazing. It was a great start, for sure, to work with Bertolucci. It was hard, though, because when you start with somebody so great, you think you’ll be disappointed after that.”

Green with her "Cracks" costars, including Juno Temple and Imogen Poots
Though she doesn’t say it, it’s fair to assume Green hasn’t met such disappointment, nor has her career gone the way of recently-deceased Last Tango star Maria Schneider, who never truly regained the attention that, for better or worse, her baring-all breakout brought her. Green, who cites French luminary Isabelle Adjani as her childhood icon and actorly inspiration, has starred opposite Nicole Kidman, Orlando Bloom, Daniel Graig, Judi Dench, Jeremy Irons, Romain Duris, Edward Norton, Kristin Scott Thomas and Ewan McGregor. As is the case with Cracks, it’s not uncommon for her to be the most indelible player of the movie in which she appears.

Born to a French mother and Swedish father and raised partially in London, Green has an alluringly odd, uniquely exotic appeal, which undoubtedly affects the sorts of scripts she’s offered. Is it a help or a hindrance for an actor to have a trademark package of characteristics that inevitably paints a specific picture in the minds of filmmakers and casting directors? Green seems torn on the question. She’s aware that she’s sometimes perceived as being “mysterious” and “not from this world” (“It’s kind of true,” she laughs), but she also doesn’t want to be pigeonholed, or “put in the femme fatale box.”

Green in TV's "Camelot"
Yes, the femme fatale. Despite her best efforts to deflect it, and despite a clear capacity for dramatic range (The Dreamers, which may still boast Green’s best performance, is, for a large chunk, lighhearted), the femme fatale thing has a way of hovering over Green, not like a dark cloud, but, perhaps, a dark halo. Her other current role is in Camelot, the Starz TV series based on Arthurian legend. She plays Morgan le Fay, Arthur’s cunning sorceress of a half-sister who battles him for the throne. Morgan—or Morgana, as she’s often called—is right up there with Mata Hari in the rogues’ gallery of cultural and historical vamps. It might be somewhat unconscious, it might be partly due to forces “not from this world,” but Green sure seems to have cornered a market.Which, box or no box, is not to be undervalued—there’s something to be said of an actress who knows just how to play to her considerable strengths.

Green’s next big project is Dark Shadows, Tim Burton’s much-anticipated adaptation of the 1960s-era gothic soap opera. Starring alongside Burton muse Johnny Depp, and among a cast of characters that includes zombies, ghosts and vampires, Green plays Angelique Bouchard, a villainess who practices witchcraft.

“She’s kind of dark,” Green says with a laugh and a light, submissive sigh. “So, here we go again.”

No comments: