Interview with French actress Eva Green

French actress EVA GREEN has avoided the fate of some Bond girls by continuing her big-screen success. She tells Pierre de Villiers why she loves playing evil characters and of her desire to make a film in France again...

“Oh, I love evil characters,” she says with a big grin. “But they have to have a heart and not just be pure evil. People need to understand why they have become evil; they are just damaged. It’s fun and I love playing them.”

While Green’s choice of roles has enabled her to tear off the often-restrictive Bond girl label, it has come at a cost. The actress has not done a French film for a good few years, something that has caused grumblings in the country of her birth.

“Yes, the French feel like they don’t own me anymore,” sighs Green, who lives in Primrose Hill, in London. “They are like – well, she’s gone. I actually need to do a French movie again because it will allow me to work in what is my first language. I worked so hard on my English when doing the Bond movie because I had a lot of pressure from the studio saying I had a French accent. I do like English – maybe because it’s a mask and not my language – but I will feel freer if I can speak French in a film.”

Green may have to wait before reconnecting to French cinema, if interesting English-speaking parts keep coming her way, such as Susan in her most recent film, Perfect Sense, director David Mackenzie’s apocalyptic tale. Green plays a scientist at the centre of an epidemic that causes people to gradually lose their senses. Amid the chaos – symptoms include sudden bursts of rage and a hunger to eat anything in sight – she falls for chef Michael (Ewan McGregor).

“It’s kind of a simple story set against this crazy background of the epidemic but I found it quite moving,” Green says. “I really liked the script and the relationship that she had with Michael. She has just come out of a hard relationship and is quite damaged, guarded and suspicious of men. Then she bumps into Michael; slowly she opens up to him and allows herself to be vulnerable and they fall in love.”

Having been unlucky in love (she had a high-profile break-up with New Zealand actor Marton Csokas in 2009), Green could clearly relate to a character putting up barriers to protect herself.

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“I think every human being, when they come out of a relationship, don’t want to be hurt or have their heart broken, and you don’t want to go into another relationship straight away,” she says. “And as an actor dealing with the media you also protect yourself. When you deal with the press you are not going to put your cards on the table. As an actor you have to put your armour on and at the same time be able to be emotional and open, so it is kind of a paradox. It is a crazy business.”

 

Mother’s support

Given the fact that she is the daughter of French actress Marl�ne Jobert it was perhaps inevitable that Green would be one of the crazy ones to choose acting. Growing up in Paris, she was initially loath to enter the profession for fear of being accused of riding on her mum’s coat-tails.

“Because my mother was quite famous I had that acting influence when I was young but becoming an actress wasn’t an obvious choice,” she recalls. “Maybe it’s a very French thing but people would say, ‘it will be easy for her, she will get an agent very easily.’ In drama school it was the case too – people were sometimes a bit jealous. My mother certainly wasn’t too excited about me following in her footsteps, because it’s very tough and there is a lot of competition. You understand why a lot of parents don’t want their children to do that job. If I had children, I wouldn’t want them to be actors.”

Green’s mother has since wholeheartedly accepted her daughter’s choice of career and is a constant source of support.

“She gives me advice and we get on so well,” says the actress. She’s with me on every shoot. Not on set but she is there to support me. When I return to France, I go to my parents’ flat in Paris. Like a little child I sometimes get told off. We talk about the script and the roles. We run the lines together and she gives me advice on scenes.”

Green landed her big break in 2003 in Bernardo Bertolucci’s controversial The Dreamers, in which the actress played one of three young people embroiled in an erotic conflict during the 1968 student riots in Paris. Cinemagoers could see that Green had bags of talent and also wasn’t shy about taking her clothes off in front of the camera. While the actress has appeared nude on screen since then – and will do so again in Perfect Sense – she is adamant it is never an easy thing to do.

“I don’t know a lot of actors who are comfortable with it,” she says. “You feel very exposed, especially with the media and the internet, and just how many people are talking about it now. Ultimately it is just part of a film. You have 20 people around at seven in the morning and you go, ‘oh my God.’”

 

Career-changing role

Green’s revealing turn in The Dreamers was followed by French film Ars�ne Lupin, about the notorious jewel thief, and Crusades epic Kingdom of Heaven before that career-changing performance as Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale.

“I didn’t realise being in Bond was going to be that big,” she says. “I saw the script as a good story. I have never been a big fan, watching all the Bond movies. I thought Casino Royale was a nice love story.”

Green admits that her status as a Bond girl sometime grates. “A lot of people have only seen me in Casino Royale and they are like, ‘you’re a Bond girl,’” she says. “Sometimes you do a red carpet and a journalist will go, ‘Oh my God, how does it feel to be a Bond girl?’ and you want to die. On the other hand I take it as a compliment because this Bond girl has a name and she’s complicated. I do know, though, that it is a curse sometimes for Bond girls because you get typecast and never work again.”

There seems to be little danger of that happening to Green, with the actress following performances in films such as The Golden Compass, sci-fi offering Franklyn and Cracks with her role as a witch in Dark Shadows, out later this year.

“I’m kind of blonde, Barbie-looking, but ballsy,” she says with a chuckle. “She’s the most powerful businesswoman in town, so she is kind of manly but with this Barbie look which is very cool. I’m sure people would put me in the evil box but she is madly in love with a guy and she’ll do anything to get him. He broke her heart a long time ago. I love the script because it is very funny, very poetic, very dark.” Perfect Sense is out on DVD on 30 January.