Eva Green: I sometimes think I’m like a ghost

It’s hard not to fall under the spell of French actress Eva Green. She has an almost hypnotic way of looking at you, seeming to delight in flashing her luminous blue eyes which stand out against her porcelain complexion. Blessed with a sharp intellect and tantalising beauty, Eva is the very definition of the femme fatale. There’s an exotic quality to her. Her conversation oscillates between serious self-analysis and a delightfully random observations on life, just as she can switch effortlessly between French and English. It’s this kind of duality which sharpens the many contradictions that define her personality. Despite her chronic shyness, she often plays strong, domineering women as a means of compensating for her own insecurities. Though she loves acting, she is terrified of auditioning for parts. But whether she’s playing Vesper Lynd in 2006’s ‘Casino Royale,’ or King Arthur’s runtless half-sister Morgan in 2010’s ‘Camelot’ TV series, or sitting down for an interview, Eva Green is irresistibly enchanting, albeit mysterious!

‘I think I confuse people. I have a dark side and I also have this very playful and provocative sensibility - it depends on my mood,’ Green explains. ‘I have a lot of insecurities and so to protect myself I often project this confident air and sometimes people think I’m being cold or arrogant because of this. I would rather just relax and be my natural ironic self and I’m working on that! (Laughs) Maybe I should do a comedy instead of playing all these dark characters I’m drawn to.’

Green's latest film is ‘Dark Shadows,’ Tim Burton’s remake of the campy Gothic soap opera that was first broadcast on the American ABC network in the late 60s. Eva plays Angelique, a lusty sorceress who is obsessively in love with Johnny Depp’s rakish patrician, Barnabas Collins, whom she turned into a vampire a few centuries earlier after he fell in love with another woman. When Barnabas reawakens in 1972, he re-joins his family descendants (led my matriarch Michelle Pfeiffer), only to find himself pursued once again by Eva’s wacky witch, resulting in acrobatic sex and other mayhem.

The 31-year-old Green (pronounced Gren, as per her father’s Swedish background) hopes that ‘Dark Shadows’ will help her regain much of the career momentum that seemed to fade after her turn as the doomed Bond Girl in Casino Royale. Recent films such as the ‘Cracks’ (2009) and ‘Perfect Sense’ (2010), co-starring Ewan McGregor, flopped at the box-office. Currently single, EG divides her time between her flat in London’s Primrose Hill district and her mother’s house in Paris’s 17ieme arrondissement. Her twin sister Joy is married to an Italian count from the Antinori winemaking family and lives in Normandy.

THE INTERVIEW

Q: Eva, how would you describe Dark Shadows and your character, Angelique?

EG: It’s this fantastic, passionate love story that takes place over the course of several centuries between Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) and a sorceress who has turned him into a vampire and buried him in the ground and then gets to pursue him romantically again when he reawakens in modern times. I’m this strange witch who is madly in love with Barnabas and absolutely wants to possess him. He doesn’t think he’s in love with her, but she is sure that he is destined to fall in love with her. It’s kind of a man-hates-love relationship and there is this wonderful banter between them throughout the film.

Q: You often play twisted or dark women. How does this role compare?

EG: (Laughs) It seems to be my destiny. I can’t get away from it. But this character is one of the best roles I’ve ever played. I got fucking lucky with this film and being able to work with Tim Burton who is such a genius. My favourite film of all time is Beetlejuice and growing up I would always watch that film whenever I was sad. So playing Angelique is like a gift from Heaven.

I loved working with Tim and Johnny. They have this magical chemistry together and have worked on so many films before. It was such an honour for me to be part of that process. I love the way Tim has this child-like sensibility and has so much excitement and enthusiasm when he works or describes what kind of atmosphere he wants to create in a particular scene.

Q: How crazy is Angelique?

EG: She’s relentless and completely bonkers. She won’t give up trying to convince Barnabas that he’s really meant for her and that he must be in love with her even though he doesn’t think so. Nothing can stop her. She’s relentless and will do anything to have him. It’s almost like a theatre play, a little bit like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf in terms of this twisted tension between them. Barnabas is confused and he has to deal with this obsessive woman who just won’t leave him alone. My look in the film is a cross between Betty Davis and Janis Joplin, although that must sound like a strange mixture. (Laughs)

Q: What was it like working with Johnny Depp?

EG: Johnny has an unbelievable gift for comedy and being able to create this impression of being lost and confused in this beautiful way. There’s this strange innocence and naivity to the way he was able to play Barnabas and it was so interesting to work with him.

Q: Your screen image is rather dark and impenetrable. Are you a particularly difficult person to get to know?

EG: I’m very shy. As a child, I was happiest when it would rain because I could hide behind an umbrella. I also had a terrible time in school because I was so shy and fearful of everything. Even though I’ve worked on quite a few films now and met so many people I still have this chronic sense of insecurity in certain social situations. It’s a dilemma for me. I think I have a good sense of humour and I love to laugh, but I have to be in a situation where I can relax for that side of me to come out.

I tend to retreat into my own little world and go to the same places and see the same friends. I often feel like I don’t really belong anywhere. I sometimes think I’m like a ghost who’s wandering around and unable to connect with the world.

Q: For a shy person, you’ve had a pretty successful career, don’t you think?

EG: (Laughs) I’ve been very lucky to have found so many dream roles. I love playing intense and complex and I’ve been able to play so many roles that give me the chance to express myself that way. Even Vesper Lynd was like that, which is fairly rare for a Bond girl. I have this need to find complex characters that have many sides to them. Maybe it’s my way of identifying with people who aren’t easy to understand, because I feel that way about myself. I have lots of contradictory feelings about who I am at times, and I think I need to explore those feelings through my work.

Q: Has acting helped you overcome your shyness and insecurities to any degree?

EG: I’ve often found it therapeutic to play strong or extreme characters because it helps me become more assertive in my own life. Acting has helped me a lot. I’ve learnt a great deal about myself by exploring different characters and looking deeply inside my own nature and personality. But it’s a strange occupation. You have to be very tough and persistent to succeed in the film world, but when you arrive on the set, you need to be completely vulnerable and let all your emotions flow into your character. I still feel fragile in many ways.

Q: Does playing another character or being on a film set give you the sense that you’re escaping from your own life?

EG: I feel more secure when I’m working on my character. It gives me a sense of stability because I can throw myself into another personality. I sometimes think that must mean I don’t like myself, which troubles me at times. But I’m getting better, I think! (Laughs) I suffer from stress and the only real thing which cures my anxiety is work. Work helps me focus and distract me from some of the nonsense that I think about when I’m on my own and feeling insecure at times. I also carry around with me a special stone which is like a fossil and when I feel anxious I hold that stone and it helps calm me.

Q: We often see you dressed up in very striking or exotic outfits and you’ve worked on various fashion campaigns. Is fashion one of your passions?

EG: (Laughs) I have a playful sense when it comes to fashion. I’m not afraid to dress wildly when I’m promoting a film or at a public event. But in real life I dress very badly, like a nerd. I wear black all the time or walk around my flat in my sweatpants. But when I go out I like to be adventurous and be a little more bold. It gives me more confidence.

Q: You’re known for your preference for the darker side of things in terms of your work. Is that how you see your career going forward?

EG: Not necessarily. I want to find characters that are many-sided and have some intensity to them. I never want to take a role simply because it’s a big studio film and there’s a big salary. I need to feel that I’m doing something creatively or artistically inspiring and it doesn’t matter whether it’s a big movie like Casino Royale or a smaller film like Cracks where I played this obsessive character.

I need to feel proud of my work and I need to be in love with a character. It’s good for the soul. Otherwise, you feel bad. I can’t just do work and work and work. I need to be passionate about it. I work less maybe than other actors because of that.

Q: You received a lot of praise for your work in the Channel 4 TV series Camelot. What was that experience like?

EG: I loved playing Morgan. She was a very strong and determined woman and it was inspiring to play someone whose character is so much more forceful than my own. I tend to be reclusive and withdrawn in social contexts and I don’t know why, really. I also loved shooting that series in Ireland which was a very pleasant and beautiful time for me. What was also interesting is that sometimes I would have these incredible laughing attacks with other cast members. When you’re playing a period film like this, and wearing these very special costumes, it’s easy to just have this little wink from someone else while you’re doing your lines and suddenly everyone just bursts into this silly laughter. I loved those moments.

Q: You’ve been known for some of the nude scenes you’ve done in the past. Are you now more careful about nudity or sex scenes because your first film created some Dreamers created some measure of controversy?

EG: People made such a fuss when The Dreamers came out. Sex was a theme, but there was more to it. I remember that the nudity and sex was the only thing the journalists wanted to talk about at the time even though that was only one aspect to a much broader theme of liberation and rebellion. And then I saw a lot of pictures of me naked [on the Internet] - oh my God. This was terrible. I love the movie, but now I know that if I do a nude scene that people will talk about it. I always feel like I have to prove myself. I want to be taken seriously.

Q: Did you feel exploited in any way by Bertolucci on that film?

EG: No, no! I was so honoured to have had the chance to be part of a Bertolucci movie. It was a wonderful atmosphere. The other actors Louis (Garrel) and Michael (Pitt) and I would go to his house every weekend where he would talk to us about cinema for hours and hours.

Bertolucci also loved to talk about art and music and literature so it was like being in the presence of this very passionate and learned man who was full of life and ideas. It was as remarkable a beginning in the movies as I could ever have imagined.

Q: Your mother Marlene Jobert was a very famous actress in her time. Was her example what inspired you to become an actress yourself?

EG: She never wanted me to follow her. She would have preferred I had done something else with my life. But she was very supportive when I said that I wanted to work in the cinema.

I've always loved movies, but I didn't want to say, ‘I want to be an actress.’ I first told my mother that I want to be a director, and so I went to a drama workshop in England, saying I want to know how to direct actors. It was all a lie, I think. Then I told myself that I really want to act, so I did three years in France in drama school.

Q: Do you often seek your mother’s advice when it comes to your work?

EG: I do, but I see my mother more as my best friend and my confidante. Sometimes I will talk to her about a role or a film in general terms, just to get her feedback. But I also have an acting coach who I rely on for more specific advice. My mother and I have this inseparable bond. It’s a very beautiful thing to have.

Q: What has been her best advice to you over the years?

EG: Oh, that would be very hard to say, she’s always been someone who’s taught me so much about life. I only wish I could follow her wisdom better. She loves to use the phrase Carpe Diem (seize the day), and I try to use that as my personal mantra.

Jan Janssen /Viva Press

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