If you think Cameron Diaz is the only actress playing a bad teacher these days, go check out new release Cracks. In it, you’ll find French actress Eva Green as Miss G, a glamorous swimming instructor at an elite 1930s all-girls boarding school who hypnotizes her students with exotic tales of far-off places. The thing is, Miss G has spent her entire life on campus, her stories merely semi-delusional constructions that win over her students’ devotion. But when a beautiful new student arrives, a girl who possesses the very qualities Miss G mimics, teacher becomes obsessed with student, and everything spirals rapidly towards a tragic finale.
Eva Green is no stranger to dark, ambiguous roles. In Casino Royale, she played a Bond girl with a secret, who left Daniel Craig weeping in the shower like a lost boy. And in her first role, in Bernardo Bertolucci The Dreamers, Green played a young Parisian who may or may not be sleeping with her formerly conjoined twin brother. The 30-year-old actress is drawn to these complex roles, and it was the chance to explore such a character in even greater depth that led her to a lead role in the Starz network’s upcoming King Arthur retelling, Camelot. Up next, she’ll star as a witch opposite Johnny Depp in Tim Burton’s horror comedy, Dark Shadows. Here she is on her twisted new character, the disturbing reaction to her onscreen nudity, and why she had to back out of Lars von Trier’s Antichrist.
Is this the darkest role you’ve played yet?
Yet, yeah. But there’s more to come!
Did you enjoy playing such a complex character?
She’s such a rich character, and you don’t get that very often. You get a girlfriend role, or that meaty, old-fashioned thing, but they don’t make films like his anymore. You have so many things: She’s so cool, eccentric, strong, and very fragile. I like risks. I like intensity. For me, it’s quite difficult to play a normal girl, I would not be very good. It’s not that it’s boring, I just like when it’s kind of weird or a bit extreme.
She reminds me of an old Hollywood starlet, like Marlene Dietrich.
I think because she’s all an illusion in a way. She doesn’t know who she is, so she’s created this character, and I’m certain that she’s watched all the movies and she’s like, Oh, I really like the look, or the way she stands and speaks. I think she got really inspired by her, by Bette Davis, and then I think you see the real her when she starts to fall apart. The veneer, the masks come off.
Is Miss G is living in a sort of dream world?
She’s a sort of fantasist. She lives in a bubble – in a dream. She exists when she tell stories to the girls. Without the girls she would die.
Do you think she ever had the love of a man before?
Oh no, she never got out of the school. She feels very safe because she understands the school; their rules. And when she goes outside she feels very lost. She’s extremely, extremely fragile.
And how would you describe the love she has for Fiamma?
It’s obsessive love. I don’t know if you call that “love,” as it’s rather unhealthy. She wants to possess her, she wants to be her. She’s everything she would have liked to have been – she’s traveled, she’s exotic. It’s the first time I think she’s falling in love in her own way. It’s very disturbing for her.
Is there a sexual element to it too?
I don’t see it as a sexual thing, weirdly. Probably, of course, there is an attraction but it’s more she wants to be her. If you read the book, it’s really hard, there are a lot of details and she kind of rapes her. It’s mysterious, she does sensual things to her, but it’s better to remain enigmatic. It’s more sexy, in a way.
What was it like working with a female director for the first time?
She [Jordan Scott] is very feminine, very sensitive, and it’s great because there was a real collaboration. We were like partners, and we sent emails to one another and really shared ideas. Sometimes you have a director and you’re the actor, you’re the puppet, and you’re not allowed to utter a word. Here, she really trusted me and gave me a lot of freedom, and she’s so passionate about the project. It was a gift.
I know you were going to do Lars von Trier’s Antichrist at one point, which is another very dark role, but your agents didn’t think it was the best role for you at the time. What happened?
No, it’s a complicated story and I can’t get too much into details, but I adore Lars von Trier. He’s always been one of my favorite directors. But we didn’t agree on a couple of things and that’s it, that’s life in this business.
You’ve completed the first season of a television show. What attracted you to that? Was it the idea of being able to explore a character over a long period of time?
Yes, it’s the first time I’m doing something like this, and it’s great to have a collaboration with the show runner and go, Oh my god, she’s a bit evil in that episode, can we make her a bit nicer? And have time to explore such an amazing character. It’s such a big character. She’s like a mixture of Joan of Arc and Lady MacBeth. It’s very cool, and very good, I hope.
Were you ever worried that by going to television, you would somehow lose your mantle as ‘film actress’?
No. Television is becoming something different, it’s kind of the future. People are a bit lazy and go less to the movies, and they download movies or buy DVDs, and it’s a new medium. You have to adapt. The legend of Arthur is so fascinating – it’s not something little.
And what about going to a network like Starz? The network’s not as well-known for serious drama as compared to HBO or Showtime.
It’s very different. Chris Albrecht is on board, and he used to run HBO – he came after Spartacus. So it’s a new image, and I don’t think Camelot is Spartacus. And you never know, people might not like it – we don’t know, it’s a gamble.
Your first film role was notorious for its nudity. Afterwards, did you reject a ton of offers to take your clothes off?
Yeah, I had some offers. But if it’s relevant and it makes sense in the story. But, I was very disturbed when The Dreamers came out because of course I take off my clothes, but I think there’s more to it. It’s a real story, it’s not porn. But people make such a big deal out of it. But I love this movie.
It’s a great film. But what disturbed you exactly?
They ask a lot about nudity.
Like I just did.
I mean, it’s a love story, it’s something else. Now when I have to do a nude scene, I always think twice about it, I’m very self-conscious.
Tell me about Dark Shadows, the Tim Burton film you’re shooting. Has that started yet?
No, in a month.
What can you tell me about that?
I’m not allowed to say too much about it. It’s extremely well written, very, very funny, in a Tim Burton way. It’s very focused on the actors, and the characters are really rich. My character is a full-on witch and she’s completely obsessed with Johnny Depp’s character, and she’ll do anything to get him.
Is it going to be a film children can see?
I don’t know, it’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever read. There will be blood, so I don’t know. It’s always dark and poetic with Tim Burton. It’s a mixture of Sweeney Todd and Beetlejuice—back to his old roots.