“I’m the money,” asserts Vesper Lynd (aka Eva Green) to Daniel Craig’s James Bond in the 2006 remake of Casino Royale. As the sexually charged banter ricochets between Green’s character and Craig’s, her smoldering blue eyes give off an intensity sharp enough to penetrate the cold heart of her colleague, yet warm enough to win over her audience, who, despite her guarded exterior, find Vesper vulnerable, sweet, clever and likeable. She’s smarter and more sensual than your average Bond girl, and in this breakout role, we watch Green evoke more range in one gaze than many actors do in an entire feature.
That was five years ago, and since this killer performance — which won the young actress a BAFTA — Green has been steadily carving her niche as master of dark, impassioned roles. She took to these very early on, starting with her film debut in the Bernardo Bertolucci incestuous drama The Dreamers, where she memorably bathes with her onscreen brother and their modest American “protégé.” In Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven, she’s the fierce Queen of Jerusalem at the time of the Crusades, and in The Golden Compass, again alongside Daniel Craig, she’s the queen of witches, but this time her powers allow her to fly. Currently, Green stars as Morgan in the new cable series Camelot on Starz — a network known for original series with penchant for sex and drama — as a Goth seductress and the ambitious heir to King Arthur’s throne, battling her brother for control of the kingdom. Next is her dream character, Angélique Bouchard, in Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows, a remake of the classic 1960s vampire TV show, scheduled for a 2012 release. Alongside Johnny Depp, who plays Barnabas Collins, Green is a love-scorned witch — a siren, but like none we’ve ever seen.
But for all these powerful female roles, where she reduces her lovers to pieces, in person, the French-born Eva Green is anything but. The self-proclaimed “shy” actress is actually quite mellow. Save for her remarkable good looks, it’s hard to imagine this calm starlet — whose wry humor that every once in a while cuts through her serious demeanor — as a man-eater. With a throaty voice that sounds well beyond her 30 years when speaking English coupled with a breathy French dialect that could win over even the most staunch Anglophile, Green at times appears to live in two separate worlds.
One half a set of fraternal twins, Green grew up in Paris in what she describes as a “bourgeoisie” lifestyle with her mother, the famous French actress Marlène Jobert, who was cast alongside Bridgette Bardot in Jean Luc Goddard’s Masculin, Féminin, and her father, Walter Green, a Swedish dentist who was once appeared in the ’60s film Au Hasard Balthazar. She began acting at age 14 first in theater before moving into film. Though she is now based in London, we caught up with her during a visit back to her parents’ house in Paris.
What are you working on right now?
I’m starting shooting in a few days for the Dark Shadows movie with Tim Burton. I’m prepping like mad. It’s quite a tough, unusual character, and it’s the first time I’m doing an American accent, so it’s a challenge.
When speaking English, you have quite the British accent. How is your American coming along?
Well I hope it’ll be fine. It’s my standard American. It’s a bit of an old-fashioned American accent.
How did working with Tim Burton come about? Did you audition?
It’s came really quite easily. We met a couple of times. He wants to connect with the person. He wants to hear you thinking about your role, and he looks at your previous work. He’s kind of old-fashioned in a very nice way. It’s a big machine, people are doing auditions, auditions and people get stuck, and instead, he just wants to connect, and that was just wonderful. And I got fucking lucky.
And they’ve already begun filming on Dark Shadows, yes?
They have. That’s why I feel like “Oh my god! What if they don’t like me?”
You play Angélique Bouchard. Describe who she is.
Well, I can’t say too much, but she’s a woman who is madly, madly in love with this guy called Barnabas Collins. They are attracted to each other, but from her point of view … I mean, he doesn’t think that he’s in love with her. It’s kind of a man-hates-love relationship. There’s a lot of banter, and it’s a passionate, obsessed love story. It’s a great, great character. We’ve never seen a character like her. She’s really koo-koo.
How do you prepare for this kind of role?
I work with a dialect coach, and I work with my old drama teacher that I used to have in drama school years ago when I was young. We talk a lot about the character because there are so many possibilities, so many options, so it’s good to explore them with someone else. I love prepping; it’s great. Now, of course, I’m very nervous because it’s next week, and I’m like, ‘Aaah!’ I find it exciting and stressful.
Do you generally need a lot of time to prepare to get into character?
I think I’m never ready. I will never be ready. I think I can’t wait … just the beginning is so difficult — getting to know the people. And then you get comfortable, and then it gets better.
It seems like you’re drawn to more English-speaking roles as opposed to French — why is that?
I don’t know, it just happened that way. I think because my mother is rather well known, in the beginning — even in drama school — people were like, “It’s easy for you. It’s going to be easy. Your mother is famous.” And then the Bertolucci thing happened, and I got an English agent. So it was a way, maybe in my subconscious, to tell them I’m capable. So, I started doing movies in English, but things just happened that way. And I never actually read something in French that I really fell in love with.
Would you say you are selective about the roles that you choose to take on?
Yes, very difficult — too difficult sometimes. I need to be very passionate about something, fall in love with the character, feel the guts of the character and get on with the director. For me it’s a real relationship that I want to have with a director. It’s not just work or money. It’s something very strong, so I don’t take it very lightly. I should sometimes. It’s very important to me, so I’m very selective.
It sounds like for you it’s more of an intimate relationship than just a job.
How much of a factor is money when selecting a role?
It doesn’t matter. Of course money is necessary. You need money in life. Of course I like spending money — going to restaurants, traveling. But if I really like something — the material, a director or the script — then I’ll do it, and I don’t care about the money. In an ideal world, it’s great to combine a big production movie — something that will please a lot of people — and then do something for the soul — usually with less money. It’s great if you can combine the two.
From the films you’ve done playing these dark, sensual women, it appears you’re very comfortable with your body. Do you feel there should be a little bit of sex in a project to make it more appealing?
It’s interesting, because my mother says that with me, she’s never seen someone so extreme. I’m very shy, and I’m very private. I’m not wearing sexy clothes or tight clothes. I’m very self-conscious. And that might be why, for me, I like playing characters that are very confident, sharp and fearless. Because in life I am sort of scared. So it’s kind of a weird combination. But no, I mean, doing something for sex, I’ll leave that for the porn actors. Of course, it’s always nice to do something sexy, but it has to have meaning.
So by taking on these characters you get to embrace something that you don’t feel in your everyday life?
Yeah, it’s exciting to play something that you’re not or something that you would like to be. That’s the pleasure of acting. People have a tendency to place you: “Oh you — you’re very sexy,” and it’s like, “Yeah, whatever.”
Would you ever do a comedy?
Dark Shadows is a comedy; it’s a dark comedy. It’s very, very funny.
Who are some actors and filmmakers that you’d like to work with in the future?
I did this movie called Cracks, and I would love to work with the director Jordan Scott again. She gave me a fabulous role — the best role I ever had — and it was great relationship. It was fantastic. I would love working with her again. Burton is also a dream come true.
Any French actors or directors that you’d like to do something with?
I love Michael Haneke who did The White Ribbon. He’s edgy and very brave. I love brave directors. They’re not the most commercial. They go beyond conventional, and I like that.
Do you feel like that helps push you to step outside your everyday persona?
Yeah, and it’s fun. When you do a movie, you want to do something that’s not too close to reality. You want to be able to explore something else.
After Casino Royale, do you feel like things changed a lot for you careerwise?
I think maybe it gave me a name. But I’m very picky. People are like. “Oh, you don’t shoot enough,” when I had been. People think I haven’t done anything after Casino Royale. But I just wanted to do things that have a heart, so I took my time.
Do you feel like options for roles opened up more after you made a bigger-name film?
Not really. It’s a very tough business. You can be hot and then you’re not hot anymore just because of the last movie you’ve done. Independent cinema is suffering at the moment because of that. People are not brave enough. And people are downloading movies on the Internet. I mean that’s great, but people cannot bother to go to the cinema like they did in the ’60s and ’70s. Or now they go and see 3-D. They don’t go [to the cinema] to think; they want pure entertainment. People are scared. It’s like, “Oh my god, this is too dark, it’s crazy, and it’s too far-fetched.” It’s very strange, and it seems that’s a new thing. It makes me very angry … and sad.
I’m sure with your mother as an actress you grew up going to the movies.
Would you ever do a film or any kind of acting with your mother?
My god, I think if she was going to do something really trashy, if she would break out of the image that I know of her and do something really bad, then I would do it!
How do you feel about television? You’re doing your first TV series with Camelot.
Yeah, I mean I took [on Camelot] not because it was TV. In the beginning, I took it for the role. Morgan is very ballsy, very brave, very damaged, guarded, ambitious and very modern. I really like her, you know? She can handle a lot of power, and I like that about her. She’s such a mystical figure.
Do you have any time for a personal life at all, now that you’re so busy?
At the moment, not really. Not at all, actually. I’m really focused on Dark Shadows. I can’t wait to start. And I’ll see my friends again in a few months.
You’ll have to have a romance on set then.
Yes, with my dog.
You’re based in London, do you feel more comfortable there than in Paris?
It’s so close you can just jump on the Eurostar. The thing is, in Paris I don’t have a place; I go straight to my parents. I feel like I’m 5 again. It’s very nice. And when I go to London I’m an adult again. I love London because of all the parks. I feel more relaxed there, I don’t know why. I just love it.
Do you spend time with a lot of actors in London?
No. I don’t have a lot of actor friends, actually. It’s more people from the crew — makeup, hair. Otherwise, I’m not the most social person.
Would you ever move to L.A. and do the whole Hollywood thing?
First of all, I don’t drive. But I stayed in Venice for a while, and I love Venice and Abbot Kinney. I find this area the most human. They have great restaurants there, and all the freaks on the beach. I have some friends there who are in the business, but it’s just going from one bubble to another bubble in your car. In the beginning, I was a bit scared by the whole thing, but as you get to know people more and more, it makes it a bit more human. But I’m too much in love with Europe, I think.
But there’s no beach in London.
No, and there’s no sun either.