By Neala Johnson
“It’s nice,” says Eva Green, “not to play the girlfriend.”
“I don’t want to be the woman in the script where it goes, ‘There’s a beautiful, mysterious woman …’ Just, OK, forget it. I think I would feel unhappy … Some people play it very well but I want to be as equal as a man, you know what I mean?”
Oh, we know what she means.
As far as mysterious girlfriends go, Green played a stunner — to Daniel Craig’s James Bond in his first, bracing outing, Casino Royale.
So impactful was Green’s Vesper Lynd, Bond basically spent the next three films getting over her.
But now the London-based Frenchwoman is over it too. Searching for the word to perfectly capture what she wants to do from here on in, Green finally settles upon “other”.
“It’s exciting to be other.”
If it’s other she wants, Green could wish for no better co-conspirator than Tim Burton.
She teams with the famously eccentric director for a second time on Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, a fantastical adaptation of Ransom Riggs’ best-selling young-adult novel.
Green plays Miss Peregrine, a woman who, while protecting a gaggle of children with unusual abilities from outside threats, also has a peculiarity of her own: as the name suggests, she can transform into a bird.
“I remember Tim called me a year before the shoot. He was like, ‘I’ve got this book, I wonder if you would be interested?’ I was like, ‘Anything, I’d play anything for you’. But he was like, ‘No, no, I want you to read it and see if you like her’.”
A woman-bird who’s handy with a crossbow, has absolutely no love interest and is slightly bonkers? It’s safe to say Green liked her.
“Tim called her Scary Poppins, which I thought was quite funny,” the 36-year-old laughs. “But she’s not a bad, mad woman — it’s all to save her children. She has the ability to transform into a peregrine falcon and because peregrine falcons are the fastest animal on earth, she delivers lines very quickly.
“I watched some documentaries on birds. It was kind of a challenge — I was trying to have little, sharp movements with my head and not much blinking at all, using my hands like claws, my long nails. You always worry that you’re going a bit over the top, but I had a lot of fun … playing her like Mary Poppins on speed.”
Green wasn’t the only bird on set — another Bond casualty, Dame Judi Dench, plays a peculiar who can transform into an avocet. Green laughs at the memory of Burton directing them to react with symmetrical movement, as birds might. Her summation of working with Dench? “She’s such an iconic actress, she’s amazing … I mean, phew, wow.”
She’s “wow” about the children she worked with too, after initially feeling intimidated by the idea of having to be mother hen to a flock of 12.
“I’m in awe of children, they’re so natural, they live in the moment, they just don’t act, you know? I wish I could be a child again — stop thinking so much and just do.”
Green, whose career began with Bernado Bertolucci’s characteristically sensual 2003 film The Dreamers, is aware she has a reputation as the “gothic” girl — whether via her previous film with Burton, the 2012 vampire comedy Dark Shadows, Robert Rodriguez’s graphic novel adaptation Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, her recently-ended horror series Penny Dreadful or simply the fact she’s got dark hair and that mysterious vibe.
But she doesn’t see Burton’s work as gothic or dark.
“His universe is very poetic, very funny, so beautiful … I really feel like a child on set being able to play those eccentric characters. And we shot in an amazing house in Antwerp where they had this amazing garden with a pond and topiaries that looked like they were from Edward Scissorhands — animal shapes, a dinosaur — so you really felt like you were in a Tim Burton movie.”
Green is now happily taking a holiday; after wrapping the third season of Penny Dreadful (which unexpectedly became the last when the show was cancelled in June), she went on to work alongside Oscar winner Alicia Vikander in Euphoria, a film she calls “a love story between two sisters”. Both were roles she describes as “intense, very meaty and very raw”.
She reckons it might be time to do a comedy next.
“I can’t complain. I love giving everything to a role — I feel very alive when I do things like that. But it’s important for me to choose not-too-dark things as well, because I don’t want to be put in the ‘weirdo’ box.
“I always think, ‘The next thing can’t be that dark’ and then …”
She gets an offer she can’t refuse?