G   /   October 13, 2018   /   0 Comments

by Craig McLean
 
 
A year after the movie mogul’s disgrace, Bond actor Eva Green speaks for the first time to Craig McLean about surviving in a sexist industry — and why London beats Paris for pubs and trees.

BRITAIN’S favourite witchy actress has been considering the hex that Brexit is casting on the country. She has to. Eva Green is an adoptive Londoner of 13 years’ standing. But, despite that Anglo-sounding surname — and a career-launching role as a cut-glass-accented HM Treasury official in Casino Royale, Daniel Craig’s first outing as James Bond — she’s French.

“For me as a French resident, I’m thinking, what’s going to happen?” ponders Maida Vale-based Green.

“Are they going to kick me out? Do I need to get a British passport? Should I marry an Englishman? No, I won’t go that far,” she jokes.

Does she feel rejected as a European expat living here? “No, because everybody is against it in London. But I’m quite scared, waiting for the tsunami to come. Some people have left already.”

Still, it’s hard to imagine this redoubtable 38-year-old upping sticks for home. For one thing, the Paris-born daughter of a French actress mother and Swedish dentist father has forged a career acting in Anglo-American projects in her second language. Oui, in her next two films she plays Frenchwomen: a single-mother astronaut headed for the International Space Station in Proxima, and a trapeze artist in Dumbo, the live action reimagining of the Disney classic directed by Tim Burton (her third film with the London-based American).

But broadly: “Bond girl” Vesper Lynd, flying sorceress Serafina Pekkala in The Golden Compass, Morgana in TV series Camelot, the titular headmistress in Burton’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, the witch who curses Johnny Depp in Burton’s Dark Shadows, and the demon-battling Vanessa Ives in Sky Atlantic’s Penny Dreadful are all English-language characters. Not to mention all parts with something of the night about them.

Green — who is considerably more fun in person than her gothic roles would suggest — feels at home here. Having come to London to study at South Kensington’s Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art when she was 17, she’s been based here almost her entire career.

“I love the fact that London is so green. There are so many trees. There are no trees in Paris; well, not many. It’s weird. When I go there I get frustrated.”

That Anglophilia is probably one reason Green has been chosen to star in a short film for classic British car marque: Jaguar.

“Jaguar is such a legend, for a French person anyway,” Green tells me when we meet in a studio near Hanger Lane, the base for the Jaguar shoot. “When you imagine Jaguar you imagine them in old movies, something beautiful and classy. This felt very special — and British special as well.”

With a career as long and varied as Green’s, it’s sadly inevitable that she has worked with assorted men who have subsequently been caught up in #MeToo claims.

Her first Vogue cover was by Patrick Demarchelier, the veteran French fashion photographer who’s been accused of sexual harassment by multiple models (which he denies). Her first film, The Dreamers in 2003, was directed by Bernardo Bertolucci. The Italian auteur recently declared that Ridley Scott “should be ashamed” for cutting Kevin Spacey from All the Money in the World. She expresses surprise at the Demarchelier report, while her experience of working with Bertolucci on The Dreamers — which featured full-frontal nudity and graphic sex scenes — was wholly respectful. “There was never anything ‘off’ or voyeur[istic]… He was paternal, a nice man. I don’t really know why he’s saying this at the moment.”

More challengingly, she clashed with Lars von Trier. She met the Danish director — who denies that he sexually harassed Björk while directing her in Dancer in the Dark — to discuss Green taking the lead role in his sexually explicit horror film Antichrist.

“I mean, I like to take risks,” she begins, adding that she’s “kind of a masochist… but this was…”

The role, eventually taken by Charlotte Gainsbourg, involved scenes of sadomasochism. Green, not unreasonably, “had very practical sexual questions, like [about] the masturbation … But he freaked out. I think it got lost in translation, and he was like, ‘nobody questions my work’. It was so strange.”

She’s also worked with Roman Polanski, on last year’s Based on a True Story. “It’s not a good film,” Green tuts. But did she have to think hard about accepting that job? “No,” she replies firmly. “In France he’s much better perceived than in America or England. He’s a god. In the [French] movie industry it’s always like, ‘you have to work with Polanski’.

“And he’s a nice man. I think it’s a bit different now that I know him, and I know his wife,” she says of the actress Emmanuelle Seigner, her co-star in the film, “and they have a different version [of the original story]… And it is a long thing and I don’t want to take sides. But people are complicated. You get the opportunity to work with a great artist… I don’t know, it’s a hard one. You sell your soul, I guess,” Green concedes.

And then there’s Harvey Weinstein. Last year, in an interview with a French radio station, Green’s mother Marlène Jobert alleged that the disgraced mogul tried to physically assault her daughter in a Parisian hotel suite.

“She managed to escape, but he threatened to destroy her professionally,” said Jobert.

Talking publicly about the incident for the first time, Green admits to feeling heavily intimidated at the meeting, which was for “a project that didn’t exist” and was sold to her on the basis of how he could change my career.

“He’s very pushy. But he gets turned on by fear, that’s for sure. He’s not quite right here,” she says, tapping her temple. “It’s about power — I’ve seen him in restaurants…’

“Also, lots of people in this business knew about it, not mentioning names. And I’m still angry with them — they knew what happened to me and they never did anything. They preferred to remain blind because he was God.

“But I’m a strong girl,” she states matter-of-factly. “I just saw him as someone who was not mentally right. He had just had a baby! But he’s obsessed — the more you push him away, the more he…” She shudders. “He looks at you like a piece of meat.”

She adds that her mother, who is famous in France, did warn her of the seedier side of the film industry.

“She has always pictured it as something quite dark. I don’t know if it’s worse now; I think it’s always been difficult.

“But, yeah,” she shrugs, “it’s the jungle. But I am more impatient now, with directors or producers who use their power to play that game. I’m a bit saturated with this. With age I’ve become more fragile! I can’t deal with it.”

More fragile, or more discerning. Next month she starts filming the BBC’s adaptation of Eleanor Catton’s New Zealand-set, Man Booker-winning novel The Luminaries. A literary period drama: it feels very Green.

She’s equally careful regarding her private life. She says she’s currently single and rebuts online rumours that she’s dating Tim Burton. “My sister even asked me. I love Tim but no, no, no.

“I don’t go public with relationships. It’s not… right. There’s no mystery any more.” Similarly, social media “is another addiction. I look at people’s Instagram, but I wouldn’t want to have it. It kills the mystery. You look stupid as an actor if you do it. We don’t want to know about you picking your nose,” Green says witheringly.

“My biggest worry is to be narcissistic. Or being drunk and posting — I would so do that, I do drunk texting already.”

It is, then, about being true to herself — whatever and wherever that is.

“I don’t really know where I belong,” Green cheerfully allows.

“But I truly belong to the moon, I think.” Well, it’s one way of coping with Brexit.
 
 
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