By Alison Willmore
How the Sin City: A Dame to Kill For actress walked away with the year’s most macho sequels.
Most of the thrill of the original Sin City is gone in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez’s follow-up to their innovative 2005 graphic-novel adaptation, set in a stylized, digitally engineered world of black and white with splashes of color. The movie, which floundered at the box office when it debuted this past weekend, is just as intensely violent, lurid, and nihilistic as the first one, and this time, it’s in 3D, which lends an added oomph to its sometimes beautiful compositions. But Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is also stupefyingly — 100-plus minutes of just the climax of a story, everything turned up to 11, the characters so interchangeably hard-boiled that it can take a while to realize Josh Brolin is actually playing the same character Clive Owen did in the previous film.
It’s disappointing, except for the one thing Sin City: A Dame to Kill For does have that the first installment didn’t: a scene-stealing Eva Green, who, as Ava Lord, burns a giant hole in the center of the screen. In a movie in which Jessica Alba humps a stage and Mickey Rourke plucks out someone’s eyeball like he’s picking a particularly stubborn daisy, it’s not easy to be the center of attention, but Green easily dominates the gritty, gory affair. Her Ava is less femme fatale than dark deity, a goddess of self-destruction who men can’t help but cower in front of.
And Sin City: A Dame to Kill For isn’t the first hyper-macho Frank Miller sequel this year that Green’s walked away with — as Artemisia, the bloodthirsty villain in March’s 300: Rise of an Empire, she totally bowled over the indistinguishable muscly male lead (Sullivan Stapleton, if you’d forgotten). Ever since her 2003 debut alongside Michael Pitt and Louis Garrel in Bernardo Bertolucci’s racy The Dreamers and her 2006 stint as proto-Bond girl Vesper Lynd…
Green’s proven to be a little too much for Hollywood — too formidable for happily-ever-afters, too much presence to be a character actor, too beautiful to be ignored, and too…goth-y? But in 2014, Green’s been carving out a distinctive career for herself as the scariest and most intimidating of sex symbols, and it’s been awesome to watch.
Aside from that graphic-novel green-screen double feature, the Year of Eva Green has included the actress’s acclaimed turn as troubled psychic Vanessa Ives in Showtime’s Penny Dreadful, in which she shifts between serenely enigmatic, vulnerable, and terrifyingly animalistic. She’s also got upcoming roles as a “deliciously unhinged” mother (per Variety) in Gregg Araki’s White Bird in a Blizzard and a ferocious, mute outlaw’s wife in Kristian Levring’s Western The Salvation, both due out later this year. But it’s her parts in the Miller adaptations that particularly stand out, because they manage to feel subversive in an environment that’s almost toxically heavy on the testosterone.
Miller’s near-parodic odes to the toughest of tough guys can’t help but sideline their female characters — his stories are, underneath the blood and sweat, deeply romantic about the business of being masculine in the most archetypal of ways. The men might die for the women, seek solace in them, get them killed, and avenge them, but the women themselves are rarely the focus. And yet…as Artemisia and Ava, Green disrupts this pattern by refusing to be an object who is primarily gazed at or acted upon. In Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, she’s just as sexualized as her fellow female cast members (including Alba, Rosario Dawson, Jaime King, Jamie Chung, and Juno Temple), but she’s fully in control. When she goes to lure her ex Dwight (Brolin) back after leaving him years earlier to marry a rich man, she shows up nude, in his bed, serene in her certainty that she has him. Her sensuality’s presented as a weapon, and he’s resistant and resentful even as he gives in — and the sex scene, which is strenuously athletic and shot in silhouette, ends with him crouched at her feet, like she’s poised to bite his head off, praying mantis-style.
Ava barely bothers to play the victim, rolling her eyes at the ease with which she wins over one of the cops on the case (Christopher Meloni) by playing on his lust and protective instincts. Both Sin City movies do some ludicrous things in the name of “strong female characters” (like the women of Old Town, who are organized, armed, and impossibly tough, but not tough enough to move on from prostitution to more lucrative crime, and who, btw, also frequently have hearts of gold underneath the dominatrix gear). But Green plays Ava as someone who, while psychotic, is also thoroughly in charge, and who deflates some of the grandiosity the film invests in its male characters’ grand gestures of sacrifice and obsession.
Green’s even more fabulously bonkers as Persia’s ruthless top naval commander in 300: Rise of an Empire, now out on DVD and Blu-ray — sprawling on her throne at sea, manipulating Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) into somehow transforming into a gilded giant, taking the heads of enemies and then making out with them. Artemisia is a survivor of prolonged violence who remakes herself into a fearsome warrior, and the film never really suggests her thirst for revenge is unfounded, making her feel at least as much antiheroine as antagonist.
Halfway through 300: Rise of an Empire, Artemisia and Themistocles meet for a parley that turns, natch, into more crazy sex. It starts with her grabbing his hair and leads to the two slamming each other into various surfaces around the ship before she tosses him out, leaving him stunned when he goes back to his colleagues. Artemisia’s desire, born out of how pleased she is to have found an opponent who can actually match her, drives the whole love-scene-as-battle-metaphor sequence, and it’s not suggested she’s giving up anything or losing stature because she chooses to act on it.
Artemisia is the lone woman in a world of men, but, as played by Green, she’s neither challenged because of this nor acting as just another one of the boys. She’s her own wild creation, unfettered but readily feminine, whether leaping into battle or donning an increasingly intense series of battle ball gowns (culminating in a dress that includes tasteful golden bone-spikes along the spine).
Green commits to her material, no matter how pulpy, which is why this cartoonishly outsized character, a highly fictionalized version of an actual historical figure, comes so vividly to life. She’s not simply hamming it up — she’s as soulful as she is scary.
Green’s so good in these two watered-down sequels that it’s easy to imagine her kept in similar roles going forward — brash, witchy, and doomed. There are worse things that could happen, but she really deserves more, and Penny Dreadful comes closest to showing her range, from demonic force to unguarded romantic lead. And even in the Showtime drama, her character’s formative moment involved the love of a man who couldn’t keep up with her. But being a force of nature shouldn’t condemn someone to wan roles.
By Susan Wloszczyna
“Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” did little to add sizzle to the late-summer box office this past weekend after collecting a slim $6.5 million and dismissive reviews. But it’s not from lack of trying on the part of Eva Green. This casting addition to the stylized babes-brutes-and-bullets sequel based on Frank Miller’s lurid comic-book series steamed up more than a few critics’ 3-D glasses as Ava Lord, a diabolical emerald-eyed femme fatale who has a hard time keeping her clothes on.
“Pulp and noir were often built on the beautiful shoulders of such characters as Ava, and the main justification for seeing the film is to watch Eva Green claim membership in the pantheon of noir leading ladies,” writes Todd McCarthy in The Hollywood Reporter. Adds Voice Media’s Amy Nicholson: “Eva Green is sexy, funny, dangerous and wild — everything the film needed to be — and whenever she’s not on screen, we feel her absence as though the sun has blinked off.”
Signature line: “As charming as you are, Mr. Bond, I will be keeping my eye on our government’s money — and off your perfectly-formed arse.” – as feisty Bond girl Vesper Lynd, giving as good as she gets opposite Daniel Craig’s 007 in the 2006 version of “Casino Royale.”
Career peaks: Like Bridget Bardot in 1956’s “And God Created Woman,” Parisian-born Green, now 34, exploited her own siren-like sexuality and created a sensation as part of a semi-incestuous menage a trois in her 2003 film debut “The Dreamers.” At the time, director Bernardo Bertolucci described his discovery as being “so beautiful, it’s indecent.”
Ridley Scott chose her to play the sultry Sibylla, a married Jerusalem princess who has an affair with Orlando Bloom’s crusading knight in his 2004 medieval epic “Kingdom of Heaven.” (Alas, much of her role was excised including love scenes that were later restored in a director’s cut.) The film flopped domestically but did well overseas, turning Green into an international star.
Biggest assets: The London-based knockout has been compared to the early Angelina Jolie and rightly so. Just like Jon Voight’s daughter, she grew up with an actress mother, Marlene Jobert, and shares Jolie’s knack for making sexy seem smart while standing out in genres usually dominated by men. Green is also a welcome throwback to when Hollywood knew what do with alluring yet dangerous females who refused to be victims.
But unlike Jolie, Green has maintained an air of mystery about her private life, characterizing herself as a reclusive nerd. “I like to stay home and read rather than go to a club or something,” she tells Rolling Stone. “I’m very shy. If I go out, I’m hugging the walls.”
Much as she did with 300: Rise Of An Empire, however, Eva Green holds up the mid-section with great gusto. Pouting with just the right amount of vamp and camp, Green’s titular dame pushes this Sin City firmly into farce where it belongs. As a seductress extraordinaire, Green is having fun, which is more than can be said for the sour-faced fellows in her thrall. Watching her play the victim and thrust her head into the lap of the cop that comforts her is a pleasure only matched by the sight of her waiting by the phone for his call later that night (“About time,” she purrs). The fact she is nude while doing this is absolutely integral to the story, you understand; the film dips a whole star every time she’s off screen.
– Ali Gray for The Shiznit, Review: Sin City: A Dame To Kill For
Green is breathtakingly villainous and captivating as the soulless woman driven by a greed that can never be satiated. In a cast of heavy-hitters who each dig into the task at hand with relish, Rourke and Green manage to breathe fire into and elevate otherwise straightforward characters and stories.
– Roth Cornet for IGN, Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame To Kill For Review
The filmmakers wisely hired the fearless, magnetic Eva Green to play—what else?—the delectably twisted femme fatale Ava, who offers up most of the aforementioned copious nudity. Reminiscent of Linda Fiorentino’s classic turn in the seedy suspenser The Last Seduction, and far more resourceful than the movie she’s in, Green’s Ava more than lives up to this picture’s subtitle.
– Jason Clark for Entertainment Weekly, Sin City: A Dame To Kill For (2014)
Appearing in her second Frank Miller adaptation of the year (after offering the most memorable scenes in the300 sequel), Green cements her scene-stealing credentials with a perfect femme fatale impersonation. Whether clothed or naked, she rivets the camera’s attention. Green shares the villain’s duties with Powers Boothe, who knows a thing or two about how to get viewers to hate his character.
– James Berardinelli for Reelviews, Sin City: A Dame To Kill For
As in 300: Rise of an Empire, Green is a scene-stealer and she injects enigmatic allure into her damsel in distress role – a femme fatale that is made all the more captivating by the film’s subtle use of situational red, green, and blue coloration.
– Ben Kendrick for Screenrant, Sin City: A Dame To Kill For Review
The title story is the most thrilling, if only for Eva Green’s sensational performance. She has affected shades of noir in previous roles, but as the scheming Ava Lord, Green is a terrific femme fatale, luxuriating in Miller’s Chandler-esque dialogue while devouring the scenery and every inhabitant in it.
– Radheyan Simonpillai for NOW Toronto, Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame To Kill For
By Emily Zemler
Eva Green is impressively terrifying in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. In the film, out August today, the French actress embraces the role of Ava Lord, a dangerous femme fatale set on revenge and murder. It’s an impressive and powerful performance from Green, who also recently appeared in 300: Rise of an Empire and currently stars on Showtime’s Penny Dreadful. The role also meant that Green spent much of filming with director Robert Rodriguez in various states of nudity. So much so that the promotional poster for the movie featuring the actress was deemed too racy and had to be edited due to the visibility of a nipple. We caught up with Green at a recent press day for the film in Los Angeles and chatted about working on Sin City, being naked and that infamous nipple incident.
You’ve been making a lot of movies with green screen lately.
I mean, I didn’t do this movie because it was green screen. It was a really cool project. The script was great. And yes, it was green screen–ike greener than ever: no furniture, no nothing. There was nothing there. Sometimes you have props, but it’s quite a weird world. The first day you’re like, ‘Oh my God.’ I was lucky because I had real actors to interact with. I know some of the other actors did not have that chance.
Is that a challenge to have nothing around you?
You don’t know how it’s going to turn out. So the other actor is saving you. It’s like theater. I haven’t done theater in 10 years.
So this is like doing theater without actually doing theater?
Yeah, exactly. You have a small audience and you can fuck up. It’s wonderful.
Why was the character of Ava Lord interesting to you?
She is so extreme and irreverent. She’s like a homage to the great characters of film noir. It was just fun to play somebody so evil. She’s so jaded with no sense of morality. I’m so not like that.
She definitely taps into something most women probably wish they could channel.
Yeah, I wish I had a bit of her power. She’s scary.
You basically wear no clothing the entire movie. Was there ever any trepidation about being naked so much?
Any actor and any actress are very nervous when we have to do that kind of scene. It is not gratuitous [with Ava]–the way she uses sexuality to get men and use men is part of her character. But also it’s not realistic. It is art. Robert lights it in such a way. He promised me there would be lots of shadows and stuff and things would be added in post. That was very important. But on the day you feel nervous. And then you kind of forget that you’re naked. It’s very strange. You’re so stressed that it’s like, ‘I’m not naked. I’m not naked. I’m not naked.’
Do you do anything the day before to prepare for that?
A lot of actors get drunk. But I was cast a week before shooting so I didn’t have time to do much prep at all: So no time to go to the gym. I put myself in the hands of Robert and asked him to remove the cellulite in post-production.
Is that the secret to losing cellulite?
I don’t know! I think with shadows they can. I mean, can you imagine a femme fatale with really bad cellulite? That would be another version of ‘Sin City’!
Speaking of nudity, what was your reaction to the controversy over your poster for the film?
I don’t really understand it. If people have a problem with the poster then they’ll probably have a problem with the film. You see nothing on the poster really. It’s like ‘Why?’ I thought it was bad publicity or something. I don’t know what the problem is.
I looked at the original and the edited version side by side and could not really see the differences.
There’s no difference! It’s a setup or something. I don’t get it.
What do you think about Americans being so prude when it comes to nudity and sex?
It’s very subjective. In this movie it’s so not pornographic. It’s very decent, I think.
What did you think of the film once you saw it?
I haven’t seen it! I hate watching myself. It has nothing to do against the film. It’s just me and my ego. I can’t watch myself. I become very self-conscious.
Will you ever do theater again? You don’t have to watch yourself there.
I’m the kind of the person where that would suit me. I’m a control freak and I could prep, but it’s so stressful. I’m so worried about blanking out onstage. It happened to me, actually. At three o’clock every day you go, ‘Okay, in four or five hours I have to go there.’ I have so many butterflies and I get so nervous. There’s a part of me that would love to, but I don’t know if I’m brave enough to go back there.
Do you have that same anxiety on a film set?
No. Because you can fuck up and do it again.
Thanks to Eden, Carol, Ari, Danii, Jackie, and Clara for many of the new additions. Enjoy!
“Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” Premiere – August 19, 2014
Eva’s wearing an emerald Elie Saab gown from the Fall 2013 Haute Couture Collection. Hair by Adir Abergel and Make-Up by Pati Dubroff.
Here are some more reviews on Eva’s performance in Sin City: A Dame To Kill For. Click on the Source links for the full film review.
Of greater interest in any event is anything and everything involving Ava (Green), a spider woman so fatally gorgeous and seductive that no man can resist her. …….Pulp and noir were often built on the beautiful shoulders of such characters as Ava, and the main justification for seeing the film is to watch Eva Green claim membership in the pantheon of film noir leading ladies alongside Jane Greer, Gloria Grahame, Marie Windsor, Peggy Cummings,Lizabeth Scott and a few others. Frequently baring all in a way that was not allowed in the ’40s and ’50s and often lit by Rodriguez (who did triple duty as director, DP and editor here) in a high-contrast style accentuated by slatted light through blinds, Green more than earns femme fatale immortality by first reiginiting Dwight’s fire, then going through a succession of other admirers, including her loaded husband (Marton Csokas) and a married cop (Christopher Meloni) before receiving her well-deserved comeuppance. …..As an exercise in style, it’s diverting enough, but these mean streets are so well traveled that it takes someone like Eva Green to make the detour through them worth the trip.
– Todd McCarthy for The Hollywood Reporter, Sin City: A Dame To Kill For: Film Review
Eva Green makes for a viper of a character in Ava Lord, able to switch her behaviour according to the poor sap she’s trying to lure, and the actress is clearly relishing the chance to play such a conniving con artist who wraps men around her little finger and disposes of them when they’re no longer useful.
– James White for Empire Online, Sin City 2: A Dame To Kill For Back in Black. And White
The showiest role belongs to Green as Ava, a knowing riff on the standard femme fatale that’s all scene-chewing bitchiness. Green has a ball playing the dangerous sexpot who gets her hooks into Dwight….
– Tim Grierson for Screendaily, Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame To Kill For
Amazingly, one performer does emerge from the sludge of ‘Sin City: A Dame to Kill For’ with an emerald-eyed fury, and that’s Eva Green, fully committing to the title role’s silky monstrosity. Her frequent, brazen nudity – swimming pools and bathtubs are a big part of her day, apparently – is going to short-circuit some viewers (not just the overgrown boys, but anyone expecting a femme fatale with a hint of shame). Yet Green is the only one able to excite this silly material into the spiky shape it’s supposed to take. You wish the rest of the cast was as clued in.
– Joshua Rothkopf for Time Out, Sin City: A Dame To Kill For
Eva Green by contrast…All calculated sensuality and dangerous curves, Green owns this installment of Sin City as surely as Rourke did the last one, replacing his self-consciously retrograde masculinity with a femme fatality so knowing and over-the-top that it flirts with satire. Her emerald eyes, ruby lips, and sapphire dress (on those occasions when she is, in fact, clothed) may pierce the monochromatic screen, but it is her canny mashup of cinematic seductresses from Jane Greer to Sharon Stone that offers the movie’s principal compensations.
– Christopher Orr for The Atlantic, Sin City 2: Not To Kill For
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By Kyle Buchanan
“You cannot defeat the Goddess,” says one character in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. “She cannot die.” He’s referring to Ava Lord, the seductive black widow who gives the film its title, and when she’s played by Eva Green, who can blame him for using heavenly superlatives? There’s always been something otherworldly about Green, who first impressed (and undressed) in Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Dreamers, won best Bond Girl ever honors withCasino Royale, and just this year starred as the formidable Artemesia in 300: Rise of an Empire and toplined the Showtime series Penny Dreadful. A few weeks ago in Los Angeles, the slinky Green met up with Vulture at The Four Seasons to tell us how she got into character for the Robert Rodriguez–directed Sin City, and how she felt about getting out of her clothes for it.
Do you consider yourself an inhibited person when you’re not shooting?
So it must surprise you how bold you can appear onscreen, especially in all of Sin City‘s sex scenes.
It’s very ironic, because I’m very shy. People don’t believe me: “She did The Dreamers, and all these other nude scenes!” But I remember telling my publicist, “I’m really naked in Sin City. Just wait.” I don’t know any actor who’s comfortable with nudity, but it’s not gratuitous in this film, because she uses her body as a weapon. Still, in the morning when you have a nude scene, you want to die. You feel quite silly to be in a tiny thong with Josh Brolin, who’s wearing flesh-colored Spanx, and you’re in front of a green screen — like, “This is not happening!” But Robert told us, “I’m going to add lots of shadows, and you’ll look great. I knew that I could trust him.
When you play a character like that, does any of that confidence carry over into your real life?
Maybe it gave me some confidence in doing press, because I used to be very nervous doing interviews for TV — and I’m still not great, I get sweaty — but I got better. At school, I was really shy. If a teacher asked me a question in front of other people, I’d melt. Lots of actors are very scared in real life, actually.
Your characters are so forward with men. Are you?
No. I’m shit. [Laughs.]
How much freedom as an actor did you have in a film like this, where Robert is trying to re-create a lot of the frames from the comic almost exactly?
It’s funny, because I was really worried about that before I started filming: Oh my God, you have to be so still! Can I even move my finger? Can I touch the other actor? And yes, he frames each shot like a painting and you have to hit the mark, and some of the stuff he wants exactly like in the comic book, but it was fine — especially because I had real actors in front of me, because I know some of the other actors didn’t. I wouldn’t have liked that, so I was really lucky.
Did you have to do a lot of work beforehand?
I was cast very last minute, like a week before shooting, and usually I like to prep, so I was panicked: “Oh my God, I have to work on an American accent and find the character, and there’s so little time!” So I watched some film noir, like Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity, because this is so femme fatale. At the beginning, I looked at my character and thought, My God, she’s so evil. There are no cracks in her, and her heart is so hard. I’ve played evil before, but that one was 200 percent evil, so I had to find the jubilation in playing her. I brought my body and my heart to Ava Lord.
And none of the men in this movie can withstand her.
Yeah, she’s quite scary. Quite scary! It would be interesting to do a prequel, just to find out why she’s so hard. Maybe she was traumatized? Or maybe she was born crazy.
What do you get out of doing a show like Penny Dreadful, which is about to go into its second season?
It’s fun, and I love fun. I love playing mad people, actually. My character looks quite guarded and very Victorian and tight, and to be able to let it all out … it’s so fun to be that irreverent. It’s like having a really bad Tourette’s moment.
Do you watch the show? Did you see the seance sequence from your second episode?
No, I haven’t! It’s horrible.
Well, at least watch the show so you can get to the part where Josh Hartnett and Reeve Carney make out.
Oh my God. Oooh! [Laughs.]