Eva Green

It’s not a job. It’s almost like a faith or a religion. every time, I give a bit of my soul.Eva Green

Eva Green, she of the smoky eyes, dark French beauty, and seemingly impenetrable temperament, has always existed more than a continent away from the Katherine Heigls of Hollywood. The 30-year-old actress first emerged in 2003 with her revealing debut in Bernardo Bertolucci’s lush, sexually charged coming-of-age film The Dreamers. Then her sexy and cerebral performance as Bond girl Vesper Lynd in 2006’s Casino Royale was arguably as integral to the success of the 007 franchise’s relaunch as DanielCraig himself. Her big-screen ascendance has also yielded a second, very lucrative sideline as a face of luxury (she has beenfeatured in campaigns for Emporio Armani, Lancôme, Dior, and Montblanc, among others). But Green, who splits her time between London and Paris, has always seemed to want more (or, in some ways, less) out of her film career than a succession of blockbuster sex romps and feel-good comedies might provide. In fact, she has tended toward smaller films awash in big and, at times, difficult modernist themes: Having recently appeared in the boarding school thriller Cracks, the directorial debut of Jordan Scott—daughter of Ridley Scott, Green’s director in 2005’s Kingdom of Heaven—Green’s upcoming projects include Perfect Sense with Ewan McGregor, a haunting love story set against the backdrop of a world in the throes of a global epidemic, and Womb, an even more eerie one about a grieving woman who chooses to birth a clone of her deceased lover. (Perhaps Green’s predilection for the dark and idiosyncratic is inherited: Her mother, actress Marlène Jobert, worked with Jean-Luc Godard and Louis Malle.)

Green is currently offsetting her role as the cold Morgan in the Starz network medieval fantasy series Camelot with her work on Tim Burton’s next film Dark Shadows, which may be the perfect mainstream outlet for an enigmatic actress some consider a bit of a dark shadow herself. Based on the spooky American television series from the 1960s, Green will star in the movie alongside Johnny Depp. We spoke to her in London.

MARK JACOBS: Why do you think people enjoy casting you as the dark woman? Even your Dior fragrance campaign was called Midnight Poison.

EVA GREEN: I hope I’m not being reduced to the dark femme fatale, because it’s almost a cartoon, one-dimensional, temptress kind of character. I like characters who have strong façades and then have secrets. They have cracks.

JACOBS: You do get to play a good witch every now and then.

GREEN: [laughs] I had a small part in The Golden Compass [2007] playing a white witch. But I never see my characters as evil. I admit that it’s fun to play dark characters, because in life I’m not like this. I have a movie called Perfect Sense coming out, in which I play a normal person. And one called Womb, in which I’m a nerdy, shy character. It’s fun to play witches, but I’m not only playing witches.

JACOBS: In Dark Shadows, you’ll be playing the witch love interest to Johnny Depp’s vampire.

GREEN: The character is a witch, but she doesn’t look like a witch. She’s obsessed with Barnabas Collins and she’ll do anything to get him. It’s a hate-love relationship—they’re both attracted to one another but they can’t be together. But it’s very funny. It’s very witty and well written.

JACOBS: What was it about Camelot that appealed to you?

GREEN: The character of Morgan is very ballsy, very brave. She’s like a mixture of Joan of Arc and Lady Macbeth. She may seem evil and damaged at the beginning, but she also has the other side, the fragile side, and almost behaves like a little girl.

JACOBS: You gave a great quote to Vanity Fair about how the old Hollywood studio system built and controlled an actor’s image. You said, “For the Bond movie, you had to do interviews for shitty magazines, and they ask you all these personal questions. I don’t like it—it kills the dream.”

GREEN: [laughs] I think it’s true! There’s no mystery anymore. It’s like they want to know if you had diarrhea in the morning or if you have sex with your partner onscreen.

JACOBS: So we can conclude that you’re generally disinterested in doing press.

GREEN: I’m not the best. I was such a nerd in school that it’s been a good exercise for me to be able to talk a bit about myself. I’m always scared of words in real life, if they’re not on a page in a script. To talk about myself, I feel like, Oh, my god . . . The movie should speak for itself. I know it’s very pretentious to say that. It’s part of the game, I suppose.

JACOBS: In the same vein, when it comes to photo shoots, you prefer to be made-up rather than natural.

GREEN: Like this shoot with Paolo Roversi. I adore him. He’s a genius. The idea was a Night Porter [1974] kind of look, a bit boyish. It becomes fun to me then. It’s weird when journalists ask you, “So what don’t we know about you?” I like playing a character and I feel like it’s indecent to reveal too much. It’s none of people’s business. So it’s fun to play somebody else in a photo shoot.

JACOBS: You wear couture more often than most. What pieces do you gravitate towards? You do a jeweled neck piece very well.

GREEN: Oh, yeah, I like a high neck. And I like naked backs. It seems very sexy. Red carpets are about being a bit theatrical—having fun rather than being too safe. You have to be brave. Fashion is fun. But I have to say that I’m not very patient. I go shopping maybe three times a year in an intense way. I’m like a man. Can’t spend too much time in a shop.

JACOBS: Is it true that you were inspired by Nina Hagen when you were a teenager? Is she who informed the gothic glamour you’re known for?

GREEN: [laughs] Oh, god! I might have said something like that because I had kind of a teenage crisis where I was wearing heavy makeup and eccentric outfits. But I never looked like Nina Hagen with black lipstick. I was always a big fan of Tim Burton. He influenced me and now I’m working with him.

JACOBS: How did your mother’s acting career impact your own?

GREEN: I always wanted to be an actress but I didn’t know if I could do it. So I did a workshop in England to improve my English and three months of acting to see if I liked it or not. I came back and did three years of drama school in Paris. That’s when I realized I really liked acting and that I was going to try to be an actress. The fact that my mum was so famous—I was embarrassed and self-conscious that people would think, “Oh, my god, she wants to be an actress and it’s going to be easy for her because her mum is famous.” That’s why maybe I’m working abroad at the moment. [laughs] I should do more movies in France. But she knows it’s a tough, ruthless job, and she’s always like, “Oh, my god, why did you do this?” But she’s also very proud of me.

JACOBS: She had a similar taste for fearless roles.

GREEN: It’s true. Like Rider on the Rain [1970] with Charles Bronson. She is an amazing actress. I wish she were acting again. She’s a very instinctive person, she works with her gut. She trusts her instincts much more than I do. I’m more cerebral.

JACOBS: The characters you’re drawn to seem powerful, at least on the surface. Do you feel that way personally?

GREEN: I feel like I’m kind of schizophrenic. That’s what my mother would say. I can be confident about some things, like I can be frank and very determined, but I would say I am not very confident when I feel like I really have to prove myself. And in this business you have to keep your armor on and be strong. At the same time, you have to keep your vulnerability for the set—to be able to act. So it’s kind of hard. I’m still learning.

JACOBS: You could work all the time if you wanted. But you’re actually well known for—

GREEN: Being a pain in the ass? [laughs]

JACOBS: No! For a very concise filmography. Why don’t you work more?

GREEN: I’m very picky. I like to do things that I adore. It can’t be in between. I really need to connect with the character to love it. I cannot do work just for the sake of it. And I know sometimes I’m like, “I should do this. I would learn from it.” But it’s hard for me. Because it’s not a job. It’s almost like a faith or a religion. Every time, I give a bit of my soul.

JACOBS: What do you love about a smoky eye?

GREEN: Everything is in the eyes. The soul is in the eyes, and it makes it sharper. I wear no makeup in real life. I’m very simple. That may be why I go over the top for the red carpet. But otherwise, I’m very plain. I should make more of an effort, actually.

Mark Jacobs is a writer and creative consultant based in Los Angeles.