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In 2007, Eva Green was poised for stardom. After roles in Ridley Scott’s Crusades epic Kingdom Of Heaven and opposite rebooted Bond Daniel Craig in Casino Royale, and with the big-budget franchise-starter The Golden Compass on the way, she was riding high. But even if Compass hadn’t tanked, that likely wouldn’t have changed her plans. She probably still would have gone on to a series of eccentric, low-profile features—Franklyn, Womb, the newly released Cracks, and the upcoming Perfect Sense—that are still finding their way to these shores. She hasn’t turned her back on the mainstream, as her role as the villainess Morgan in Starz’ overheated Camelot attests; but she’d sooner take interesting roles than high-profile ones. Shortly before Cracks’ release, Green called The A.V. Club to talk about exploring her dark side, the difference between Bond and Bertolucci, and her reaction to the anti-Semitic remarks of designer John Galliano, for whom she once modeled.
The A.V. Club: Since The Golden Compass, you’ve made some fairly idiosyncratic choices, appearing in a number of small, hard-to-market movies that still haven’t been released in America. Was that a deliberate decision, after having done the Bond movie and Kingdom Of Heaven, to go smaller?
Eva Green: No, it’s just, you fall in love with the script, with a character, and then you meet the director. If you like the director, you decide to get on board. Of course, if you need the money, you do a big-budget movie, but I just fell in love with the story. It’s true it’s rather dark, but it’s a very strong story, and a great role for an actor.
AVC: Your character in Cracks, a seductive girls’-school teacher called Miss G, is a figure of awe to her students. What about Miss G seduced you?
EG: It took me a while to understand her, because she is such a unique character. I didn’t understand the psychology straight away. I read the book by Sheila Kohler, which is rather different—it’s happening in South Africa, and she’s much more masculine, she’s done weird things in the past, she’s been in an asylum before—but what helped me was the obsession she had in the book. It’s too much in the book, but it helped me understand how somebody like this functions. It’s just fascinating. I love extreme feelings and the fact that she’s madly in love with this girl. It’s nice to explore the dark sides of her, and yourself.
AVC: Camelot is a different proposition, but there’s a similar level of obsession to Morgan.
EG: Obsession with the throne maybe, yeah. She’s very determined, she has one goal: to get the throne no matter what. It’s not just to get the throne for the sake of it; she wants to be a good queen also, and to restore the pagan belief. She’s a very strong woman, kind of a Joan of Arc. Maybe in the first episode you think that she’s evil, full stop, but there’s much more behind that façade.
AVC: Cracks, like Camelot, focuses on power struggles, although they take place within the framework of a girls’ boarding school. How explicit were you about that aspect of the story?
EG: It’s interesting for the character that you see a very strong Miss G who has a lot of impact on her students, and she’s the queen in the school. Then Fiamma arrives and we discover another facet. She’s that kind of little girl, and Fiamma is actually ruling her heart, she’s becoming a bit like Blanche DuBois. That was to me the most interesting journey as an actor, to show such a difference.
AVC: Did you talk about what her models were? A lot of Miss G’s worldly, sexually confident persona is invented. Do you have a sense of whom she modeled herself after?
EG: She’s made up everything. She doesn’t know who she is. She’s watched all the movies from the ’30s, and I think she really likes strong characters like Bette Davis. Everything is calculated, the clothes, everything is perfect, too perfect. She never got out of the school because she’s made of glass, she’s too fragile. Creating these characters gives her a kind of confidence. So yeah, you know, watching movies, magazines, she’s like the best actress.
AVC: According to the opening titles, Cracks takes place in England in 1934, but there isn’t a strong sense of place or time. The world it’s in seems unreal.
EG: Yeah, that’s nice to say. I see it as a dark fairy tale—you don’t know when it’s happening. It’s like in a bubble, but Miss G is living in a bubble. She has no connection to reality. The rules, the structure, it makes her feel safe because she understands.
AVC: Is it hard to play someone like that, who is living in her own world and making it up as she goes along?
EG: I thought it was quite fun, actually. The danger was maybe people will think I’m a bit over the top, because she is acting in the movie, she’s not very natural. Maybe at the beginning, and then you discover that it’s all an illusion. That was the challenge. I was worried sometimes of doing a bit too much.
AVC: Miss G puts on a suave act, but we see that she lives a solitary, sad existence. You’ve worked as a Dior model, and yet you’ve described yourself as a dork. Did you relate to that aspect of the character? Not the fear of being discovered, but of being perceived one way and feeling something else?
EG: Sure, I think human beings are like this a lot. We all show facets, to your mother, or to your boyfriend, or a friend. You’re always a bit different. Of course Miss G is a bit extreme. I love that bakery scene, because it reveals a lot about her that she’s so strong and sharp and sassy in school. She never comes out, but she wants to please Fiamma, so she’s making such a big effort to go and buy some cakes or whatever. I kind of understand, not to that extreme, like sweating and feeling in a foreign place, but I’d say I’m quite shy. You can lose control sometimes, it’s human. But she’s an extreme character. I’m not her, of course. It goes through me.
AVC: Speaking of Dior, what was your reaction to the video that surfaced on the Internet of John Galliano yelling anti-Semitic slurs in a bar? You worked with him closely, and your mother, Marlène Jobert, is Jewish.
EG: I know. I haven’t been in touch, and I always thought he was a very nice human being. He was the most gentle, so delicate, so shy, so nice, and then this happens. I think he’s not a bad person, I don’t want to say anything mean about him, because he’s always been very adorable with me. Of course, I’m from Jewish descent, so I’m not going to be saying what he said was good, but I don’t think he meant it. He was under something, I think, when that happened, because he’s not a bad person.
AVC: For years, you’d cited Lars von Trier as a director you’d like to work with, and it was reported that you were going to make Antichrist with him. What happened there?
EG: It kind of got tricky, to talk about it. I always wanted to work with him, and I was about to do it, and we didn’t agree on a couple of points, so he had to take somebody else.
AVC: Do you still want to work with him?
EG: I don’t know. I don’t think he would want to work with me, honestly.
AVC: You made your first movie with Bernardo Bertolucci, which must have been thrilling until The Dreamers came out and got trashed. Were you surprised by the reaction to the film?
EG: At the beginning when it came out, people were only talking about the nudity, and it was like, “Oh my God, this woman,” that’s why they’re so upset. At the beginning, people didn’t like it. And then I think it got better through the years, weirdly. Now when people talk about it, they go, “Oh, we like The Dreamers very much.” I was just a bit upset at the beginning when people were just talking about the sex scenes. But I’m very proud of this movie. It seems like a dream now.
AVC: Making The Dreamers must have been an extraordinary initial experience in screen acting. Looking back on it, do you think you knew what you were getting into? Are you glad you did it?
EG: I’ve always been a big fan. I had a big poster of Last Tango In Paris in my room, and you know when one day they said we should go and meet him, I said, “Oh my God.” I was such a big fan, and of course there was nudity in it, but I was so blind, because I was in awe of that man, and I would’ve done anything for him. He’s not like a porn director. Sexuality in a scene has meaning. It was the best shoot I’ve ever had, so relaxed. The boys [Michael Pitt and Louis Garrel] were just starting, very young, I felt like I was 15 and having fun, just going to lunch on Saturdays with Bernardo and the boys and talking about cinema, music, and the ’60s. It was just ideal. Of course when you see the movie, I was not traumatized in any way.
AVC: When you’re making a James Bond film or The Golden Compass, is that more in the vein of a job than sitting around and talking about art on the weekend?
EG: Yeah. I mean, it’s different. Kingdom Of Heaven had a big budget, but still, it’s a job. You prep before, of course there’s much more money. It’s a different scale.