Sunday 23 October 2016

The greening of Penny Dreadful's Eva Green

For a former 'Bond' girl, Eva Green certainly knows how to keep under the radar. After two years of living quietly in Ireland, she says that she's happier walking the Wicklow hills - make-up free - than in a Dublin nightclub

Patricia Danaher

Published 19/04/2015 | 02:30

Eva Green, who has been working in Ireland a lot recently. Photo: Paul Wetherell
Eva Green, who has been working in Ireland a lot recently. Photo: Paul Wetherell
Eva Green and Daniel Craig in Casino Royale
Eva Green with some of the cast from 'Penny Dreadful' including Timothy Dalton (left) and Josh Hartnett (right)

Eva Green has been doing so much work in Ireland in recent years that the Paris-born actress jokes that she should get herself an Irish passport.

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Living in Dalkey, Co. Dublin, for the past two years, she is very at home in a house by the sea, to which she retreats each night, after days at Ardmore Studios filming Penny Dreadful.

A self-described introvert - who says she took up acting to help with her acute shyness - the embrace of the coastline of Dublin Bay comforts her.

"There's something very magical and very spiritual in Ireland. The nature is very particular here and there are forces," she tells me in her very quiet voice. It's a statement befitting of Vanessa Ives, the mysterious clairvoyant that Eva plays in supernatural TV series Penny Dreadful.

Though set in Victorian London, the show - which also stars Timothy Dalton and Josh Hartnett and is now in its second series for American network Showtime - is filmed in Dublin. When we meet on the set at Ardmore Studios, 34-year-old Eva is dressed in a purple silk shirt and black tie from Dolce & Gabbana over a pair of black leather trousers and high boots. She's friendly and wants to give a decent interview, but there's also an arms-length reserve which she can't help but give off. There's almost no trace of a French accent when she speaks.

"I shot Cracks here in Ireland, it's a small film. A long time ago, I did a TV show here also, called Camelot. I've spent two years here now doing Penny Dreadful, so I think I should get an Irish passport!

"The people here are amazing. It's the kindest crew I've ever worked with and I'm not just saying that. They're full of heart, they're sincere, they're funny, they're raw. It's a real pleasure." Filming of season two of the popular show is currently close to completion and although Eva looks more like a contemporary Goth, with those smoky dark eyes, there's something about her temperamentally that seems right in the lavish 19th century elegant set. But then, she's never been one to shirk from stretching herself from Bond Girl to Action Girl with the melancholy sexiness that is so much her hallmark.

"Psychologically, it's hard. I love it, but it's so intense that I can't wait to lie down on a beach and have a tequila very soon. I might end up in a cuckoo home after this TV series. But I know how to read the future with tarot cards now, which is kind of cool, to connect with the universe and all this, the elements… It sounds like kind of witchcraft, but it makes you more aware of yourself and connected to the earth."

Penny Dreadful does indeed have a lot of darkness and violence and includes lots of appearances by literary characters ranging from Frankenstein to Dorian Gray to Dracula. Does the role allow Eva to unleash her inner demons?

"I'm not that confident in real life, so sometimes I'm drawn to playing strong women because I wish I could be like this in reality. Like if somebody annoys me, I wish I could say: 'Off with his head!' In general, I am very scared, so it's kind of a dream to be so ballsy on-screen, even to be rude and evil. In reality, I'm really quite an introvert.

"Although I'm an actor now and have been for several years, I was so shy in school. I never talked and I thought I was going to pass out every time the teacher asked me a question. So, weirdly, maybe even masochistically, I decided to take theatre classes to be somebody else and to maybe gain some confidence. Then, I found I really enjoyed it and then I knew it was OK, that what I wanted to do was be other people."

Despite the urgings of her successful actress mother, Marlene Jobert, not to follow her into the same profession, Eva studied acting as a teenager at London's Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Arts. While in London, director Bernardo Bertolucci spotted her and cast her in his sexually charged movie The Dreamers, which effectively put her on the map - eventually leading to a 'Bond girl' role in 2006's Casino Royale.

"People always recognise me as Vesper from Casino Royale and I am very, very grateful and proud of that role. It was a nice love story in Bond. She was the only one he ever loved and always looks quite cool. But my favourite Bond girl I'd have to say is Judy Dench! She broke my heart in Skyfall."

Her heart is otherwise unclaimed - she's been single since she split from New Zealand actor Marton Csokas, who she worked with on Kingdom of Heaven.

Eva appears to have compartmentalised the various aspects of her personal life and her work life. She realises the power of her beauty and has become very wealthy from advertising campaigns for Armani, Lancôme and Dior. Her eyes appear to be very much wide-open about the work she's doing and the double standards that exist for women in the world in which she works."As actresses, it's very boring, but you have to drink lots of water and eat vegetables - because otherwise I am very naughty. Doing all the intense training I've had to do lets me have my glass of red wine and cheese at night, or a glass of Guinness, which I wouldn't be able to do otherwise. But you have to look after yourself and even despite that, sometimes you're made to feel like an old woman.

"You hear them talking about the next big thing saying 'oh, she's 20' and you are like, 'oh God, I'm 30'.

"They make you very aware of yourself to the point where sometimes you have to just put earplugs in and just not listen to their bullshit, because it's very ruthless.

"But sometimes, I am also very hard on myself. I feel like I'm kind of schizophrenic - that's what my mother would say. I can be confident about some things; 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 armour 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."

Dublin provides her with the privacy and solitude she craves. "I live a quiet, reclusive life when I'm not working. Living by the sea in Dalkey, it's great, after all those intense scenes during the day, when I can go home at night. I'm just like a cave woman with nature. Some of the roles that I do, like Penny Dreadful, are so intense that I really like being lazy when I'm not working. I love walking and I walk a lot when I can. I've been loving walking in Dublin and also in Wicklow.

"When I'm at home in London, I walk all the way through the centre, through Regent's Park. I love going to the cinema and I love reading. It's very boring really - I'm not somebody who goes out to clubs and things like that. I wear no make-up in real life. I'm very simple. I wear jeans and T-shirts. That may be why I go over the top for the red carpet. But otherwise, I'm very plain. I am really in my own bubble."

And what does she do in that bubble in Dalkey? "I have various TV shows that I like. At the moment, I'm watching Girls, which couldn't be more different from Penny Dreadful! I adored True Detective and will be very interested to see what Colin Farrell does with the role. There are so many good shows at the moment, it's kind of overwhelming."

Eva's family are still in Paris, except for her twin sister Joy, who lives in Italy. So far, she hasn't invited her actress mother to visit her here.

"I didn't bring my mother to the set, because she always has something to say about my hair or something, so I said to her, 'No, no. Don't come'. She always thinks it's very extreme and she's like 'are you OK?' and making sure I don't lose myself because we are very different actresses.

"Sometimes in the evenings, she helps me run lines, because her English has improved. She's very supportive, whereas I'm fighting with myself all the time!"

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