Eve Hewson: 'Dad thinks he's the Irish Kris Jenner'
With three high-profile roles this year, Eve Hewson is stepping out of the shadow of her father, U2 frontman Bono. In an exclusive interview, she opens up about life back home in Dublin during lockdown, being single and how the #MeToo movement changed her mind about giving up acting.
Eve Hewson is a few minutes late for our Zoom call, and full of apologies because of it. She explains she got the timings mixed up, and only realised during the family lunch. It's easily forgiven, especially as it's rare for the Hewson clan to be in Dublin at the same time. In less pandemicy times, her job as an actor whisks her away from everyday life for weeks at a time; her older sister Jordan resides near her in Brooklyn, New York, and her father…well, he could be anywhere in the world, given that he's Bono.
For lockdown, the Hewsons returned from the four corners to the family home in Killiney. Eve is using it as a time for reconnection - especially as she left Dublin 10 years ago, when her younger brothers weren't even teenagers - and rest.
"I've been sleeping like a maniac. I think I've basically slept through half of the entire pandemic," she says in her New York-toned accent. "I'm genuinely enjoying it, because when I'm filming, I have to get up at like 4am."
In waking hours, "we've been doing a lot of cooking, drinking, smoking too many cigarettes, and all the things that we shouldn't be doing. Then trying to reverse all of that by drinking green juices. It's actually been quite a good time."
The Dublin interlude is much needed after a hectic 18 months. Following the rule of thumb that trends can be identified by three instances, Eve filmed a trio of projects that foretell a leap in profile this year: Tesla (a biopic about the inventor Elon Musk, starring Ethan Hawke) and Netflix miniseries Behind Her Eyes (from the team who produced The Crown), and The Luminaries, based on Eleanor Catton's Booker Prize-winning novel. Currently on BBC One, it's the first to be unveiled, and her first major lead role, which meant little downtime throughout the six-month shoot in New Zealand.
"I'd played the lead in a four-week shoot for an indie movie called Paper Year a few years ago, so I remembered how exhausting it was. So going into this, I was really prepared to go hard or go home. I basically went from scene to scene every single day for six months and then at the end of it, I collapsed. I actually had my friends come meet me in Hawaii on the on my way home and we spent a few days just hanging out on the beach. Hawaii got me through, especially with the really hard scenes that are very emotionally disturbing," she says. "As soon as I decided that I was going to Hawaii, a make-up girl printed out a picture of it for me and I stuck it in my trailer. So every day, if I had to do a hard scene, I'd be like 'okay, but countdown to Hawaii in three months'."
Later, I scroll through her Instagram in search of a post of this celebratory holiday. But in-between the snapshots of her life, which range from high-fashion photoshoots for Chanel to her recent presence at the Black Lives Matter protests outside the US Embassy, there's no mention of the trip to her 89,000 followers. It's not a total surprise, given that the need for privacy must have been instilled in her from a young age, but it's a move to respect in this 'pics or it didn't happen' world of ours.
When I bring up her attendance at the rally, she's unequivocal about her support. "Of course I joined the protest," she says. "I support Black Lives Matter because I believe black lives matter. I think it's so important for more white people to vocalise this. We're seeing that happen across the world now, and it's a beautiful thing to watch. I think for so long, people have been scared to speak out or say the wrong thing, but there's something about this particular moment in the movement that has really opened up a conversation that has been long overdue. I was really proud to be there and see so many Irish people show up and support it."
Aged 19 to 31, all but the youngest of the four Hewson children have now stepped into public life and, evidently, the apple doesn't fall too far from the (Joshua) tree. Jordan, the eldest, earned a coveted place in Forbes' 30 under 30 list last year thanks to her tech company's Action Button, which makes activism easier in the digital age. Younger brother Elijah, 20, is frontman of rock band Inhaler, who were included in the BBC Sound of 2020 poll. And with The Luminaries, Memphis Eve Hewson, who turns 29 on Tuesday, is at a turning point in her performing career.
"My dad couldn't be more thrilled for me. Between us, he thinks he's the Irish Kris Jenner," she says, laughing. "We're going to bring out a line of lip kits any day now."
It's common enough for children to follow their famous parents into the spotlight - to pick from thin air, Lily Collins, Alfie Allen and Maya Hawke are also current actors with high-profile family (Phil Collins, Keith Allen and Uma Thurman/Ethan Hawke respectively). But family influence only gets you so far and it's not necessarily a boon; Stella McCartney, fashion designer and daughter of a Beatle, explained it best when she said "it certainly opened a lot of doors, and certainly closed some minds". How does Eve perceive it?
"If I thought about it all day long, I wouldn't be in a healthy state of mind," she says. "But my whole philosophy has always been to focus on the work, and the rest will fall into place. I don't really care if people know my name or if they don't. People have been referring to me as Bono's daughter for my entire life, I can't lose sleep over it. If they start to just call me Eve Hewson, fantastic, but it's not something that I would put too much energy into thinking about."
It helps that while the family resemblance is there, you'd have to know it to see it; Eve's smoky, dark beauty is reminiscent of her mother Ali, but those aqua blue eyes are inherited straight from her father. It adds up to a striking look that serves her as much in photoshoots as on the small screen.
With the style comes substance. Our conversation is lively; she's adept at talking openly and intelligently while staying focused on the subject, which is a skill in itself. Most endearingly, she's devoid of ego - she readily pokes fun at her own expense, and there's no defensiveness. As TikTokers say, she passes the vibe check.
The only less-than-full answer comes when I ask about the extent to which the acting profession is viable only to those who are already financially secure, an increasingly salient issue in the industry. In fairness, there's no easy answer here, though she simply explains that "I haven't heard about that. But most of the people that I work with are from many different backgrounds, and have completely different stories".
Ali Hewson with her husband, U2 frontman, Bono and daughters Jordan and Eve
Eve's own break in acting came early on. Though enrolled at St Andrew's College in Blackrock, while accompanying father on tour, her tutor Erica Dunton encouraged her interest in films. When Dunton went on to make The 27 Club - a road-trip movie following a rock star after the suicide of his bandmate - she offered Hewson the part of the hitchhiker he befriends. Filming took Eve to North Carolina aged 17 and, from there, there was no turning back.
Aided by her time studying in New York, she skipped the Irish actor's rite of passage through the RTÉ drama department. Instead, she joined the cast of This Must Be The Place alongside Sean Penn, and appeared in For The First Time, an elongated promo video for The Script's stadium anthem of the same name. Slowly but surely, her career progressed: she worked under the guidance of her hero Steven Spielberg in Bridge of Spies, and Steven Soderberg in The Knick, the medical drama series in which she played a nurse alongside pioneering doctors (Clive Owen and André Holland).
That's a decent run for the first act of her career. At the very least, it assured her parents that she had the fortitude for the industry, given they warned her against acting because of the way women are judged and the constant rejection.
While their advice didn't deter her, Eve understands their points. "The commercial side of it is quite a superficial business in some ways. I think a lot of it sends the wrong message," she says. "You have to be very careful about the way that you represent [women], especially to do with sexuality, and what's deemed sexy in Hollywood. If they're going to decide, 'okay, this girl is the love interest, and this is what she should wear', it can't be just middle-aged men deciding that. There has to be women involved in the conversation too. Because then we are just pitching only one idea to young teenagers, and it has to be more diverse than that."
An example crops up later when we're raving about Normal People - she notes the subtlety of a scene in which Paul Mescal walks with his hands in his pockets "and you see his bum in those school trousers. There's something familiar about that. It feels filmed with a female gaze".
As to the inevitable rejections, Eve has her head firmly on her shoulders. "I've learned with auditions that you prepare, show up, do your job, and then the minute you leave, just let it go. The more auditions you do, the more rejections you get, so you build up a thicker skin, and it's easier. You just become a cynical old lady," she says, laughing.
"But I think competition and failure is healthy and necessary, for any actor, artist, writer, director. That can genuinely feed you. I'm obsessed with the Michael Jordan documentary The Last Dance. In it, he talks about how his dad told him always turn the negative into a positive. If he had a bad game, or if they didn't win, that would feed him so that in the next game, he would come back and smash the floor. I watched it agreeing that's exactly how you have to think about failure. You might do a movie and it might not do well, or nobody thinks it's good, or people just don't see it because of the distribution. You just have to take those blows and try and turn them into something positive."
As it was, she did consider ditching the career, but it wasn't for the reasons her parents feared. It ended up being Hollywood's gender imbalance that made acting too restrictive. "Before I took this job, I had a complete existential crisis," she says. "I was going through that period in your 20s where you start to question everything, and I didn't like acting anymore. I was becoming aware of the way women are pigeon-holed in our industry, and how women are represented on film."
She recounts meeting a top studio executive and asking how many women were on the board. He had to be reminded that they had one, which spoke volumes about how valued she was.
"That kind of stuff really started to bother me. I started to think I don't know if I want to be a part of it, or subject myself to that kind of inequality."
In the nick of time, the #MeToo movement started to gain momentum. "All these women were coming out and saying they were sick of doing the same work for less money, and backwards, and in high heels. So this conversation about gender equality and diversity and equal pay happened, and the system started changing.
"Then, because of that, all of these interesting female protagonists started popping up in my inbox. Great, demanding female roles that weren't just the mother or the damaged wife. They were women who were at the centre of these stories. And then they sent me The Luminaries. And I thought, 'oh, thank Christ'."
Rewritten by Eleanor Catton herself, the TV adaptation is the tale of murder, mystery and mysticism in the 1860s gold rush in New Zealand, but reimagined with prostitute Anna Wetherell as the main character. Her friction with scheming brothel owner and mystic (Casino Royale's Eva Green), and relationship with astral twin Emery Staines (Yesterday's Himesh Patel) are also pulled to the foreground. Given historical fiction often resigns women to bit-parts, it's a fascinating exercise in the power of hidden protagonists.
"The show is an epic adventure story about the gold rush in New Zealand, but underneath it, there's a compelling argument about the challenges women face in society back in the 19th century and even to this day. What is our worth? How do we fit into a male-dominated world? What are we capable of? Who are we allowed to become?"
Sweetest thing: Eve as Anna Wetherell in BBC's adaptation of The Luminaries
As meaty as the role of Anna was, it did come at a price, as the time zone alone made it difficult to maintain her friendships for the six months.
"It's a nomadic lifestyle, doing this," she says. "I came back from New Zealand and I realised that I'd missed half a year of my life. Friends were pregnant and engaged, and had completely different lives than before I left. I realised how hard it is to miss out on big milestones like that. That's one sacrifice that you have to make, unfortunately."
Having previously dated James Lafferty, best known as Nathan in One Tree Hill, Eve is now single, and I wonder if the nomadic lifestyle has impacted her own relationships?
"Oh yeah. I've been single for eternity - finding someone is tricky if you're moving around all the time," she says, without hesitation. "Even if you do find someone you like, you probably won't be in the same city as them for a long period of time, so it makes things a bit more challenging.
"The only thing you can really control is what you have in front of you, and I know how lucky I am to have the career that I have," she says. "Although I'm one more pandemic away from catfishing people. I might start going on dating apps and using a different name and trolling boys on the internet just to pass the time. You've got to get creative in these times."
For the moment, she's channelling her creative energy into soaking in culture: reading books, watching films, and reading scripts, in a preliminary effort into becoming more involved behind the scenes, either as a producer or director. "I'm feeling that burn, definitely," she says. "I don't know if you can tell, but I'm a massive control freak. I felt for a long time it probably wasn't a good idea to direct because I'm such a control freak that it would probably be dangerous - like feeding the beast. But now I've been on so many sets and I've learned so much from many different directors. I'm feeling more capable that is something I should do and want to do. I have no specific plans, but I'm definitely open to that."
I ask Eve if she has a hankering to work with anyone in particular, and it takes precisely no seconds for her to answer that it's Alec Baldwin, of 30 Rock and Saturday Night Live.
"He is a genius. I would like to act with him and I've always said that. I want to put it out into the universe. I think he's just fantastic."
Has she met him?
"I've never met him. I don't know what I would do," she says, as if genuinely stumped. "I love his podcasts. I just love the sound of his voice. Oh, and you know who I love? Goldie Hawn. I was just watching Private Benjamin the other day, and then me and my sister watched The First Wives Club. She brings me so much joy."
But for the next while, it's all about letting her forthcoming projects loose into the world, a flurry that feels like the next phase in her ascent. The Luminaries is halfway through and will receive a US release in autumn. Tesla is due in cinemas in August and Behind Her Eyes, based on Sarah Pinborough's novel, is nearly ready to go, though release dates are to be confirmed as coronavirus impacts schedules across the world.
After that, "it's a matter of whenever we can start shooting again. Once people figure out what the protocol is and if it's safe to go back to work, there are a few things that I'm looking at that would be wonderful to be a part of. But everything is so up in the air that we just have to be patient. No studio or production company wants to endanger anybody, or be responsible for anyone getting sick".
If all goes to plan, there may be a project to keep her this side of the Atlantic. Is this taste of home is enough to tempt her back permanently?
"If I found a nice Irish boy, I certainly would," she says, wickedly. No better advertisement than in a newspaper, I suggest.
"Great, you can change the headline to 'Are You Single? Eve Hewson Looking for Boyfriend. Preferably Irish'," she says, laughing. "No I'm just kidding. I think I would [move back], especially because my favourite people live here. It's kind of tricky, being an actor. I say I live in New York, but I don't really - I'm always away wherever the job is. So where do I put down my roots? I guess I'll have to tackle that when the time comes."
For now, it's a case of seeing how the pandemic situation plays out… and dealing with the influx of suitors from the call-out. Form an orderly, socially-distanced queue, lads.
The Luminaries continues on BBC One tomorrow night