Eva Green’s two most prominent film roles to date exist at opposite sides of the taste spectrum: Bernardo Bertolucci’s controversial, sex-filled The Dreamers (her debut), and Casino Royale. But after playing a Bond girl, Green wound up doing a series of small, challenging art films, including Cracks, a period piece concerning a remote British boarding school in the 1930s. Green plays Miss G, a charismatic teacher who’s slowly undone upon the arrival of a Spanish blueblood (Maria Valverde). Green has since taken mainstream roles again: She can currently be seen vamping on Showtime’s Camelot and will soon begin Tim Burton’s take on Dark Shadows. Over green tea in a swanky Union Square hotel, PW spoke with Green about Cracks and Michael Haneke.
This isn’t the first time you’ve played a character who is troubled. Even Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale is a bit mad. Is it their complexity that attracts you to these kinds of roles?
“Yeah, it’s always fun to play a disturbed character. And Miss G is so complicated. She’s not an obvious character. She’s not boring. She’s very strong. Or she seems very strong, very sharp, ver eccentric. But she’s fragile. She’s a little bird.”
She’s the most troubled character you’ve played. Was she also the most challenging?
“Yeah, the difficulty with her is that she’s acting. I was worried that people would think she’s a bit mannered. But she’s a fantasist. She exists in the eyes of the girls. She’s inspired by all the movies of the time and the magazines. It’s all a facade.”
Was it difficult playing a teacher?
“Yes. To me that was the biggest challenge, to be believable and have as much authority. Because these girls, I was only 10 years older than them. I was worried they wouldn’t really respect me.”
Were you given a lot of time to develop a rapport with the girls?
“We had one week of rehearsal. Jordan didn’t want the girls to be too friendly or familiar with me, so they made me stay in another hotel. [laughs] I was very enigmatic over there.”
How do you handle playing a character who does something so heinous? [Contains a major spoiler]
“I played it as though in her mind it’s not so evil. It’s a way of owning her, possessing her. The only way she can have her is to kill her. We wanted to make [Miss G] as human as possible. That was the challenge. It is kind of a fucked-up role. But interesting. I’m fascinated by people who lose it or become mad. Very sensitive people. [laughs] Too sensitive.”
Your mother, Marlene Jobert, acted in Jean-Luc Godard’s Masculin-Feminin, while your aunt, Marika Green, was in Robert Bresson’s Pickpocket. Did they encourage you to go into acting?
“No. Weirdly, my mother didn’t want me to become an actress. She thought it was for weird, crazy people, because it’s such a tough, ruthless business. She didn’t want me to suffer. And she still means it. [laughs] She stopped her career when she was in her 40s. So, I never grew up on sets. She comes with me when I do movies, so I can cry at night. [mock cries] ‘Oh, mommy! I was really bad in that scene! What should I do?’ So, she gives me advice. She’s like a coach.”
You were almost in Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist. Would you work with him if he asked again, given all the actresses who had horror stories of working with him?
“I’ve always admired him. But we had issues. We didn’t agree on a couple things. So I ended up not doing it. But I still think he’s very good. So, I don’t know if he’ll call me back. [laughs] I don’t think so.”
Who else would you like to work with? I read you were a big fan of Michael Haneke.
“[mock gasp] I adore him. I met him in L.A., when he was there for the Oscars. My uncle is his [director of photography]: Christian Berger. I was so much in awe, and he’s such a—he’s all smiles. He’s very nice. You’d think he’d be very [makes cartoonish stern face], but not at all.”
How have you changed as an actress since The Dreamers?
“Weirdly, I didn’t get more confident. I would have thought with age I would.”
Could you do a role like that again?
“No. I’m much more self-conscious about nudity now, because there was such a fuss when it came out. Now I think twice before a nude scene, or if I can avoid showing my boobs. [laughs] I’m careful. Even though I adore The Dreamers, and I don’t regret anything. I don’t think it was gratuitous at all.”
Eva Green plays Miss G, the flowery, charismatic swimming instructor at a remote English boarding school in the 1930s. Her pupils adore her, none more than Di (Juno Temple), for her syllabus includes more than mere diving: She exposes them to fashion, controversial books and other wonders of the world outside their lush, pastoral digs.