Who Is The Golden Compass's Eva Green?


Helen Barlow
Ever since her debut as a femme fatale in Bernardo Bertolucci's The Dreamers, a film that had red-blooded men watching an art movie for the first time in their lives, Eva Green has been immortalised on the internet as one of the sexiest, shapeliest screen stars since Greta Garbo.

Yet for the 27-year-old French actor, whose actor mother was part of the French New Wave, the idea of being known for her hourglass figure was far from desirable.

"I'm not going on the internet any more," she protests in her posh-sounding British accent, a hangover of perfecting her English to appear in Casino Royale. "I went on the net two years ago, and I saw some very nasty things and it's scary. People warned me that this was going to happen, but even then seeing shots of me being completely naked or just parts of me was just horrible. So much of it's taken out of context."

Green is not the most forthcoming of interviewees and given her regal stature she could be seen as haughty. She is in fact shy, so shy that her mother tried to dissuade her from pursuing an acting career. She found her earlier travails on the stage therapeutic.

"Acting provides me with the ability to express myself. It's magic, it's in my blood," she says.

There are in fact three Eva Greens.

Firstly there's the actor, best known for her savvy Bond girl, Vesper Lynd, who wore luscious red lipstick and a slinky revealing dress to well and truly distract the bad guy at the gambling table.

"That dress was very glamorous, a bit booby," she recalls with a laugh. "It's not my style, but it was good for the character."

Secondly there's her gothic-style fashionista, a character she uses for ads (the latest is for the new Dior fragrance, Midnight Poison) and for interviews, where she usually opts for exotic black high-necked numbers. "Personally I like McQueen, Gaultier, something a bit weird," she says.

Thirdly, there's Green in real life, where one assumes she dispenses with the black Kohl eyeliner, looks quite normal and goes unrecognised - which is the desired effect.

"You know, every day I wear jeans and T-shirts and I look like I'm 15. I'm not very glamorous," acknowledges the naturally slim actor. "The clothes are just an image; I play another character. It's fun to go all girly, but I can't wear high heels."

Green lives in London's trendy Primrose Hill with her beloved border terrier, Griffin. "I love going for walks and to go to the movies," she offers as her distractions. She also admits to spending time with her beau, who apparently is 41-year-old New Zealand actor, Marton Csokas, who like herself, is guarded about their relationship. Clearly they share a love of the theatre as Csokas recently returned to Sydney (where he once lived) to appear in the Belvoir St Theatre production of Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?. He has just finished playing Hugo Weaving's bandmate in Andrew Upton's Sydney Theatre Company production, Riflemind. The pair met when Csokas played her intimidating husband in Ridley Scott's Crusades epic, Kingdom Of Heaven. Although Green's character only had eyes for the boyish Orlando Bloom on screen, in real life it seems she tends towards well-built guys like Csokas. So maybe it wasn't hard to feign love for Daniel "007" Craig? The hunky Brit actually suggested her for his sidekick.

"I think Daniel's masculine and he's sexy and a wonderful actor," she replies throwing me her signature sultry glare. "He's very instinctive. There's something animal about him."

I had first met Green four years ago during her initial press rounds when she was reluctantly and nervously promoting The Dreamers. She told me how she wanted to work in Hollywood. "This has been a dream of mine since childhood. In France we are all impregnated by American culture, music, cinema." Still, she was unimpressed by American double standards. "I don't understand why you can't see naked people on screen in America but you can see a baby being killed. They're too puritan, too uptight."

Perhaps it's no surprise then that this quintessential European found her niche working for Hollywood by basing herself in London. The only drawback is that all of her family are in Paris.

"Sometimes I feel a bit lonely and I want my mummy," she says in little girly speak. "But London's so close; it's a very cool city. And I feel like I'm in the countryside - there's so much greenery."

The daughter of Swedish dentist Walter Green, and actor Marlene Jobert - who worked with high-minded directors such as Jean-Luc Godard and Louis Malle in her heyday - Green, who also has a fraternal twin sister, Joy (she married an Italian count!) was always a bit of a dreamer. In her teens Eva imagined herself as a Hindu goddess and even seriously considered a career as an Egyptologist, which makes her exotic dancing in The Dreamers seem completely in character. Discovering she had acting in her genes, she studied in Paris, New York and London and started working on the French stage. For her first role in La Jalousie En Trois Fax she was nominated for a Moliere (the French Tony) and Bertolucci was greatly impressed.

Green still considers The Dreamers, an incestuous drama in which she was torn between her love for her twin brother, Louis Garrel, and her yearning for Michael Pitt, the best of the six movies she has made. Certainly she has no regrets for being the object of an older director's fantasy, while the blushingly beautiful Liv Tyler, an actor with whom Green is often compared, had been a similar Bertolucci find on Stealing Beauty.

That both actors ended up in fantasy blockbusters is interesting. Certainly Tyler was able to retain Stealing Beauty's sense of innocence in The Lord Of The Rings, while Green, fresh from her sexy triumph in Casino Royale, is now appearing in The Golden Compass. In this first part of a prospective fantasy blockbuster trilogy based on Philip Pullman's best-selling books, Green plays a 400-year-old witch queen called Serafina Pekkala.

"She looks very young, but she's very wise; she's been through a lot," Green muses. "Actually her story is heartbreaking. She used to be in love with a man called Farder Coram [Tom Courtenay] and in the movie he's 80 years old and she looks like she's 20. They had to separate at one point because she had to go back to the north and rule. In the movie they bump into one other and it's very painful for him because he's ashamed of his age."

Although Green has no scenes with Mrs Coulter (Nicole Kidman) nor Lord Asriel (Daniel Craig) in The Golden Compass, she will in the future instalments, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass, should filming go ahead. Her task here is to help Lyra (Dakota Blue Richards), a 12-year-old girl, to travel to the North Pole. In future instalments Lyra discovers her special powers and they travel to the other parallel worlds.

"Serafina's more like a fairy than a witch," says Green. "She doesn't use black magic, she's in tune with nature and she can heal with her palms. The film itself is a little dark, but it was a pleasure to portray somebody who is so nice. I've been offered so many roles as the femme fatale. Aghhhh."

Riding a broomstick proved a particular challenge. "I've always been afraid of even flying in planes so in the beginning I was worried about being suspended from wires for such a long time," she says. "I had vertigo and it wasn't a nice sensation but I got over it. I'm proud of myself because I'm not physical. I had to convince myself to do it."

A fan of Pullman's trilogy, Green was attracted to the story's multi-layered strands and while the film leaves out the book's controversial anti-organised religion angle - which she particularly likes - she is pleased with the end result. "Here it's more about oppressive government, rather than religion. The film is largely for children but there are very adult themes, like the idea of free will."

As if to keep the concept flowing, Green recently completed her sixth film, the futuristic thriller, Franklyn, where parallel worlds feature as well.

She co-stars with hot newcomer Sam Riley (Control) and Ryan Phillippe.

"It's a very unusual story about depression. I play an artist who puts herself on tape and tries to kill herself. I also play another character, who is the opposite, very full of life. It's very funny, dark and mad."

Although Green admits to being "very, very lucky" in her career - the huge success of Casino Royale came as a big surprise, she says - she still can't relax.

"It could all change tomorrow. We never know what we want to do in this business and it makes me very anxious.

"I'm sent French scripts but I never fall in love with any of them. I have more choices now, that's for sure. My agent reads all the shit so I don't read everything, but it's still very hard to find something really exciting. But I'm happy. I can't complain. Maybe now I have to do something like Charlize [Theron] or Nicole. Then people take you seriously."

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