French actress Eva Green is the first to admit that she is attracted to playing complicated characters that have a dark side. She had a major international breakthrough as the mysterious Vesper Lynd in the 2006 James Bond film “Casino Royale.” In the dramatic film “Cracks” (based on the Sheila Kohler novel of the same title), Green plays Miss G, a glamorous teacher at a remote all-girls boarding school in 1930s England.
But behind Miss G’s charismatic façade, she is a woman who is mentally unstable and not as independent as she would like her students to believe. When Miss G develops an obsession with one of her students — a royal Spaniard named Fiamma (played by Maria Valverde), who is envied and ostracized by her fellow students — it leads to a disturbing tragedy. At the New York City press junket for “Cracks,” I sat down with Green who talked about “Cracks” as well as her bewitching, scheming characters in the TV series “Camelot” and Tim Burton’s movie version of “Dark Shadows.”
What did you to do get into the character of Miss G?
I went to an asylum. No, [I’m joking]. First of all, I met Jordan [Scott, director of “Cracks”]. We get talked a lot about the character. She gave me a bit of homework. I had to see “Picnic at Hanging Rock” and “Heavenly Creatures.” She showed me a lot of pictures [by] a great photographer, [Jacques Henri] Lartigue. And I read the [“Cracks”] book, of course, which is rather different from the script. [In the “Cracks” book], it’s happening in South Africa, it’s very hot there, the [Miss G] character is more masculine, and she’s really tough. It’s quite intense. But it was good just to absorb the essence of the piece.
What was your relationship like off-screen with the actresses who played Miss G’s students? And how much of it was affected by what the director wanted, in terms of getting into character?
Jordan wanted me to look mysterious, so I had to stay … in a very nice flat by the sea. And the girls were all together in a hotel. So we didn’t see each other much, apart from on set. It was quite an intense shoot: seven weeks. In the evenings, I’m a big nerd. I work hard, so I didn’t have time to hang out, really. But the girls were so beautiful and very professional and very disciplined. Sometimes I was the mother, sometimes just friends. It was very easy.
What was your education like when you were growing up?
I hated school. I was not in boarding school. I was raised in Paris with boys. It was very relaxed. I didn’t know that “boarding school” feeling. So for me, I approached it in a very different way. It’s a bubble; it’s a cocoon, this boarding school. It was like a threat when I was a child: “You are going to boarding school.”
What does your family think of your choice to become an actress?
My mom is very proud of me. I’ve done some weird choices, and my mom’s like, “Why did you do that?” And when she sees the movie, she’s always surprised. She just respects my choices, and she’s very much on my side.
Why do you think Miss G becomes so obsessed with Fiamma?
I think Fiamma is exotic, she’s traveled a lot, she’s cultured. She’s everything Miss G would like to be. At first, she’s interested in her, then intrigued, then fascinated, then unhealthily obsessed by her. And she wants to own her. She wants to be her.
The actresses in “Cracks” who played the swimming students had to do a lot of diving in a cold lake. Did you have to do any of swimming, even though it wasn’t in the movie?
No, I’m not brave enough.
How did you feel the first time you saw the final cut of “Cracks”?
I was by myself. It’s very hard. I don’t like watching myself, for a start. It’s very hard. It’s very violent. I cannot say what I think about the experience. I have this movie in my head, and then I have this [reality]. It’s blurry. I don’t know. It’s hard. I’m very proud of this movie though. I think it’s a gift for an actress. It’s the best role I’ve had so far. It’s very complex. I’m very lucky.
Do you prefer to you movies for the first time by yourself, or do you prefer to see your movies for the first time with an audience?
Maybe by myself, because if it’s really bad … [She laughs.]
How would you describe your interpretation of the Miss G character?
She [Miss G] created this persona. I watched several films with Bette Davis, Marlene Dietrich. She [Miss G] is an actress, so just to find the way she walks, she speaks. And then you see the more vulnerable side when she starts falling apart, when she realizes that Fiamma doesn’t really like her. So yeah, [my inspiration came from] a few movies, working on the script, reading it again and again and again, and talking to Jordan.
Are you Method actor or have you wanted to be a Method actor?
No, I’m not like Daniel Day-Lewis, who sleeps in the clothes of the character. I like listening to some music before a scene.
What do you think Miss G liked to do in her free time when she’s alone?
She reads a lot of books, magazines. She sews her clothes, with all the fashion magazines she has. That’s why she’s so classy. It’s all too perfect.
Can you talk about what you think about Miss G giving off a persona of being free-spirited and adventurous, and then we find out that she’s really afraid of the world outside the boarding school?
She’s very, very fragile. She’s very, very feminine. That’s why it’s interesting to play tough within the boundaries of the school, and then to see this woman made of glass. It was fun.
How would you describe your interpretation of Morgan in the TV series “Camelot”?
It’s a great character. There are so many interpretations of Morgan in the myth. She can be a saint. She can be a witch. Evil, bad, nice. [In my “Camelot” series], she’s a very a damaged character. She wants the throne no matter what, so she can kill people and things like that, but she is a very complex character. And she’s the rival of Arthur.
And she’s so fun; she’s so complex. That’s the good thing about TV series: You have time to explore a character. In one episode she’s evil, and then you discover why she’s behaving in such a way.
What can you say about playing the witch Angelique in Tim Burton’s movie version of “Dark Shadows”?
I don’t know if I can talk about it yet. I’m playing a witch who is completely in love with the guy [vampire Barnabas Collins, played by Johnny Depp], and she will do anything to get him. It’s very well-written, very funny, very witty.
What else is next for you?
I have a film called “Perfect Sense” with [director] David Mackenzie. It was at Sundance [in 2011]. And then this series “Camelot.” And then I’m shooting, in a month, “Dark Shadows.”
For more info: “Cracks” website
RELATED LINKS ON hornface.com:
Interview with Joseph Fiennes, Tamsin Egerton and Chris Chibnall for “Camelot”
“Cracks” Toronto press conference
“Cracks” news and reviews