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Eva Green talks about her `gothic` portrayal of Vesper Lynd

03-Dec-2006 • Casino Royale

Beneath the gorgeous Bond girl glamour lies thoughtful starlet Eva Green, reports Stephanie Bunbury for The Age.

Waiting to meet the new Bond girl, Eva Green, I am busy imagining what she'd be like in real life - spectacular cleavage, smouldering siren pout? - when the woman herself walks into the room. You couldn't imagine someone less like the 007 vixen: think indie film ingenue with long, hippie dark hair, pale face and waifish frame, eyes rimmed with extravagant black kohl, and an air of nervous, almost twitchy energy.

She is wearing a silver ring with a fossilised insect. She tells me it is from Morocco. On the other hand is a silver embossed ring she found in a "tacky Gothic store" six years ago.

Watching the 26-year-old, Parisian-born actor as she takes a seat and leaps for a cup of coffee as if it were a lifesaver, I suspect she'd be the type to nibble at her nails in private.

When she was a child, a trip to the Louvre inspired a desire to become an Egpytologist. She even tried to learn hieroglyphics, but a passion for Middle Eastern antiquities was soon replaced by a passion for the stage. She would invent personalities and costumes for herself - Hindu goddess, geisha - and soon decided that acting was her chance to be anything but herself, the daughter of middle-class parents and a self-confessed nerd.

That intense, artiness is still there: she has a piano in her London flat, admires the work of Ingmar Bergman and Lars von Trier, and adores the classic femme fatales of film noir (Lauren Bacall, Marlene Dietrich, Bette Davis).

She lives alone and, by her own account, leads a low-key life when she's not working or fronting ad campaigns. (She's modelled for Breil jewels, Emporio Armani, Lancome and recently starred in a new series of Heineken ads.)

On the romantic front, she's been linked most recently with New Zealand-born actor Marton Csokas, who played her husband, the brutal Guy de Lusignan, in crusader epic Kingdom of Heaven, but, in interviews, she prefers discussing the foibles of a different kind of companion - her Border terrier, Griffin (whom she jokingly calls "my husband").

Green has had good reviews for her performance as Vesper Lynd, the enigmatic British Treasury agent who is sent to assist 007 (played by the newest James Bond, British actor Daniel Craig) in a high-stakes poker game that is the set piece of Casino Royale, the 21st film in the world's most lucrative film series.

Based on the 1953 novel by Ian Fleming, the first one he wrote in his super spy series, it has Green in an equal partnership with 007 as the two meet, fall in love and negotiate their way through all manner of minefields - emotional as much as physical.

Ask Green about the critical attention she is receiving and she shrugs and smiles, twiddling her silver ring. She might seem nonchalant, but the financiers and producers behind the franchise are anything but. When filming began in January, the extensive search had still not yielded a candidate to play Vesper.

The film's producers, Barbara Broccoli - daughter of famed Bond producer Albert "Cubby" Broccoli - and her half-brother Michael G. Wilson, defended the delay, saying that such a crucial role could not be rushed. There was intense industry speculation in the lead-up to the announcement, with high-profile candidates such as Angelina Jolie and Charlize Theron reportedly turning down the part, but, at a press conference to announce Green's arrival, Broccoli and Wilson said she had always been their first choice.

Broccoli says they wanted to return the Bond story to its darker roots, strip off some of its more fantastical trimmings and embrace the mood of earlier classics such as From Russia with Love and Dr No. Both Daniel Craig's battered visage and brooding expression and Green's enigmatic presence seemed to fit the bill perfectly.

The role of Vesper is crucial to the story because she is the first woman whom the newly fledged Bond (he's just been given his 00 status) falls in love with, and is thus instrumental in shaping him, Broccoli says.

In many ways, the emotional template set in Casino Royale resembles that of 1969's On Her Majesty's Secret Service, when Bond (George Lazenby) falls in love with Diana Rigg's character, and I ask Martin Campbell, who returns to the franchise having directed GoldenEye in 1995, whether audiences will embrace this new 007 love story.

"I hope so. There's a lot riding on it," he grins, but he is serious when he says he believes a new generation of audiences are ready for a more human Bond, one who bleeds, opens his heart, and actually makes blunders.

About Green, he says: "She has an air of mystery about her, which is essential for the role. There's something about Eva that's quite, I don't know, Gothic. You never really know her."

Despite her crisp, upper-class, English accent (she's had extensive dialogue coaching to polish Vesper's speaking voice and it seems to have stuck), Green is decidedly European. One of twin daughters of a Swedish dentist, Walter, and veteran French actress Marlene Jobert, she honed her acting in French theatre before making her film debut in Bernardo Bertolucci's 2003's The Dreamers. Her mother tried to dissuade her from taking on the role of Isabella, which has Green naked for much of the film.

She was then cast as the enigmatic, kohl-eyed Sibylla in Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven, and although much of her screen time was cut for length (including some steamy sex scenes with Orlando Bloom), Green caught the eye of the Bond producers.

Still, she says she wasn't interested in the role at first: she claims she had little interest in playing, as she says, "the beautiful girl with the gun". But when Broccoli and Wilson sent her the script, she was hooked. What appealed was the love story at the heart of Casino Royale, with all the twists and turns, complications and emotional tides. Of Craig, she is glowing.

"I knew him from Munich, and he was magnetic, beautiful."

She seems genuinely pleased when she is complimented on the on-screen chemistry between the two.

"Oh, thank you. We didn't have much time to rehearse because I was coming in at the last minute."

She laughs when a male journalist remarks, with some disappointment, that while the three Bond girls do not disrobe, Bond does - or just about. In a cheeky homage to the famous bikini scene featuring Ursula Andress in 1962's Dr No, Craig, in all his muscular glory, emerges from the sea in Bahamas wearing only a pair of very snug, tight swimming briefs. Green giggles at the memory.

"He's the Bond girl, really."

Enter Bond, James Bond: now watch those girls get shaken and stirred. Eva Green is the latest in a cavalcade of beauties debated with almost as much fervour as that of Bond himself.

Critics such as Umberto Eco like to chew over the significance of the Bond villainesses who, tamed by his mighty sexual prowess, are persuaded to change sides. When it comes to unreconstructed macho men, they say, James Bond really is the daddy.

But not according to Melbourne film critic Scott Murray, who is writing a book on the Bond girls, to be called In Bed with Bond. For a start, he says, the original Bond was not a ludicrously slick seducer. Sean Connery's cheeky way with the ladeez played to the strengths of the actor rather than the character. Author Ian Fleming's Bond reflected his terror of women.

"He wrote this book about the pathological male fear of female sexuality and called it Casino Royale. Bond is terrified by women, hates them, desires them, but hates them because they are are uncontrollable," Murray says.

Likewise, Fleming's female characters are always deadlier than the male. Convention has it that Bond girls are pushovers, melting into compliance the moment the secret agent finds a spare 20 minutes to attend to them. This is certainly true of the anonymous beauties who provide extra set-dressing - the glamorous, sex-starved patients in Dr Blofeld's allergy clinic in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, for example - but the leading Bond girls are tough, often treacherous and have their own reasons for taking Mr Bond to their beds.

And while always called "Bond girls", Murray points out that they are rarely girlish. Honor Blackman, a memorably crackling Pussy Galore, was 37 when she was training her Sapphic team of world-beating female pilots in Dr No. Green is a mere 26, but her Vesper Lynd is as "troubling and terrifying" as any of her brooding predecessors. "Vesper Lynd is the great Bond woman," says Murray. "She makes mincemeat out of Bond."

However, there have been some true-hearted Bond girls, but action plots dictate that they will never win his heart. Originally, his soulmate was Lois Maxwell's Moneypenny, M's crisply efficient secretary, who provided his few moments of humorous respite. In anything but a Bond film, their endless repartee about the unlikelihood of his ever asking her out would be the prelude to a wedding in the final reel. In more recent films, Bond's true bond is with Judi Dench's M. She may be a trifle long in the tooth for Craig, but at least she wouldn't need to ask questions when he came home late from work.

Thanks to `Brokenclaw` for the alert.

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