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Eva Green says `he is the Bond girl, not me`, nude scene changed for Casino Royale

27-Jan-2007 • Casino Royale

Could Casino Royale win a Bafta for Eva Green? She tells Stuart Jeffries of The Guardian about 007, Bertolucci and when not to do a nude scene.

Eva Green is stuck in traffic at Euston and will be late. This can't be right. Glamorous French actresses don't get stuck at Euston. They get teleported from Armani photoshoots at the Palais Royal to the interview with their cheekbones' molecular structure perfectly reconstituted, their blushes like roses under April snow, their flunkies flustered in their mistresses' imperious wakes. Or they arrive in private jets from Juan-les-Pins, with irritating little dogs.

While I wait, I survey a shelf of film scripts in her agent's Covent Garden office. Perhaps they will give me a bead on where the fifth French Bond girl's career is going next. They include such projects as Memoirs of a Midget (at 5ft 6in, she's too tall), Five Psychopaths (she has wonderfully wild eyes, but it's probably not really her thing), Thérèse Raquin (already filmed, but she would have been great as Zola's tortured murderer). All the while, Barbra Streisand's song is in my head: "Love, ageless and evergreen/ Seldom seen by two." Evergreen, Eva Green: can she be real or just a drooling marketing man's invention to revive the Bond franchise like cinematic Viagra in its sixth decade?

Here comes the answer: Green arrives blissfully dogless (she apparently owns a terrier, though). She has blushes like roses under April snow (check), cheekbones like porcelain (check), eyes you could gaze into for a happy afternoon (check), fey handshake (check) and eyebrows in need of attention (mine too). She resembles a boiled-down Isabelle Adjani, and yet also has the gamine charms of Audrey Tautou and the improbable politesse of Emmanuelle Béart. Bertolucci said Green was "so beautiful it's indecent". This is wrong: her beauty, though extreme, has nothing indecent about it. Yet.

She's delectably apologetic and speaks English in an accent that makes me want to listen to her talk any old rubbish all day long. "I love English. It's so musical," she says as she removes her coat. "Not like that French quack, quack, quack from the front of the mouth, you know?" Green is like Charlotte Rampling in reverse: she's the Anglophile Frenchwoman who studied English in Ramsgate, London and Ireland, while Francophile Englishwoman Rampling finessed her Gallic chops in Versailles. "I feel more centred when I'm here," she says dreamily.

We meet to discuss Green's nomination for the Bafta rising star award, a gong last year presented to James McAvoy. "In France we have the Césars, but I think the Baftas are much more serious. So when the nomination was for me in a Bond film, it's a bit like a joke." Oh, Eva - surely not! "No! I don't believe in awards. It's very good for the ego, I suppose." This must be good news for Cillian Murphy, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris and Emily Blunt, who all will be up for the award on February 11, which will be decided by popular vote.

We only have half an hour before Green must leave to weekend with her parents in Paris's 17th arrondissement, so questions come as fast as an Aston Martin tearing through the Montenegran corniches. Was being in a Bond film beneath you? "Not at all. In France, it's just not a big deal, whereas here every man wants to be Bond." I counter: I'd rather be Marcel Proust. "Really? I thought I was weird."

But surely the threat of appearing in a seemingly ailing British franchise must have been a worry? "No, I just read the script and thought, 'This is good.'" Weren't you worried about the flak that Craig got for being "James Bland": too short, too wimpy etc? "That completely passed me by. He got all the mad tabloids - I got nothing. Actually that's not quite true. I got very angry when people kept asking me, 'What's it feel like to be a Bond girl?' As if I was soup."

The only time Green got stuck on the fuzzy end of the tabloids' lollipop was when low-brow French mag Voici published photos of Green fooling around in between shots on the Casino Royale set in the Bahamas. "I'm a little bit crazy, you know? And so, between shots, I was pulling silly faces, which appeared in the magazine. They said I was going to get fired and I can't act." My mother and friends called me and said 'Is this true?' It was very funny, ridiculous but funny."

Did you feel that it was ungallant of Craig to have bigger boobs than you? She is heroically unperturbed by my rude question. "Well, he is the Bond girl, not me. He's the one who comes out of the sea with his top off." Didn't you feel envious? "No, not at all. I've been nude in a film before [Bertolucci's The Dreamers, of which more later] and found it very troubling, so I was quite glad not to be in this film."

Indeed, Green fought to keep her clothes on in Casino Royale. "In the shower scene - you remember? - they wanted me to strip down to my panties. We had a good fight about that. I used to go to Daniel and ask for his support." It was a worthwhile fight: for Vesper Lynd to strip at a moment in the film when she is supposed to be horribly upset about the violent world behind 007's sartorially pristine facade would have been even more fatuous than many of the fatuous things for which Bond films have become renowned.

Green's mother, Marlène Jobert, didn't want her daughter to go on the stage, still less pap-saturated film sets in the Bahamas. "She was a very, very successful actress who, at about 40, gave it up for writing children's books and raising her children." Jobert was, for a while in the late 1960s and early 70s, hot: sexy and red-haired, she starred in Godard's Masculin Feminin, Malle's Le Voleur, was particularly excellent in Maurice Pialat's Nous Ne Viellirons Pas Ensemble (We Won't Grow Old Together) and also appeared opposite Charles Bronson in Rider in the Rain. What happened? "She lost the desire. She knew that it's a very tough profession and was worried that someone as gentle as me wouldn't be able to deal with it." Can you? "I seem to have done so far."

Green had the acting bug ever since she saw Isabelle Adjani in Truffaut's L'Histoire d'Adèle H, based on the true story of Victor Hugo's second daughter, who fell obsessively but unrequitedly in love with a British officer, followed him to Nova Scotia and Barbados before going mad and dying in a Paris asylum. "I was 14 at the time and it made an indelible impression."

She trained in acting in London and New York, before returning to Paris where she played in several stage productions, including the play Jealousy in Three Faxes. There she caught the eye of Bertolucci who, captivated by her supposedly indecent beauty, cast her in The Dreamers, a free adaptation of Gilbert Adair's novel about a threesome during les évènements in Paris 1968. "My parents didn't want me to be in it." Why? "Because of what happened to Maria Schneider in Last Tango in Paris." Schneider disappeared after the film became a success, subsequently checking into an Italian psychiatric hospital. Several years later, she resumed her career. "My mother was a bit worried, but she hasn't got very good English, so the script didn't mean much to her." Green took the role. "You can't say no to Bertolucci."

What was Bertolucci like? "He was not a pervert. The film is just about three young people having sex. He's so much in love with Paris. I remember Bertolucci saying, 'I want to kill the mother'. He's like that. He was like a father." Her real father, incidentally, is a Swedish dentist (hence her surname, which should be pronounced to rhyme with Wren) who only appeared in one film - but what a film, Robert Bresson's great Au Hasard Balthazar, about a mistreated donkey.

The Dreamers earned her good reviews and a goggle-eyed reception from her family. "For my mother and sister and father to see me naked on screen was shocking." For them? "No! For me." But one might be forgiven for thinking she got over the shock: indeed, she expressed her outrage when cuts were made for the film's US release. She said: "It is quite paradoxical, because in America there is so much violence, both on the streets and on the screen. They think nothing of it. Yet I think they are frightened by sex."

After that, she starred in a delightful piece of Gallic froth, Arsène Lupin. But her looks and her command of English soon sucked her into the vortices of two Anglophone blockbusters, Ridley Scott's crusades flick Kingdom of Heaven, opposite Orlando Bloom, and then Casino Royale. She turned down the role of the femme fatale in Brian De Palma's The Black Dahlia and was unfortunate to be beaten by Rachel Weisz to the role of the British diplomat's wife in The Constant Gardener.

"I have been in two big machines now and something a bit smaller scale would be nice. I want to work in England." Why don't you appear in more French films - there are so many interesting Gallic directors right now (Laurent Cantet, Jacques Audiard, Cedric Kahn)? "It's true. But I haven't found the right script." Green divides her life between London and Paris, where she was born. She's currently dating a Kiwi actor, Marton Csokas, whom she met on the set of Kingdom of Heaven.

Last Tuesday, she finished filming Northern Lights, the first part of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials, along with Daniel Craig (again) and Nicole Kidman. She plays Serafina Pekkala, a witch queen. Will you, like your mother, lose your desire for acting? "I don't know. I'm so scared of all the bollocks, you know?" It's the first time I've ever heard a Frenchwoman say "bollocks", and so can't help giggling. What bollocks? "All the interviews. Not you, of course!" Of course. "I've got to go to Beijing and Shanghai to promote Bond soon. It's not about acting, that's why they contract you to do these things." That must make the prospect of acting all your life difficult? "I see Judi Dench and Maggie Smith and I think they are wonderful, but I'm not sure." Indeed, she's so young (26) that the question is hardly worth worrying about.

And with that, Eva Green pulls on her coat and is gone on a journey to a parallel universe. Or at least Paris. She says she's going by Eurostar, but I'm not so sure. Eva Green is, after all, a glamorous French actress and occasional witch, so surely she doesn't travel like ordinary mortals.

Thanks to `James Bond007` for the alert.

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