"I'm basically an old lady"
She ensnared 007, performed occult sacrifices in Arthurian England and, in her latest film, plants a lingering kiss on the still-warm lips of a man she’s just beheaded. So it makes sense that French star Eva Green is now taking me deep into the dark, twisted heart of, erm, one of Britain’s biggest department stores.
“What I do on my days off is go to Selfridges and browse around the furniture department,” she says, her faintly cut-glass (and only vaguely French) voice breaking into a giggle. “Recently I bought a cushion that I’m very happy with. This is the wild life of Eva Green. I’m basically an old lady.”
It’s a pointed reminder that – her all-black clothes and clanking silver bangles aside – the 33-year-old actress isn’t anything like the deranged Gothic heroines she’s played in Casino Royale, Camelot, Dark Shadows, Franklyn and upcoming seafaring CGI spin-off 300: Rise Of An Empire.
Still, as she swearily holds court about punching co-stars and the disappointing lack of male crotch shots in blockbuster cinema, you can’t help but think “basically an old lady” doesn’t quite cover it...
You play Artemisia in 300: Rise Of An Empire. How would you describe her to the uninitiated?
God, I mean, she’s pretty full-on. First of all, she’s a woman at the head of the Navy, which is pretty unusual. She’s ballsy and there’s something very virile about her; she’s gifted with weapons and she’s ruthless. She can’t tolerate morons or cowards. And she’s driven by, and almost blinded by, vengeance.
Did you have any say in her look? There’s a touch of Camden Market about the flowing coats…
[Laughs] With the leather? Yeah, I can see that. I always try to take a hand in the costumes because you have to be comfortable. But my hair actually got caught in one of the outfits I wore. I was in the middle of this huge fight scene and had to go, “Oh f*ck, wait a second.”
Was the action and gore what drew you to a huge blockbuster like this?
Yeah, it was that. The sword-fighting, the training – I’d never done that before, so I thought it was a great opportunity. I did proper training with the guys and I loved it. It was like being in the Army, but in a good way. I’m not a coordinated person, so it was tough. Sword-fighting is very precise – it’s like a dance. I trained for three months.
Did you accidentally injure anyone during the fight scenes?
No, but I killed two people during filming and they covered it up.
Sounds plausible. So did the need to maintain those 300 six-packs mean there was no room for fun or drinking on set? Were you all just craving carbs?
Well, that was true for the guys. They weren’t allowed any alcohol and they were on a special diet. Before each scene they had to do burpees and things with the weights and all that. But me? I was all covered up so I could smoke, I could drink wine [laughs].
Is working with lots of insanely ripped, shirtless guys in any way a perk?
Ah, you don’t even look at them after a while. You’re like, “Yeah, whatever.”
You said in the past that you don’t like guys who wear any sort of fragrance. Do you think men are over-groomed these days?
Oh totally. I like rough, animal men. Beasts, basically [laughs]. But it was so funny, because the guys in the film had to get fake-tanned and waxed. I’m anti that, totally. Not just on men, but on women, too. The ones that look at themselves in the mirror all the time and are so self-conscious, it’s just... [makes disgusted puking sound].
How do you go about researching for a role like this?
Well, there were warrior women that I read about, and Artemisia actually existed. My character in the film is only loosely inspired by her, but she was ballsy and went to war to win the heart of Xerxes. Which is very funny. I’m glad that’s not the case today.
What are the weirdest scenes to film in something like this?
I haven’t seen the sex scene [in this yet], but I’ve heard it’s quite full-on and brutal. I’d kind of forgotten about it.
It’s something people have focused on in your career. Have you ever balked at something like that when it’s been in the script?
The thing with sex scenes is, I mean, it’s not like we’re doing all the positions in the Kama Sutra and all that, but we have to make it different. How’s it going to be filmed? Is it gratuitous? Is it part of the story? There’s lots to consider. But that one, pfft, that was sex as a fight. I had bruises all over my body afterwards, and I smacked Sullivan [Stapleton, her co-star who plays vengeful Athenian Themistocles].
In that situation, is it strange having to tell your co-star to go for it?
Oh, you don’t need to tell him [laughs]. He’s not scared, he’s this big, strong Aussie and he’s proud of it. He’s a real man. Which made the fact that he had to have the hair on his chest waxed off even funnier.
Do you think people generally focus on sex and nudity too much?
Well, people always talk about the sex scenes in my films. I do sometimes feel like I’m a porn actress. Even my sister brought it up when she came to see me while I was filming in Ireland last year. She said, “Why is there a sex scene in every film that you do?” OK, thanks for that [laughs]. Sex is part of our lives, so I think it’s justified. Every actor hates them – no one likes doing it. It’s terrible. But I see sex scenes as something very clinical. I always rehearse them and I feel like I’m a bit of a specialist. “I put my hand there, then you grab this boob, then you do that...” So through doing that you feel like there are no surprises and you’re in safe hands.
There have been calls recently for more on-screen male nudity to even things up. Do you agree?
It’s quite rare when you see the cock, actually. In indie films you do, but not in big blockbusters, and that just doesn’t seem fair [laughs].
Away from that, you’re set to star in a dark new Victorian drama called Penny Dreadful. It looks fairly messed-up…
It’s one of the best roles I’ve ever had. All the characters have secrets and they’re not exactly aliens, but they don’t quite fit into society. It’s me, Josh Hartnett, Timothy Dalton and Harry Treadaway, who is absolutely fantastic in it. It’s extremely well written and I really believe in it.
And you’re playing Ava Lord in Sin City 2. What can you tell us about that one?
It is another femme fatale, but it’s an incredible cast, great script and a really funny role, actually. She’s really a bitch, of course. But she’s very cool, very sharp. She’s a different character with every man she’s with, so it’s like I’m playing a real actress. It’s really funny, film noir. I find it funny, but people think I’m a weirdo. Everyone thinks I’m just this femme fatale bitch.
You mention that. Is it true that you collect insects and skulls? Does that freak guests out when they come round?
No, they’re all very beautiful. There’s this amazing shop in Paris called Deyrolle, and it’s the most beautiful taxidermist in the world. It has rare birds, camels, lions, everything. So I’ve got stuff from there. I have this enormous bull’s head, which is quite shocking. It’s an ancestor of the bull called an Aurochs, they don’t exist any more. I bought him because his eyes looked like he was asking for help in the shop. I was like, “OK, you’re going to come home with me.”
You’ve had a place in London for a while now. Have you picked up any British traits? Excessive drinking, perhaps?
Yes, I think it might be coming up to eight years that I’ve been in London. But come on, French people know how to drink, don’t worry about that. I don’t really feel French though – I’m kind of a mix and I have lots of British friends. I love the space in London and people are less judgemental. I find it cooler. I like the food, too, but I don’t cook and just love going to restaurants. I’d be a terrible housewife.
Finally, what’s the biggest misconception about you?
It’s probably the Gothic thing. I mean, I like to wear black, but that’s because it’s just easy.
To be fair, owning extinct animal taxidermy is quite Goth…
You’re right. Maybe I should embrace it rather than going, “What do you mean?” I’ll try to embrace my Gothicness.
300: Rise Of An Empire is at cinemas nationwide from 7 March
(Image: All Star)