Actress Eva Mendes has made much of the last ten years in Hollywood, skyrocketing from small parts in movies like Night at the Roxbury and Exit Wounds to featured roles in — films like Training Day, Ghost Rider, and Hitch. More impressively, she’s gone for a variety of interesting roles in blockbusters and indie films alike, working closely with the likes of Will Smith, Robert Rodriguez, the Farrelly brothers, Nicolas Cage (twice), Denzel Washington (also twice), Frank Miller, and Werner Herzog, in the upcoming Bad Lieutenant.
In this week’s The Women, based on the play by Clare Booth Luce and Anita Loos’ 1939 script, Mendes plays Manhattan temptress Crystal Allen, a ruthless vixen in kitten heels (and a character played by none other than Joan Crawford in George Cukor’s 1939 film of the same name). Joining an all-star cast of some of Hollywood’s biggest female names, Mendes holds her own against the combined forces of Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, Jada Pinkett-Smith and Bette Midler whilst notching another prominent role in her filmography. Once you read her Five Favorite Films, you’ll agree that Eva Mendes is aiming high; we personally can’t wait to see her in a Coen brothers film.
I’m a huge Mike Leigh fan and would love to work with him. His approach to filming sounds fascinating and exciting. I understand that he doesn’t give his actors a script but instead hands them scenes and encourages improvisation. I’m not sure if this is indeed his process, but the result is nothing short of beautiful intimate moments. And this film is full of them! At times it feels so intimate it’s almost voyeuristic. To me, that’s what makes a performance really exciting…when you’re almost embarrassed to be peeking into peoples’ lives. And that happens a lot in this perfect emotional drama.
I had the pleasure of working with the director of this film, Werner Herzog, recently. He is one of my all-time favorite filmmakers. In Fitzcarraldo, he manages to bring an opera house into a Peruvian jungle. What an amazing concept!
This film is as true today as it was when they made it over 30 years ago. It’s just amazing how little things haven’t changed since then.
Faye Dunaway kills it in this film. Her body language is so precise and her character’s ambition is simply frightening. Ned Beatty’s monologue alone makes this one worth watching.
I would die to work with the Coen Brothers. I love their sense of humor. This film is hysterical on so many levels, but I guess it’s the diverse group of characters that really gets to me. Jeff Bridges is perfection as “the dude” and Julianne Moore kills it as Maude, but my favorite may be John Turturro as “Jesus.” To me, this is a perfect comedy. Oh yeah and the soundtrack is SICK!!!
Nobody portrays children in cinema better than the French. Juenet and Caro direct the amazing Ron Perlman in this surrealist fairy tale. He plays a scientist that kidnaps children so he can steal their dreams in hopes of slowing down his own aging process. So beautiful, so French.
Next: Read on as we talk Women with Eva Mendes.
Please tell us about your character, Crystal. Is she as much a “villain” in The Women as she is in the original? Is she meant to be even partly sympathetic, or a full-on she-devil?
Eva Mendes: In The Women, I play Crystal Allen and I had a blast stepping into her stilletos. On paper, she is a vicious maneater, but I tried to really understand where she was coming from. I found out that, like most women who act like she does, she’s deeply insecure. She acts out of fear and ends up hurting everyone around her, although that was never her intention. Oh yeah, she’s kind of funny too!
George Cukor’s 1939 film was a who’s who of Hollywood power actresses. Was there a sense when you were cast in Diane English’s 2008 version that a similar “power group” was being put together?
EM: Working with these amazing women was so inspirational. Every day was a learning experience. You can’t buy that kind of experience in acting class!
In the climate of Cukor’s film, a woman stealing another woman’s husband had implications for her means of living, not only her heart — a gender imbalance that doesn’t exist today (as much). Do the stakes in a story like this change by setting it in 2008?
EM: Diane English did a great job of bringing this film to 2008. I love the original, but if it were a true remake, I don’t think it would have worked. Women are at a completely different place now….thank God!
You seem to be searching for varied roles in your career so far, not only in terms of characters but in the directors you work with (Robert Rodriguez, John Singleton, the Farrelly brothers, Frank Miller, Werner Herzog). What do you hope to learn from each of these filmmakers?
EM: I hope to never stop growing. I hope that with every role I play, I keep adding layers to my craft. I love acting and I study religiously with my coach Ivana Chubbuck. It’s important for me to work with a strong director because I know I can go to some really deep places, I just need direction on how to get there.
Your character poster for The Spirit is arguably the best of the bunch. Years down the line, do you think Sand Saref will be one of the more iconic roles that fans remember you for? If so, why?
EM: I hope not. I hope my best is yet to come!