Eva Mendes We Own the Night Interview

Eva Mendes We Own the Night Interview
She's one of the nicest celebrities you'd ever want to meet. Bubbly, down to earth, and while she laughs out loud when you call her a celebrity or famous, Eva Mendes can't fight the inevitable. She's consistently good, whether she's in a thriller, drama or a comedy and her work in films like Training Day, Hitch and Ghost Rider has meant a rapid and direct rise to the top of her profession. She credits James Gray the director of her latest film We Own the Night, as the one who finally made her get over her nun like inhibitions along with her fear of her father seeing her naked on screen. Gaynor Flynn caught up with the actress at the Cannes International Film Festival.

Gaynor Flynn: Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Wahlberg have worked togetherbefore. Did their prior relationship make it tougherfor you at all?

Eva Mendes: Oh no, it was great. They're amazing actors. I didn'thave much to do with [Robert] Duvall and Wahlberg,unfortunately. But I look forward to doing more in thefuture because they're amazing. Most of my scenes werewith Joaquin Phoenix. I'm a huge, huge fan of his, and I wasready for it. And I knew that James had warned meabout the way he worked. He said, 'Are you ready forthis? I will push you every day,' and I was like, 'I'dexpect nothing less. You'd better push me every day.I'm not doing this for the money, that's for sure!' SoI was really in for it.

Gaynor Flynn: The first scene is a very explicit sex scene. How didyou feel about that?

Eva Mendes: Agony!. The good thing is that at least you get itover and done with really fast that's the good partbut that was very difficult for me to shoot actually.I was crying.

Gaynor Flynn: Was that because you had second thoughts about doingit?

Eva Mendes: No the good thing about me is that once I commit Icommit and then I'm done. I don't look back on it.That's a total lie (laughs). Usually I'm pretty goodabout that you know once I've said I'll do somethingthen I'm fine with it, but that was hard because itwas my first love scene ever so that's what was hardabout it.

Gaynor Flynn: So just take us through it.

Eva Mendes: Well what happened is that my director came to mytrailer and was talking to me and Joaquin Phoenix and he wassaying you'll be fine, you'll be fine and I'm likeokay, I'm just really nervous. Thankfully he did itthe last day of the shoot so its three months of beingso close to James and Joaquin Phoenix so we had the trustthing going on with us right so what happens is thatthen I get to set and we're in the room and I start toget really, really nervous at this point and we sit onthe couch and we're all trying to talk about how thescene should play out and as I'm hearing the detailsof it I'm starting to get even more nervous and thentears start to well up and then I got really emotionaland James is great and Joaquin Phoenix is amazing and they'relike what can we do? Well we can omit the scene oryou can pour me a vodka orange juice. So James made mea huge vodka orange juice and that helped a little.But its really hard probably because it was my firsttime.

Gaynor Flynn: You've said the sex scene was challenging. Now thatyou've done it and got that out of the way, are you ina position to say 'No, I'm not doing that again?'

Eva Mendes: Well, I'm sure I'm in a position but I would never dothat. It's about the art. It's about the film. I wouldnever tell a director what kind of scene to put in hismovie if I read a script. I would either say yes tothe film or no to the film, but I would never havesomebody take something out. Just because it wasdifficult for me doesn't mean I don't want to do it inthe future. It's all about the story. It's all aboutthe characters. Now, do I want to be in a scene thatexploits me and it has no relevance to the story?Absolutely not. Do I just want to do my job as anactor and represent my character completely andhonestly? Absolutely. If that takes rapes scene, orwhatever it takes, I will do it once I commit to thatmovie.

Gaynor Flynn: Was this movie is a big deal for you?

Eva Mendes: It's a huge deal for me. Huge! I've never worked atthis level before. Even though I've worked withamazing people I've never worked on something likethis. I did a drama once. The first kind of thing thatbroke me out was Training Day, but I only had twoscenes in that. Not to minimise that but it was on somuch of a lesser scale. The movie wasn't but my sceneswere. I barely spoke in that one, even though it gotme a lot of attention. I've never been pushed andchallenged like this on a daily basis before.

Gaynor Flynn: Do you think this will change the kinds of roles youcan get in the future?

Eva Mendes: I hope that it allows people to think about me in waysthat they haven't been able to before. And I hope thatI get more dramatic opportunities. Not just dramatic,I would love to do another romantic comedy. I'd loveto do a musical. I love the whole gamut. But I want tobe considered for things that Kate Winslet'sconsidered for - absolutely. I'm so in love with her.She is so amazing. I think she's spectacular.

Gaynor Flynn: When you were a child I read that you wanted to be anun, is that true?

Eva Mendes: Oh my god that's so funny. Yes I did and oh listen tothis. James was really good because he goes like thiswhen I was struggling with the sex scene, he said whatcan I do? And I was like you know there is this littlecatholic girl still inside me somewhere, and he waslike tell her to go home because you're an artist now. And I was like you're right, I've got a job to do. But I did want to be a nun when I was very little.

Gaynor Flynn: Is that what you tell your parents when they see thosescenes. It's just a job?

Eva Mendes: They won't see this. My mother and my father would bemortified. I think I figured it out I'm going to tellthem come 15 minute late to the film, because it'll bedone by that so I worked it out. My dad tries to acttough he's like no you're an actress and I'll seeanything you do and I'm like dad I don't know, you'renot going to like this....

Gaynor Flynn: How would you describe this film? Is it just anotherpolice movie in a way?

Eva Mendes: I don't really think of this one as a police movie, Ithink of this as a Greek tragedy. There are so manylayers to this movie that I think so many people canrelate to, certainly everyone can relate to family andfeeling obligation whether its family you create onyour own or family you're born into. I come from a bigCuban family and I understand those ties andobligations and being in predicaments and situationsthat you have to face and oh there's just so much inthis film that I think people can relate to so I don'treally see it as a cop drama or anything.

Gaynor Flynn: You say your very emotional now, but you've beenacting for a few years so what was missing before?

Eva Mendes: The right people, the right script, the right project,even though I'm not speaking badly about my projectslike I just did Ghost Rider which was a really big hitin the States and world wide actually and I'm so proudof that but it's a genre. I mean I worked on thatcharacter with my acting coach like I would work onany character but its like a big old cartoon sothere's only so far you can go. People don't want tosee stuff in that genre, so I just didn't have thoseprojects. Before that was Hitch and that's a big oldromantic comedy and people only want to see so muchstuff in movies like that.

Gaynor Flynn: Are you planning on doing projects that are moreserious in the future then?

Eva Mendes: I did The Cleaner that's pretty dark. You know whoI'd love to work with? Mike Leigh. I love his filmsSecrets and Lies and I'd love to do a film with PedroAlmodovar, he does such dark funny films. I thinkthat he just has his own world and I love what myfriend Penelope Cruz did in Volver.

Gaynor Flynn: What was the biggest challenge of We Own the Night foryou?

Eva Mendes: I think it was one big challenge. Every day there wasa bunch of little challenges.

Gaynor Flynn: Did you ever feel out of your depth?

Every day. Every day there was something like thatwhich was great, because we just had to fight it andrise to the occasion. I guess the most obvious is thesex scene - I like to call it the 'love scene'. Ithink that was the most obvious one because that wasso difficult.

Gaynor Flynn: How did you get along with Joaquin Phoenix?

Eva Mendes: Fantastically. I respect him so much. I know that it'smy job but I don't know that I could have done itwithout him. It's like working with a puppy. It's acompliment, though, because he's crazy, he's a like apuppy, and then you get the most genuine momentsbecause everything is so true that comes out of him.He was like my rock. He was my buddy. He was my bestfriend. He was right there for me. I don't know if heknew it was a first for me, that I had never worked atthat level before, that I had never gone that deep anddark before, but he was just so there for me and Ilove him to death. So was James [there for me]. I callhim Papa Gray because he was my Papa Gray. Being in anall-boy cast, feeling like the only girl, I could havedefinitely felt exploited. You know, playing the'girlfriend' role, blah, blah, blah. But those boyswere right there for me every step of the way. Whetherit was the morning of the love scene, where I wascrying and very nervous and scared, they were justthere for me. That means so much.

Gaynor Flynn: How nervous were you going to see James Gray for thefirst time?

Eva Mendes: I wasn't nervous at all because I didn't want to dohis movie. He sent me a script and I was like he's agreat director but I didn't want to do it because Ithought this is a girlfriend role. I had just finishedHitch or something, and I was moving into leading ladyarea, and I was like I don't want to be a girlfriendin a boy movie. Anyway, he's a great director and Iwas told he really wanted to meet me. So anyway, helives very far away and I made him drive all the wayto this restaurant down near my house, and I told himI think he's great. I go, 'I think you're amazing. Iwant to do your next movie. Write a really greatfemale role,' and he's like, 'No, no, no, you have todo this movie.' I said, 'Well, I'm not going to doit.' He goes, 'I promise you there will be more of arole. This is just an early draft. I promise youthere's going to be more.' I'm not really trusting the'I promise you' thing. I'm like whatever. It was fun.

Gaynor Flynn: Do you feel that you're going to be more demanding inthe future now that you know what you can do?

Eva Mendes: Yeah, and from my co-stars, now that Joaquin Phoenix hasspoiled me. Again, look, I've worked with DenzelWashington, I've worked with Will Smith, I've workedwith the most amazing actors, but because I workedwith Joaquin Phoenix on this thing that's darker . . . no, no,it's because it's a drama. It's a drama. I was readyto quit acting before Training Day. I had been actingabout two-and-a-half years and I was doing bad TVshows - not even TV shows, I wouldn't even get pickedup on TV shows, but like bad movies - and I was like,'What am I doing? This isn't going to be for me. It'snot working.' I did Training Day, worked with DenzelWashington, and he was single-handedly responsible forme continuing acting. And every time I see him I thankhim, because he is completely responsible. I haven'tdone a drama since then, really, and so this is a verysimilar experience: Joaquin Phoenix has ignited me. James Grayhas ignited me. Now I'm ready again [clicks herfingers].

Gaynor Flynn: What else do you have coming up?

Eva Mendes: I'm having a little break then I'm doing a remake ofThe Women. It's the George Cukor film and its an allfemale cast and I think its from the 30's or 40's andI'm playing the role that Joan Crawford played back inthe day which is kind of genius. Oh my god that I'meven attempting this is hysterical. So its an allfemale cast, its Annette Benning, Angelica Huston, MegRyan, Jada Pinkett Smith, Candice Bergman and I thinkwe're trying to get Dakota Fanning and it's a reallycool to be part of an all female cast and I playCrystal who's just a nightmare.

Gaynor Flynn: Is it more competitive being around an all femalecast?

Eva Mendes: I feel comfortable around good people, people that areopen and not judgemental and don't try to intimidateyou. So its either or for me.

Gaynor Flynn: Do you get on better with men more than women?

Eva Mendes: I'm the first one to give a woman a compliment andtell her she's gorgeous or she's great. I think thatthat kind of stuff is so ugly and it only hurts youand the last thing I want to be when I get older isbitter. That is the last thing I want to be. Bitter isthe ugliest thing to me in the world and I think whenyou play into those things you just end up being allthose negative things you don't want to be. I've seenbitter and its just awful and I really mean that.

Gaynor Flynn: I understand you're involved with some charities? What are they?

Eva Mendes: Actually I'm involved in a charity Mr Phoenixintroduced me to called Art of Elisium which takes upa lot of my time lately because its unbelievable. Andits basically this woman founded this charity tenyears ago and its bringing any kind of art intochildren's' wards in hospitals and a lot of thesechildren have never even been outside because they'vebeen hospitalised their entire lives. Some arecompletely not conscious, some can't speak so whatever the debilitating disease they're fighting we goin as artists and we either play music for them, wefinger paint with them. I was a part of a big old playfor them with James Franco and Kirsten Dunst a fewmonths ago.

Gaynor Flynn: Would you like children of your own?

Eva Mendes: I would but I think I'm a potential adopter. It seems to be the thing to do in LA these days. Not because of that no way. Never because of other people.

Gaynor Flynn: Why do you prefer to adopt?

Eva Mendes: Because I'm already 32 and I don't have a maternalbone in my body and I figure the clock is going to runout at some point so what if I'm 45 and I can'tphysically have a child then I'd adopt one. I don'twant to put that pressure on myself saying I have tohave a kid by 35. I don't like those rules so I liketo leave it open that if I still feel this way if Idon't want a baby inside of me then that'll be okaybecause I'll just adopt one.


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