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TalkTalk have created this exclusive biography of Eva Green - we believe it to be the most comprehensive on the web
You can't say she didn't start off with a bang. Within just four years of her film debut Eva Green had played a key role in three major blockbusters. Having started out controversially in Bertolucci's sexual psycho-drama The Dreamers, she immediately boosted her profile yet further with the expensive historical epic Kingdom Of Heaven, then seized the attention of the world with Casino Royale and The Golden Compass. Seldom has an actress achieved global stardom so quickly.
Eve Gaelle Green was born by Caesarean section at the St Vincent de Paul hospital in the 14th Arrondissement of Paris on the 5th of July, 1980. Her father, Walter Green (pronounced Greyne), had moved there from Sweden with his family when he was 16, and had subsequently become a dentist. He would not speak Swedish in the family home and would never take his family back to Sweden. Eva's mother - at the time not married to Walter - was the Algerian-born actress Marlene Jobert, a huge star in France in the Sixties and Seventies (and later a hit children's author). Eva would be the first of non-identical twins, born a couple of minutes before her sister, Joy (who'd grow up to be a horse-breeder in Normandy). Her mother's fame was such that an aura of paranoia surrounded the births. Fearing that her new-borns would be kidnapped, Jobert would change their names while they were still in the cradle and quickly whisk them off to the family's country house some 30 kilometres outside the city, an estate of some 70 hectares that Walter used to rent out to his friends. To avoid pollution, Jobert would take the kids out there each weekend, the family spending weekdays in Paris's upmarket 17th Arrondissement, just east of the Bois de Boulogne, inbetween Montmartre and the Arc de Triomphe. Marlene would care for them from 6 till 11am, a young nanny then taking over. The same nanny would later look after Laura Smets, daughter of rock star Johnny Halliday and actress Nathalie Baye, who'd also grow up to be an actress.
As said, Marlene Jobert was big news in France and Eva would appear with her mother on the cover of Paris Match when she was just two months old. After a short but successful career as a model, Jobert had studied at the Conservatoires of Dijon and Paris and appeared onstage with Yves Montand before making her film debut in Jean-Luc Godard's Masculin, Feminin. Released in 1966, this was a provocative piece which challenged both the language of cinema and the establishment's view of the nation's youth, the so-called "children of Marx and Coca-Cola". She'd move on to star in several TV series and appear alongside Jean-Paul Belmondo and Genevieve Bujold in Louis Malle's Le Voleur, Charles Bronson in the controversial Rider On The Rain and Kirk Douglas in the Cold War comedy To Catch A Spy. Staying on top throughout the Seventies, she'd work with the esteemed likes of Claude Chabrol, Philippe De Broca, Orson Welles, Anthony Perkins, Gerard Depardieu and Jean-Louis Trintignant.
The other side of Eva's family also had some cinematic form. Indeed, it could be said that cinema actually brought about her birth. Back in the late 1950s, the French auteur Robert Bresson was putting together a movie called Pickpocket, to be co-funded by Svensk Filmindustri. In order to receive these Swedish funds, he was required to cast several Swedish actors, and one of these was Marika Green, Walter's older sister, then a student. She'd play the horribly treated girlfriend of the compulsive, self-destructive anti-hero, redeeming him in the end (the movie would be a huge influence of Paul Schrader's Taxi Driver). Come the mid-Sixties, Bresson was making his classic Au Hasard, Balthazar for the same companies and once again needed Swedes. Getting in touch with the Green family - the only Swedes he knew in Paris - he came upon Walter who, Bresson being famed for his use of non-actors, was quickly cast. At the same time, Godard was making Masculin, Feminin, a production also funded by Svensk Filmindustri. The cast and crew of the two movies would come into close contact, Godard getting it on with Balthazar star Anna Wiazemsky and Walter Green with Marlene Jobert.
So, given her family's background, it was not surprising that Eva Green should become an actress. But there was more to it than that - the controversial nature of her debut would also echo her family's thespian past. In Rider On the Rain, Marlene Jobert had been raped by an escaped maniac, then killed him and lost her mind. In Maurice Pialat's 1972 classic Nous Ne Vieillirons Pas Ensemble she'd been the confused and terrified mistress of a crazed and brutal film-maker. Both performances had caused a furore. Marika Green, meanwhile, who'd appeared in the title role of The Girl Across The Way, co-written by Roman Polanski, and alongside Jobert in Rider On The Rain, would also score a meaty role in Emmanuelle, a slice of soft-porn silliness that became France's biggest box office hit ever. Here Sylvia Kristel, playing the young wife of a diplomat, would seek erotic redemption in the arms of many, including Green's lesbian archaeologist, before discovering that the ultimate turn-on is to be taken from behind by a sweaty Thai boxer. As if we didn't already know that. Given these performances, and more, it was near-predictable that Eva's debut, The Dreamers, should be so sexually explicit.
As an aside, the entertainment gene would also be shared by two of Eva's cousins. Marlene's sister, Christiane, would be mother to Elsa Lunghini. Born in 1973, Elsa would make her film debut at age 7 alongside Romy Schneider in Garde A Vue. In 1986 she'd have a pop hit with T'En Va Pas, which stayed at Number One for 9 weeks. Being initially compared to Vanessa Paradis, she'd make many studio albums, selling millions in France, and marry World Cup-winning footballer Bixente Lizarazu. Eva would certainly have noted this success and the amount of work it took. And she herself would have been an influence on Josephine Jobert, the Canadian-raised daughter of Marlene's brother Charles. Born 5 years after Eva, Josephine would find success in 2007 in the TV shows Foudre and Saint-Ex, Nos Annees Pension.
Clearly, her family's history in theatre and film would have convinced young Eva that such a life was possible. This would be made all the clearer when, at age 10, she saw her mother make a comeback with the TV hit Avocat D'Office. It was not until the age of 14, though, that she'd dump her earlier ambitions to be an Egyptologist and begin to consider a career as an actress as something to aim for. This sea-change was due to a viewing of Francois Truffaut's 1975 masterpiece, L'Histoire D'Adele H, where Isabelle Adjani played the daughter of Victor Hugo, thwarted in her love for an English soldier and descending into madness. It was a great female role, inspirational for the young Green. But already she knew that such a life would not be given to her. Studying at L'Ecole Fenelon Sainte-Marie, a private school close to her family's home in Paris, she worked hard. Her focus was on grades, not boys. Summer trips would be taken to improve her English - to America, to London, to Ireland, even to Ramsgate.
Growing up, Eva was a shy child. In fact, her mother thought her too fragile to ever make it as an actress. Yet she clearly had an exhibitionist side to her and, by the age of 16, she had begun to behave in a far more flamboyant manner. She found her school too normal, too bourgeois, too far removed from her theatrical ambitions, and transferred to another. Inspired, unusually, by the German punk star and TV personality Nina Hagen, she'd dye her hair black, colour her lips and eyelids green or purple, wear gothic crushed velvet and a fancy bra. Sometimes she'd turn up at school dressed as a geisha or a hindu. She was rapidly becoming herself.
The educational establishment to which she transferred was the American School, situated in the Saint Cloud district of western Paris, still by the Seine but on the other side of the Bois de Boulogne from her home. Formed in 1946, this was an independent co-ed school run, as the name suggests, on American lines. Kids would receive a wide and cosmopolitan education (Green studied Modern Languages under Denise Delacroix), but what grabbed Eva's attention was a state-of-the-art Performing Arts Centre the school had launched in 1990. Now at last she could involve herself properly in thespianism.
Still, it was not enough, not focussed enough. After one year Eva left the American School to study with the theatrical specialist Eva St Paul. This was a multi-discipline course where students would be instructed not just in acting but also dance and music. They'd also be taught that actors are products; they should be aware of the market and learn to promote themselves. With her eyes firmly on the prize, Green would impose upon herself a tough work ethic, St Paul later saying "In 20 years I have only met two students who were really hardworking. Eva Green is one of those two". She'd also add "There is something very distinctive about Eva. She is super-tough. She can turn down whoever, curse like a man and be soft at the same time".
After 3 years with Eva St Paul (St Paul would remain something of a mentor), Green would move to London for a 10-week polishing course at the Webber Douglas School, situated above the Drayton Arms in Old Brompton Road, South Kensington. Established in Paris in 1906 and brought to London in 1926, the school had tutored the likes of Stewart Granger, Angela Lansbury and Dulcie Gray. In the mid-1960s, though, it had undergone a radical overhaul when Raphael Jago became principal. Together with Steven Berkoff, Jago would promote an improvisational approach and a new intensity of study, attracting such pupils as Terence Stamp, Susan Penhaligon and, later, Minnie Driver, Julia Ormond and Hugh Bonneville. Green would much appreciate this direct approach, feeling that the work set for her in France, concentrating on single scenes, had been too vague.
Returning to Paris, Green would walk straight into work. For her graduation from the Eva St Paul School, she'd played a part from Strindberg's Miss Julie for a mock audition. One of the external examiners was a casting director who'd already sent Eva for an audition for Roman Coppola's directorial debut, CQ. Set in Paris in 1969, this had seen film editor Jeremy Davies take over from sacked director Gerard Depardieu and attempt to film a futuristic thriller while dealing with arsey producers and a manipulative and seductive star. At her test, wearing a leather costume and blonde wig and carrying a gun, Green had felt foolish and failed to win a part. However, the casting director remembered her well and now cast her in a new three-monologue play called Jalousie En Trois Fax (Jealousy In Three Faxes) which ran at the Petit Theatre de Paris on the Rue Blanche between September 18th and December 31st, 2001. Written by Esther Vilar and directed by Didier Long, this would concern three women living on different floors of the same building. They don't know each other, but they're all connected by one man. Married to Helen (Dominique Labourier), he leaves her for a younger woman, Yana (Isabelle Gelinas), then dumps her in turn for the even younger Iris, Green's character, a Buddhist student into tantric sex. Iris was a plum role for a young actress. Addressing the audience directly, voicing her rivalry, her dreams and her pain, she'd slide from happiness at her new relationship into a newfound jealousy and then despair. And Green was evidently up for the challenge, being nominated as Best Newcomer at Les Molieres, the French theatre awards, and proclaimed the sensation of the season.
The next year, 2002, Green would move on to a new adaptation of the 18th Century French comedy Turcaret. Written by Alain-Rene Le Sage in 1709, this would be directed by Gerard Desarthe who, back in 1979 had appeared down the bill in La Guerre Des Polices, a movie starring Marlene Jobert. An extravagant period piece, Turcaret would chart the fall of an unscrupulous financier, a wily upstart played by Jean-Paul Muel, who loved Green's coquettish young widow, La Baronne, but had to pay for her favours. Green, in turn, was in love with Valentine Varela's fashionable young cavalier. Knavish tricks, naturally, abounded. The play would tour across France between February and the end of May, taking in Nantes' Maison de la Culture de Loire Atlantique, Paris's MC93 at Bobigny, Lyon's Theatre des Celestins and Lille's Theatre du Nord.
Turcaret would provide good experience, experience that Green sorely needed as she'd already been cast as one of the three leads in Bernardo Bertolucci's The Dreamers. Set in Paris amidst the riots of 1968, this would see Green as a physically grown but mentally immature student, living with her twin brother (Louis Garrel), her mother and intellectual father, a man of words, not actions, wholly non-confrontational. Meeting American student Michael Pitt at a rally to support the sacked controller of an arty cinema, they take him into their home when their parents are away and he becomes deeply, dangerously immersed in the twins' weird world of frank sexuality and filmic obsession.
Green's parents were against Eva taking the part, concerned by the story of Maria Schneider, who'd starred in Bertolucci's Last Tango In Paris then disappeared, only to turn up in an Italian psychiatric hospital. Marlene was still not sure Eva wasn't too fragile to be an actress. But her daughter hurled herself into the role, being at first aloof and annoyingly playful, then charming and seductive as she acted out scenes from classic movies - aping the likes of Garbo, Dietrich and Seberg - and gave and received sexual humiliation in forfeit games with her brother. Not that the childlike twins saw it as remotely humiliating.
The role demanded a wide range of emotional responses from Green. She had to be a silly girl, a serious film student and also desperately, painfully frustrated when pushed to grow up and leave her brother's side. Less importantly, but certainly more controversially, the part demanded an utterly unashamed full frontal nudity and a sexual frankness that most actresses would never dare approach. "It's not gratuitous," she'd explain later. "It's very pure, and not sick. We are like animals, pure animals - young puppies that are free". She had, she said, "no apology for anything you see me doing" and would express her anger at cuts made for an American market that could tolerate terrible extremes of violence but not sex. She'd also earlier expressed her disappointment that the sex scenes had scared off Jake Gyllenhaal, her original co-star. She'd screen-tested with him in London but, having broken through with Donnie Darko, Gyllenhaal felt the explicit content of The Dreamers would damage his chances of progress. Enter Michael Pitt who'd impressed playing back-up to Sandra Bullock in Murder By Numbers, he and Ryan Gosling playing smart kids who, as in Hitchcock's Rope, believe they've pulled off the perfect murder. It's worth noting that Bertolucci did actually tone the script down, the original being more concerned with the two boys and involving homosexual lovemaking. It's also worth noting that Gyllenhaal would choose to make homosexual love onscreen just three years later - earning an Oscar nomination for his efforts in Brokeback Mountain.
Interestingly, Bertolucci would later claim that he'd deliberately cast Green and Louis Garrel to give an authentic flavour of Paris, 1968. Being the daughter of Marlene Jobert and Walter Green, with their connections to Godard and Bresson, Eva was, of course, a grandchild of Marx and Coca-Cola. And Garrel, too, had a weighty lineage, his father being Philippe Garrel, enfant terrible of European art cinema in the late Sixties. A fan of Godard, Philippe was a Nouvelle Vague maverick, his films seeking love and intimacy amidst an inevitable alienation. He'd been a film-maker since his teens, dated Nico for 10 years from 1969 and endured electro-shock therapy, maintaining a reputation as a romantic poet-provocateur. Bertolucci also felt that Green's real-life experience as a twin might help her in the role.
Life was going well for Green. Since 2000 she'd been in a relationship with the actor/director Yann Claassen, several years her senior, who'd earlier directed the shorts La Peur and Une Journee Dans La Vie D'Une Femme. Now The Dreamers would bring her to the attention of Giorgio Armani who, claiming she reminded him of the great Italian actresses of the 1960s, would base his Spring collection of 2005 around her. From Nina Hagen to Giorgio Armani - times were changing. Many a company would now be keen to use Green's striking features. Over the next several years she'd front campaigns for Lancombe, Dior and Breil jewels, for the last of these recording three TV ads directed by Mike Figgis, one of them co-starring Ben Chaplin.
Onscreen, 2004 would bring an appearance in a big budget French adaptation of Arsene Lupin. Created by novelist Maurice Leblanc just after the first appearance of Raffles, Lupin was a gentleman thief and swashbuckling master of disguise operating in the late 19th Century, and had already featured in many French and American movies. Based on the 1924 novel The Countess Of Cagliostro, this version would see Romain Duris as Lupin, drawn into a foul plot to steal and sell Marie Antoinette's necklace to fund a coup d'etat and the restoration of the monarchy. Along the way he'd be seduced, manipulated and betrayed by a fabulously faithless Kristin Scott Thomas, Green meanwhile playing Lupin's sweet and innocent first love, a volunteer hospital worker who's pained by Lupin's dalliances then strung from the ceiling by the dastardly Thomas and used as bait. As in The Dreamers, her father would be played by Robin Renucci. As historical romps go, it was a tad overcomplicated, a hybrid of Tom Jones, Raiders Of The Lost Ark and The Da Vinci Code, but it was beautifully presented and great fun.
Arsene Lupin was expensive as far as Euro movies go, but its budget was tiny compared to those of Green's next three outings. The first of these would be Ridley Scott's Kingdom Of Heaven, a part she scored through persistence and luck. Though she'd performed five or more screen tests, Scott was still unsure whether Green was sufficiently regal for the role. However, she would eventually be hired, at one week's notice and, with her mother coming along for guidance, would find herself performing amidst the huge sets of Scott's fake Jerusalem. The movie would star Orlando Bloom as a young blacksmith who, discovering he's the illegitimate son of knight-crusader Liam Neeson, seeks his fortune in the Holy Land and winds up defending Jerusalem from Saladin's rampaging armies. Ruling the city would be frail leper Edward Norton, with Green playing his exotic sister Sibylla. She'd be married to a snake-like Marton Czokas who, along with psychotic Brendan Gleeson, is keen on a war that would result in the deaths of thousands. Green, then, is torn between her husband, her ailing brother and the exciting stranger Bloom.
It could have been an excellent part, with Green an embattled kingmaker torn by divided loyalties. However, such was the movie's length that Scott left much of her work out, leaving her as a mysterious but near-unnecessary presence. It was a decision he later publicly regretted, restoring many of her scenes to the version released on DVD. It was an added disappointment for Green, Kingdom Of Heaven's schedule having forced her to miss out on The Constant Gardener (for which Rachel Weisz would win an Oscar) and Hilary Swank's vampish part in Brian De Palma's The Black Dahlia.
Nevertheless, Green was on the up. Having split from Yann Claassen, she began a relationship with Marton Czokas, 14 years her senior. A New Zealander, Czokas was a theatre actor with a classy CV including the likes of Arcadia and Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf. He'd also make many screen appearances, featuring on TV in Hercules and Xena: Warrior Princess before moving on to such blockbuster fare as Lord Of The Rings, Aeon Flux, xXx and The Bourne Supremacy. He'd also win an Emmy nomination for his work in The Three Stooges and, in late 2007, would star onstage in Sydney in Riflemind, directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Though impressive, Kingdom Of Heaven was not a hit. Her next release most certainly was. This was Casino Royale which would introduce Daniel Craig as the new James Bond and take the character back to his gritty roots. In the movie we'd see Bond earn his 00 stripes then be ordered to win a high-stakes poker game, thereby ruining Mads Mikkelsen's evil Le Chiffre, a financier of terrorists. Green would play Vesper Lynd, a British Treasury official, who delivers Bond's stake money and attempts to curb his recklessness. Bond girls traditionally start off frosty, then melt into Bond's arms. Vesper Lynd was different. Initially smart and business-like, she's glamorous but real, deeply disturbed by the ultraviolence that erupts around her and hopelessly compromised by the enemy's machinations. Her shower scene with Craig was telling. The producers wanted her to strip - she was, after all, the girl from The Dreamers - but Green refused, feeling it inappropriate for a character who's just witnessed several horrible deaths. The resulting scene, with Green sitting fully clothed under a stream of water, horrified, disgusted and shaken, a bruised (and clothed) Bond attempting to comfort her, gave the film a real emotional value and lent weight to a relationship that drove the plot, as well as - in terms of Bond's motivations - the plots of Casino Royale's sequels.
Green had in fact been wary of taking the role at all, being well aware of her need to escape the tag of "that sex girl from The Dreamers". Her interest was not seized until Paul Haggis, Oscar-winning writer of Crash and Million Dollar Baby was hired to strengthen the characters. Then it all came in a rush. Flown out to Prague just days before shooting began, Green performed a casual audition then a far more formal affair, on-set and in costume. She later admitted to vomiting beforehand. The producers weren't keen to hire a French actress to play a character supposed to have a clipped Brit accent, but Green had studied English for many years and now underwent intense voice training. It worked. Casino Royale would prove to be a huge hit with audiences and critics alike.
Like Charlotte Rampling in reverse, the Anglophile Green had set up home in London, living first in Primrose Hill, then Little Venice, and the Brits took to her well. Not only did Casino Royale take a massive '55 million at the Brit box office, Green would, in 2007, be awarded a BAFTA as a Rising Star (her mother would receive a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Cesars that same year). But Green was seen as more than just a film star; she was a real, straight-talking character with a great sense of humour, as evinced by her appearance at Dior's 30th Anniversary show in Versailles, when she upstaged the models by showing up in a shocking pink kimono, a goth-geisha look designed by John Galliano himself. This was very Green - just an expensive reprise of her behaviour at school a decade before.
Back onscreen, Green would end 2007 with another major release, The Golden Compass, a star-studded adaptation of Philip Pullman's bestseller Northern Lights, the first in the His Dark Materials trilogy. Also in the cast would be Green's former co-stars Daniel Craig and Kristin Scott Thomas, as well as a host of top-line Brit thesps like Derek Jacobi, Ian McKellen, Clare Higgins and Tom Courtenay, the last of whom had starred alongside Eva's mother in To Catch A Spy. In the movie, a young girl, Lyra, would set off north from Oxford to rescue her friend Roger from child-snatchers, along the way learning the truth about her scientific adventurer uncle Lord Asriel (Craig) and her sinster self-appointed guardian Mrs Coulter (Nicole Kidman). She'd be aided in her efforts by an armoured bear and Green's Serafina, 300-year-old queen of the witches, broken-hearted after the death of her son but still flying on branches of cloudpine and taking on the forces of evil.
Her profile raised by these three consecutive blockbusters, it was inevitable that Green would seek out smaller, more artistically testing projects. 2008 would see her in Gerald McMorrow's Franklyn, a sci-fi psychodrama moving between contemporary London and a future monolithic metropolis ruled by religious zealots. Ewan McGregor and Paul Bettany were originally attached, but would be replaced by Sam Riley and Ryan Phillippe, Phillippe playing a vigilante detective seeking his nemesis in Meanwhile City and Riley a damaged fellow seeking the purity of first love. Green, meanwhile, would play two characters, one an ethereal beauty, the other a modern-day conceptual artist whose projects become ever more complex and deadly.
Having begun her career in such high-profile films and found fame so quickly, Eva Green must be the envy of her peers. By the quality of her performances, though, she has shown that she thoroughly merits the attention she gets. Just a few movies into her career, she has exhibited true courage and integrity as well as a wide emotional vocabulary. She'll be around for a long while yet.
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