‘A BIT bonkers and eccentric — such an unusual character,’ is a phrase actress Eva Green could use to describe herself. Instead the 36-year-old Parisian is enthusing about her titular role in Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children as a magical, pipe-smoking headmistress who can turn herself into a peregrine falcon.
Miss P’s pupils include an invisible boy and a girl who floats like a balloon. Little wonder director Tim Burton dubbed her ‘Scary Poppins’.
‘I love playing someone like this, who isn’t a love interest,’ says Green, whose breakout turn as Bond’s most significant girl in Casino Royale saw the awards come rolling in. ‘I often get asked if I get worried about being typecast as a femme fatale. But I have played so many other things! It makes me sad. Is that how people see me, as a dark kind of icy image? I hope not.’
Green may insist ‘I am not a goth. I am a big geek!’, but today she certainly looks the part: her marble flesh is made paler by her raven tresses (‘it’s actually dark blonde — I have dyed my hair since I was 15’), her petite frame is clad neck to ankle in a black lacy-sleeved Elie Saab trouser suit, all topped off with her favourite chunky silver skull ring.
Bernardo Bertolucci, who cast her in his sexually graphic drama The Dreamers aged 19, once described her as ‘so beautiful it’s indecent’, but the French/Swedish actress is now more likely to be typecast as a witch (as she was in The Golden Compass and Burton’s Dark Shadows, plus a possessed medium in Penny Dreadful) than a Euro sex kitten. It’s something of a relief that in person Green is warm, fascinating company and refreshingly peculiar.
I ask if her ‘very blonde’ twin sister Joy is the light to her dark? ‘She thinks I’m a weirdo!’ grins Green. ‘And she is my twin! We are very, very different. I was very, very shy as a child, so I felt a bit withdrawn and people always said I was strange. They still say that today. I’ve started thinking maybe I am. Because I am not confident to go to parties and do all that “lah-lah-lah, ha-ha-ha”, I have to be a bit violent with myself to do things like that. Of course this movie, Miss Peregrine, pushes you to celebrate your individuality and embrace it, but that can be difficult. When I was a teenager, they’d say, “When you are in your thirties you will be confident”.’ She laughs ruefully. ‘Maybe when I am 90, it will be OK.’
It’s easy to see why Tim Burton, creator of Edward Scissorhands and Frankenweenie, would adore this pale outsider. Did she hide in her own imaginary world as a child?
‘This will sound strange, but I always felt like I was in a movie. When I was around five, I would imagine that I was an old woman telling my life story and that I was the flashback. It was like I was living in somebody’s dream. It was weird.’
Another ‘weird’ thing was an early passion for taxidermy. ‘I was once in this shop in Paris and saw this auroch’s head — that’s the ancestor of a bull. It sounds childish, but I felt he wanted me to rescue him and take him home. I have been vegan for three years now though, so I don’t buy things like that any more.’
There is something so bird-like about Green, her outsized blue eyes, the way she pecks emphatically at words. When I ask which animal she’d like to transform into, I already know the answer.
‘A bird,’ she says, unhesitatingly. ‘I have always felt like I was floating. There is something about being a bird that is so free. But you would want to be a falcon, so no one can f*** with you!’ Eva Green: a rare creature indeed.
Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is in cinemas from today
… smoking a pipe as Miss Peregrine
I took it home to practise and I loved it! Of course it’s not healthy, but the smell is so nice. It is difficult, because it goes out quickly so you have to relight it again and the under-bite look it gives me isn’t so attractive. I felt like a detective in an old movie. That was cool.
… Miss Peregrine’s style
It is 1940s-inspired, but with a Tim Burton edge – pointy shoulders and sleeves that look a bit like wings. If you’ve seen pictures of Miss Peregrine in the book [by Ransom Riggs], she looks quite different with Victorian glasses. This is more sexy. We kind of took Marilyn Monroe’s look and went weirder.
… hating the red carpet
There are worse things in life! My first red carpet was for an Armani event and I felt I didn’t deserve to be there. My dress was very boob-y. I almost couldn’t do it. But Armani was kind. He said, ‘Just go once up and down and you can go back to your hotel!’ It’s OK now, it’s part of the game.