She shops in Topshop, lives in leggings and leaves her dirty clothes on the floor: Stylist learns there’s much more to actress and style icon Eva Green than meets the eye
Eva Green and I are discussing circularity verses linearity of time. Like you do. The human search for authenticity. Whether time travel will ever be a possibility. It's not the worst way to spend a Monday afternoon. Not least because Green seems to know what she’s talking about. This probably shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, she never fails to challenge and delight, publicly at least. Either on screen, transforming into dark and curious characters, or on the red carpet with her propensity to defy convention and go dramatic and daring.
Amateur philosophy (mine) aside, I’m meeting Green, 36, to talk about her current role in Tim Burton’s latest creation Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, an adaptation of Ransom Riggs’ book about a young boy’s adventures in an orphanage full of unique children with special powers. It’s typical Burton territory – blending darkness and light, examining the fight to fit in. Green plays Miss Peregrine. “She’s the children’s guardian and ready to sacrifice herself,” Green explains in her practically perfect English accent. “She’s a bit bonkers in a nice way. Tim likes to call her ‘scary Poppins’.”
It’s not Green’s first time working with Burton – in 2012 she starred in fantasy Dark Shadows alongside Johnny Depp. But Green – who grew up in Paris, with her actress mother, dentist father and twin sister Joy – had a career that began in theatre, before a breakout role in controversial film The Dreamers in 2003 about an American student who becomes erotically entangled with a brother and sister. That catapulted her into Hollywood’s line of vision, and roles including Kingdom Of Heaven and as a Bond girl to rival Bond in Casino Royale followed as did modelling for the likes of Dior and Armani. More recently it’s her role as a gothic clairvoyant in Penny Dreadful that has drawn in TV audiences for the past two years.
Green’s sartorial style has always been a defining characteristic on and off screen and when I first clock her outfit – sharp wide black trousers, stripy black and white shirt and chic dark bob, I think I’ve got that box ticked. But then she apologises; she’s had to take her heels off and is instead padding round her hotel suite barefoot. She is also she reveals, spoiler alert, a natural blonde.
Introverted but entertaining, spiritual and highly self-aware – it’s an intriguing world that she inhabits. It’s one that also involves mountain climbing, a teen penchant for purple fur and early morning Topshop trawls. Stylist learns more...
What is it like to work with someone as creative and prolific as Tim Burton?
He is like a child in a very beautiful way, there is no judgment. He is laughing and bursting with ideas. There are no tantrums. It is difficult to give yourself when there is someone standing there shouting or you feel like you are not loved, so you treasure a movie where you are loved.
And what was particularly intriguing to you about this script?
The fact that those children would be persecuted in the normal world but on this island their strangeness is celebrated as something very beautiful. I love that. I think we all felt a bit strange as children.
Do you think we celebrate individuality enough today?
I have heard people say to me, “You’re weird”, and it upsets me now thinking about it. It is very good to be different but I don’t know what it means. Sometimes when I am in Paris I prefer to take the Metro and I feel invisible and I can listen to people’s conversations and I feel like I am floating and I think to myself, ‘Am I normal?’ I don’t know. I don’t feel like I fit in still.
Another key theme in the film is time. Are you someone who tends to live in the past, present or future?
I started yoga recently and it is very interesting because it lets me focus on the moment. I can be quite melancholic and think and dream in the past. I’m not good at projecting myself into the future, I don’t know if it’s because I’m scared. I’m always like, ‘I might be dead tomorrow’. I do believe you stay around when you die and your soul floats around. You have to get to the light though, you can get stuck in the dark.
Miss Peregrine, like most characters you’ve played, has a distinctive look. Is there one you are most fond of visually?
I like Miss Peregrine, it’s the weirdest look I’ve had. In Dark Shadows I was [peroxide] blonde, it took me a while to get used to it.
Did you dye your hair for that role?
It was a wig, but I am a natural, very dark, blonde. I have dyed my hair for so many years – I’ve been black and red. I have asked the hairdressers several times, “Can you bleach my hair?” But it will go green!
Do you feel like dark hair is tied up with your sense of self or could you happily go for something totally new?
Yeah! I feel it’s me but it’s not because I am [in low voice] dark and mysterious. I don’t like the in-between.
Do you think that is the biggest misconception about you? That you are this dark being?
People say they think I am dark but I never really know what it means, does it mean I am dark and depressed? People like to put you in a box and more so women I think, they can’t nail you and they feel like they need to.
As a teenager did you have a strong sense of how you wanted to dress?
I have always been a very serious little girl, hardly going out and then I had my teenage crisis while I was at the American school [in Paris]. I was wearing a costume; like a purple fake fur and would match it with purple eyeshadow and very black hair. It was weird, I don’t know how I dared to do that.
What inspired that?
It’s not rebelling, but letting it out. The French system is very uptight, I hated it. I feel you can’t blossom as an individual – it was like brainwashing. At this American school you were not just defined by your grades, they celebrate the individual. It was kind of an epiphany.
Were your parents supportive of your experimenting?
I remember one night I went to my mum and said, “I don’t want to go back to school tomorrow, I can’t do it”, and she was like, “OK”, because I had good grades. I did a bit of correspondence and then I went to the American school, which saved me.
As it’s our Fashion Issue, let’s talk specifically about style. You have developed a distinctive look on the red carpet: is that a uniform, sheer practicality or simply a look you love?
That is interesting. And was especially [interesting] when Bond came out. People magazine released their list of worst dressed and there was me. I thought, ‘This is cruel’, but it’s because I looked different. I thought those outfits were so beautiful and I learnt you can never go crazy. There are rules. It’s just politics
So is the red carpet something you enjoy or endure?
It is kind of a game. It is nice if you have time to choose your gown, you feel like you are getting married. I go there with my armour on. At my first red carpet, I was so nervous. It was an Armani event in New York and I was wearing a dress that was so boob-y and I don’t like having everything out like that. I turned to my agent and I was like, “I can’t do it!” So we went and hid somewhere. I felt like I was illegitimate or something, but then Armani took me and introduced me to everyone. He was so lovely.
Which designers are you currently drawn to?
I have been very faithful to Elie Saab, it is always very classy and it always works. I am a big fan of McQueen, he was a genius. I love Rick Owens, The Row, there’s so many...
We don’t tend to see you at fashion shows though, do you prefer to appreciate fashion from afar?
I just don’t feel comfortable at those things, I feel stupid. Everyone is staring at each other and I can’t relax. Of course, if you want to honour the designer you go... but no, it’s not my natural home.
How do you learn about fashion?
Net-a-Porter! It’s so dangerous, everyday they are like, “We have new stuff!” I have a word document and copy and paste the things I want.
Are you one to buy loads online, try it all on at home and then send most of it back? Apparently such behaviour is causing a shift in the economy.
I do usually send stuff back because I don’t have the patience to go shopping, I am terrible. I go into a shop for 10 minutes and I can’t see things. Although I can do half an hour in Topshop at 9am. Topshop [Oxford Circus] is one of the best shops in the world.
What is the last thing you bought in Topshop?
It was a vintage Chinese-y robe. You have to find the right place to wear it otherwise it just stays in your cupboard.
What about when you’re lounging around at home? Are you chic in your living room?
No, not at all. But I have to make an effort and that is why I order from Net-a-Porter. I have decided to be a woman. The problem is leggings are really comfortable and you get used to it. I haven’t worn jeans in about five years.
What is your wardrobe like?
I am a teenager, I am terrible! It’s being on my own. With friends or my mum I try to make an effort but there is something free about [living alone]. You dine and you can leave plates there until the next day. There are no rules, you can just drop your clothes and it doesn’t matter... Maybe because my father was very strict so I kind of rebelled against that. I don’t even have a diary. I hate organisation.
What is your current most worn thing?
Oh my God, I don’t want to say black leggings but... [laughs] or my Isabel Marant grey jacket. It’s quite masculine – it looks like a man could have worn it and given it to me.
How do you make decisions about what you are going to wear?
That’s the thing! I wish the night before I was thinking, ‘What should I wear? I should put this together’. I need to make that kind of effort. It sends a message to the universe if you are like, ‘Tomorrow I’m going to wear this red shirt’.
What would it add to your life though?
I have to make an effort, I wear black leggings and trainers... I have to be more feminine.
Myself. It’s good to make an effort for yourself. I would like to wear more skirts.
Throughout your career you’ve explored many different roles, is there anything you haven’t done or want to go back to?
Maybe a film more based on reality – people always put me in quite a ‘woo woo’ role. I would love to do something dirty, raw and French.
Do roles like that come along often?
Not very often, or they will send me the cliché femme fatale roles. I am sick of being seen as other-worldly. It is nice to play those characters but I don’t just want to be that. Or maybe I’d like to just do a comedy. I find it funny with [Tim] Burton because Dark Shadows was a comedy and people say it is dark.
What makes you laugh?
Catherine Tate, Jack Nicholson, gorillas... I think it is much more difficult to do a comedy than a dark, depressing movie.
Do you like to go out?
I should be a party goer, that is also the new me. I have to force myself to go out. I am not good in groups at all. I am quite introverted. At school I was very envious of people who could be part of a group.
What then are you passionate about outside of acting?
I love short cinema, black and white photography and Pinterest. Every day, and this is very geeky, I take quotes, poems and old pictures and try to make up a story. I love doing that in the evenings. I bombard my friends with them. I love travelling and walking in the mountains – though I am scared of heights! I recently went to Bhutan. There is something rewarding about walking for hours and getting somewhere really high. There is something magical about the mountains, you feel like God lives in the mountains.
How does your love of mountains fit with living in London?
Well I walk a lot in London, through parks and listen to music on Spotify. I love Spotify, you discover new music all the time. Even my great-grandfather was on it. His name was Paul Le Flem, a French composer. I also love the nature sounds playlists, it is very funny to be like, ‘I am sick of this’, and then just have a gorilla in the background.
You’ve lived in London for a few years now. Do you still love it here?
Yes, there is something very calm for me about London, and very vast. I feel like a grown up here. People are very open, they are less narrow minded than even in Paris. You can be different and nobody is going to stare at you.
Are you able to live life here quite anonymously then?
Yeah, with my black leggings... [laughs] And if that ever changed would you have to leave? I feel I have the power to make myself invisible. I exude something, it’s weird...
Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is out in cinemas on 30 September
Photography: Rex Features