SHE'S the screen seductress who doesnt believe in marriage, but is Eva Mendes actually a hopeless romantic at heart?
Eva Mendes is looking terrible. At least, that’s what she seems to think – and she’s blaming it on allergies. “I’ve had them all my life,” she complains, sipping from a glass of water.
“Excuse me. I’m literally dripping with sweat.” But while the rest of us would be turning blotchy and grappling with tissues, she looks her usual stunning self.Yesterday, she glammed it up on the red carpet for the New York premiere of her latest film, Last Night, but today she’s dressed casually and wearing little make-up.Even in dress-down mode, it’s easy to see why the 37-year-old often tops the ‘world’s sexiest woman’ polls, was a long-time spokeswoman for Revlon and is the new face of Pantene. We first met six years ago in Melbourne, where she was filming the horror-superhero flick Ghost Rider. She was chirpy and funny, providing a stream of one-liners.Today she’s equally generous, but more serious. You could blame the allergy, but there’s more to it; she’s feeling the sting of celebrity gossip after recently describing marriage as unnecessary, outdated and “boring”.“I just think…” she breaks off, choosing her words carefully. “If we go back to the origin of marriage, it was very unromantic. It was about land, basically. It was about ownership. So I think it’s a kind of unromantic idea. When I look around and see the emphasis people put on getting married and weddings, I think, wait a second, what does this really mean?The divorce rate is astronomical. I’m a person who appreciates a private union and a union that doesn’t need a piece of paper. I think marriage is more societal than anything else, honestly. It’s not that I’m against it; it’s just that, for me, it seems a little old-fashioned.”Mendes – who’s been in a relationship with Peruvian film-maker George Augusto for almost a decade – won’t be walking down the aisle any time soon, then.“But I’m completely pro-union,” she quickly adds. “I think the most beautiful thing in the world is to have your soulmate and to have that spiritual connection, and to honour that. In truth, you can’t be any more romantic than me. I’m crazy for romance. I like the random notes, the lipstick kisses on the mirror, the flower petals in the underwear drawer.” She grins sheepishly. “Oh God, I really said that.” All this wedding talk has come about thanks to Last Night, an indie film with an A-list cast. Keira Knightley and Sam Worthington play Joanna and Michael, a married couple whose life seems perfect.But things go awry when Michael goes on a business trip with his seductive colleague, Laura (Mendes), and Joanna bumps into Alex (Guillaume Canet), a handsome old flame.It’s a project Mendes enjoyed, not least thanks to Worthington, with his “adorable Australian accent”.“Sam has a great old-school quality about him,” she gushes. “He has this sexy, rugged exterior, yet he’s so emotionally available and… sexy. I said that already? Yeah, I find him sexy, and a lot of that has to do with his talent. I respond to his dedication to the craft. He’s a trained actor who really gets the material and embraces that process. My kind of actor, for sure.” With Mendes playing ‘the other woman’, the movie explores the world of marital infidelity, raising the question: Is it possible to love two people at once? “I personally can’t,” she says, without hesitation. “But I think people can. I’ve known people [who have]. I think the French do that a lot. It’s possible, just not from me.” Which isn’t surprising. Mendes has always had a moral grounding – as a child growing up in LA, she even wanted to be a nun. “Until my sister told me they don’t get paid, then I went off that idea quickly.” Instead, she studied marketing, but dropped out to pursue acting.
She started out playing various foxy ladies in ’90s music videos by Will Smith, Aerosmith, the Pet Shop Boys and others. Since then, her film career has run the gamut of action (2 Fast 2 Furious), comedies (Stuck on You), parodies (The Other Guys) and chick flicks (The Women).“When it comes to my work, I have this thing where I know if I really want to do a film,” she says. “It’s very backwards – I know by the way I instantly say no to it. I’m not even going to try to figure that one out. But a lot of the films I’ve ended up loving, honouring, cherishing my experiences on, I said no to at the beginning.”Such as?“I said no to We Own the Night for about eight months,” she confesses. “And [director] James Gray hung in there, bless his heart, and would randomly – probably not randomly, but very calculatedly – send me updates on script revisions, with a note saying, ‘I hope we get to do this together.’ And then, finally, when they signed on Joaquin Phoenix and started shooting, I did it. It ended up being the best experience.” She’s now preparing for what might be her biggest role yet – one she couldn’t really turn down, as it was written especially for her by renowned screenwriter Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park, Downton Abbey). Mendes is set to portray the tragic life of opera star Maria Callas in Greek Fire. There’ll be no need for her to sing, since it follows Callas as she gives up music for love, but the role will provide plenty of challenges for her to, as she puts it, “expand” as an actor.There’s no question Mendes takes her job seriously; she even takes regular acting classes with Ivana Chubbuck, who’s coached luminaries from Jon Voight to Halle Berry. “Ivana and I love to dissect the material,” she says. “I can play with certain things in my acting classes that I wouldn’t normally be able to do in a film. I want to show I can do Molière, and I can do Shakespeare.”Of course, she’s not purely focused on work. After hours, she enjoys hiking, cycling and skiing. And one of her favourite hobbies is interior design – something she’d be keen to move into if she ever felt like a career change. Not just yet, though; she still has many projects in the pipeline. Soon she’ll be fully focused on Greek Fire, and she recently took up writing and directing with short film California Romanza, starring Christina Ricci.Always busy, it’s time now for Mendes to move on, and she says a cheery goodbye. Outside, a fan stops her to ask for a photo, but she apologises, complaining once again of her allergies. “I can’t do it right now. Thank you so much.” Of course, she still looks immaculate, but it’s reassuring to know that even beautiful people can have their moments of self-doubt.Last Night is in cinemas later this year.It’s not all about EvaThe actor is an ambassador for a program called Hollywood Immersive, aimed at aspiring australian actors aged 15–25. the course, based in Melbourne, sends young hopefuls to La to work with industry professionals, where they learn audition techniques, improvisation and dialect.Of course, such exposure doesn’t come cheap. That’s why, once a year, the eva Mendes scholarship is awarded to one young aussie from an underprivileged background, who’s been nominated by their teacher or agency. “It’s an invaluable experience to a young person who dreams of being an actor, but who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to do something like this,” says Mendes. For information, visit hollywoodimmersive.com.