Eva Mendes may be
well known for her stunning looks, but beneath the beauty is a
selfless actress who is more than willing to get down and dirty to
discover the heart and souls of her characters. Mendes has
always worked hard to find gritty dramas, such as Training Day,
Girl in Progress and Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New
Orleans. These films make a good counterpoint to some of
her more traditional Hollywood leading lady spots, such as Hitch,
The Other Guys, 2 Fast 2 Furious and Ghost Rider –
though Mendes shines at more commercial work as well.
Valentine director Derek Cianfrance's latest film, The Place
Beyond the Pines, Mendes
takes on perhaps her most tragic and broken character yet.
Mendes plays Romina, a young waitress in Schenectady, New York, who
has a son after a one-night stand with a traveling motorcycle stunt
driver named Luke (Ryan Gosling). When Luke returns to the
small town and finds out that he is a father, he decides to try to
settle down and become a family man.
The problem is,
though she is obviously in love with Luke, he is obviously dangerous
to Romina and her young son Jason. She is now living with
another man named Kofi (Mahershala Alia) who may not stir her
passion in the same way that Luke does, but is safe and settled and
wants to be a father to her toddler. Romina has to decide to
follow her heart or her head, a decision which profoundly changes
her life as a young mother, as well as later as a middle-aged mother
to high school aged Jason (played by Dane DeHaan as a teen).
A couple of weeks
before the film's release, Mendes met with PopEntertainment and a
few other websites to discuss her career and her experience in
making The Place Beyond the Pines.
Everybody had to
get ugly for this movie and go to difficult places. Was that
uncomfortable? So many films do the complete opposite.
No. Hey, this is
what I love to do. I'm an actress. My film career started with
Training Day. I was as raw as you could get in that movie.
Since then that's what I gravitate towards. When you do the
bigger Hollywood films, they tend to like you a little bit more
cleaned up, but I've done a lot of films... not like this,
certainly... but that I've been gritty and raw for.
Certainly We Own the Night had elements of that. And a film
I produced called Live! I really try to get it in there. I
did a film last year, Girl in Progress, that was a small
little film. But, yeah, I'm an actress and I'm certainly not a
glamazon in that way. I turn it on when I have to. If I have
to wear something on a red carpet, obviously, to sell a movie. Or
if I have to do a campaign. But that's not where the art lies,
you speak about working with Derek Cianfrance on this project?
Yeah, he's my dream
director. He's just amazing. I've never worked with someone like
this. He creates this world that feels so incredibly natural and so
real. I have a theory that it's very difficult to not be good in a
Derek Cianfrance film, because it's all there for you. He has it
all there for you and it's just about tapping into it.
What would he do
to make you get into the role?
One of the things,
he had me work at the diner. On my days off from shooting the film
I worked as a waitress at the diner. That was great. I
familiarized myself with the space, talked with the girls, got their
history, their experience. That really helped out a lot. A lot of
times the way it goes is you get to that location and it's the first
time you've seen it. "You're shooting in your house today." First
time you see it. He's about creating history, so I would hang out
at the house that I had. I would hang out in places that my
character would hang out in. This other thing that was really
amazing is that when it was time to cast my mom in the film, he was
like, "Okay, you're going to New York and cast your mother." I was
like "Oh, you want me to meet with them first and then I'll let you
know..." He's like, "No, no, no, no. You're casting your mom."
I'm like "You mean you want me to put them on tape and you'll look
at them and you'll decide? Or ask me who I like better?" I was
like, what? He's like, "You're casting your mother." This is
unheard of. He's incredible. He stuck to it. I went to audition
these wonderful women. One of them stuck out to me. I was like, "Mami!"
She was definitely my mom and he was like, "Great!"
As an actress,
how interesting was it to be playing a character in two totally
different periods in her life?
So fun! So fun.
The aging process was so fun as well, because I didn't so much think
of it as aging. I thought of it as the pain manifesting its way
through time. I don't know if that makes any sense. I had certain
tricks. I had certain garments I would wear under my clothes to
make me feel a certain way. I did the obvious stuff, some pencil
work, creating lines. I did the graying, but I also did this thing
where I shaved my eyebrows down to a very thin line. Which I did in
the middle of the night in my hotel in Schenectady. I was like,
"Ooh, hope Derek likes this!" (laughs) Yeah, just things
that would suggest that this was a woman who had abandoned herself.
So, that's just what I went out and did. It was beautiful.
was the most challenging scene for you?
I was really,
really emotional and sad in the ending scene where I get the
picture. We tried to shoot it in sequence. It was the ending of
the film. We'd had three months of like, ugh (sighs), you
know? The scene where I receive the picture in the mail of my
character and Luke [Ryan Gosling's character] and Jason [their son],
that just was [devastating]. And funny enough, no dialogue.
Nothing about that, but just heart-wrenching. That was a really
hard day for me.
It's one thing
to get into a character, but another to get out of one. How do you
shake it off emotionally?
Getting out of a
character is easy enough. I just go home and my mom just quickly...
there's nothing like family to equalize everything. Not be so
crazy. So that's kind of the easiest part, I think.
As a woman in
Hollywood, what is it like to get such a complex role?
Yeah, as a woman,
but not only as a woman, right now as it's been lately it's tough to
find those challenging roles. You really have to search and fight.
That's why I produced this project a few years ago called Live!
I found a script and I was like, "Nobody's doing anything with
this. What is it? Can I make him into a woman?" You start to try
to get clever with things that you can do, because it's like
everything good, you've got to search for it. It's not going to
just come to you.
What were your
thoughts seeing it? Have you seen the film yet?
Was it what you
I just thought it
was really beautiful. Hats off to Derek. Nobody's doing this.
Nobody's defying structure like this. This is really scary stuff.
Especially, I don't want to give it away, but what happens with
Luke. That really takes a lot. He's such a risk taker. I know you
hear that word sometimes a lot. Like you hear genius a lot and it
loses its potency sometimes. But Derek is a real trailblazer and a
risk taker. I love him for that.
did you get emotionally into the mindset as a mom of an infant and
later of a teenaged boy?
I worked very
closely with my acting coach Ivana Chubbuck. Because I've played
moms before we do have a technique that we use for all kinds of
things – characters that you portray that maybe you don't have a
direct connection to. There's all these little fun tricks and
techniques that you can do. So Ivana Chubbuck and I worked on
that. Also I played a mom early in my [career]. In Training Day
I played a mom. So throughout the years, you just kind of... I
feel like I've been prepping for this role for a while, basically,
whether I knew it or not, this role of Romina. And, yeah, just like
I'd prep for anything else, I guess.
cares very deeply for Luke, but she sees Kofi as a safer route. Was
it difficult to portray that internal tug of war: knowing what is
best for her and for her son and the fact that it may go against
what she feels in her heart?
before I made the film I had this women's day at my house. I
invited my friends, my family and everyone was a mother, or is a
mother. I was like: Okay, here is the situation. You have a baby
with a guy who is a fling. He's no longer in your life. He's out
of town. He's gone. Now you have this baby and you have a man who
is not the biological father, but who is stable and wants to raise
the child as his own. Then the biological father pops back into the
picture, temporarily. What do you do? I thought that the women
were going to be like what's best for the child is a stable father.
But they were like: You do everything in your power to make it work,
because there is a primal pull, a primal connection that happens
with the baby's actual biological father. I was like: Really? Even
though you know he's unfit? They were like: You try. I was like:
Ohhhh, this is so interesting! It was so interesting to me, because
all these women [felt that]. I was like: All right! She's got to
try somehow. But I think that's where you see her... there's a lot
of moral ambiguity. There's a lot of, "Uhhh," you know? Hopefully
that came across, because she's very flawed, which I love. And then
she has the opportunity to tell him and she doesn't. I feel a
little bad for her when she walks up the stairs, like: come on, you
but I think she gets hurt more than anybody else here. First Luke,
then Jason, she really gets emotionally battered. Was it easier to
work with actors that you know are going to screw with you
Yeah. I just
trusted that Derek, when he's casting, he knows what he's doing.
You know who really messed with me? Ray Liotta. Oh, yeah.
There's stuff you didn't see in the movie. I don't know why, it was
a really good scene. When he comes to... when the guys go to search
the house for the money while we're downstairs. He goes for it. He
really got to me, too. I love him, but in the scenes I was like:
you.... arrgggh! I wish we had kept some of that stuff,
because he was that good. He can just look through you and annoy
you and confuse you and offend you. And he's just looking at you.
And you're like: How do I feel all these things when you're just
looking at me, Ray? Ugghhh! He's really great. He's very
do you think about working with Ryan? You also have another
upcoming project with him.
Yeah, he's the
greatest. It's amazing. He's fantastic. Bradley was fantastic.
Bradley had a really tough job, I think, coming in when he did in
the film. That switchover. I had a really challenging scene with
Bradley. I hated that scene. Ugh, that was dark.
When he tried to
give you back the money?
He tries to give me
back the money. Yeah. That was a really hard day. That was
really, really hard.
What do you
think is so appealing about dark themes?
I think people are
attracted to darker themes because it's life, at times, you know? I
think it's the same reason that people may like operas. They are
dramatic. I'm a sucker for a Greek tragedy, boy oh boy. Also,
being the audience, for me, if you are watching something incredibly
dark and dramatic, I think... I like to think worst case scenario
sometimes. So I'm like: okay, that's definitely worst case
scenario, so because I've thought about it, it probably won't
happen. I'm very superstitious in silly ways like that.
If this film
were to be recast with old-time actors, who would you imagine in
Old-time actors? That's interesting. To play my role? Hmm... Oh
my God, that's such a good question that I don't want to mess it up
by saying [just anyone], you know? I don't know, who do you
imagine? (laughs) Help me out here.
Aww, that's nice.
I could only wish. Oh my God, I love your question so much that
could I maybe go on to something else and keep thinking about it?
You express so
much with your eyes in this movie. Is that something you practice
in the mirror at home?
No, I don't practice in the mirror, but thank you, I really
The Place Beyond the Pines
mean to you as an actress?
Well, you know,
technically it means "Schenectady." (ed. note: The title
comes from the Iroquois translation to the name Schenectady.)
I'm kind of
hesitant to say what it means to me, because I don't want to
influence anybody else's opinion that they will take from it.
Sometimes as an actor, we think too much.
Schenectady, what was it like to be filming in real places in the
town with real people?
Amazing. I lived
at the Holiday Inn Schenectady. It was incredible. I loved it. It
We met in Miami
when you were doing 2 Fast 2 Furious.
I remember back
then you said you loved it and wanted to get into the action films.
Do you still see yourself wanting to do action roles?
Are you sure I said
that? No. Like you, I have changed. (laughs) No, I think
that was probably the...
Yeah. Trying to
convince myself that it was fun. I don't know. No, I'm not an
action girl, at all. I can't believe that. I'm not attracted to
action in films, no. Not to say if there isn't a great one that
would be fun, but no. Really, I said that? What was I doing? On
the boat? Are you sure it was me? (chuckles)
Yeah, I have a
Can I see that
picture? I don't remember any of that. I don't remember being
excited about any of it. I was trying to probably pump myself up
for the day and the scene. But I... no. Interesting. I love
that. But no. I think honestly that on the day you have a job to
do, so you have to pump yourself up. But I've never been into
action or sports or anything that makes me sweat.
What do you
think are the basic elements that turn a crime drama or a crime
thriller into a classic?
Oh boy, that's a
Derek question and you know it! (laughs) That is not for
your actress. I know my limitations. No way, brother!
Last time I saw
you, you were talking about your mom and what a hero she was to
you. What's it like to be able to share your success with her?
Oh, she's the
best. She's the greatest. She lives 15 minutes away and I see her
all the time. She's just... you know, she's my mom. She's proud,
but she's not doting, which I love. When he asked me how I shake
off a role or something, I run to my mom, because there is no...
she's just my mama. That's it. She'll tell me I'm beautiful, but
at the same time, she'll tell me, "Ooh, did not like that dress."
Or she'll tell me I did a great job in the role, but she'll tell me
what she didn't believe. She will definitely not be seeing this
film. She does not like it when anything is violent and when I'm
hurt or crying. That is a big no-no for her.
CLICK HERE TO SEE WHAT RYAN GOSLING HAD TO SAY TO US ABOUT THE
PLACE BEYOND THE PINES!