Star Trek Into Darkness star Alice Eve isn’t a one-trick pony, and nothing proves that more than her gripping portrayal of Velvet in director Neil LaBute’s Some Velvet Morning. Eve takes on the role of a woman who is in the midst of a volatile, anger-infused, twisted, and sexual relationship with a man named Fred (played by Stanley Tucci). We talked to Eve about her theater background, her feelings towards Velvet, and her lunch dates with Tucci.
Warning: Questions and answers that reveal specific plot points in the film have been marked with a “spoiler.”
Because of your theater background, and the fact that the set was similar to a stage in that it was constrained, was the experience similar for you at all?
No, because the thing that is definitive of a play is that you have a live audience, and that’s really the massive difference. Film is a much more intimate process. So no, it wasn’t the same. I suppose the only thing that is the same is that we’re sort of sustaining a story in real time and we’re in one location … But we did have a run of the house and we moved up and down, and we had to work out where the camera would work, and we did a lot of stuff [with lighting]. There was a lot of time that we were worried, you know, we’d have to wrap before the sun went down. So we were definitely in the world of film.
How much improvising was there?
As an actor, you bring all of your true moments to it. And Neil is very collaborative and open and lets you bring all of your ideas and bring them to the table. And there are a lot of us in there as there is Neil, but in terms of what we actually said, the dialogue wasn’t improvised. That was Neil’s dialogue.
How would you describe Velvet? From the audience’s perspective, at first you feel sorry and scared for her, but then you realize that she’s pretty apathetic to the whole situation. How did you go about being her?
You end up going into that headspace, and that costs you, but you do end up going into it and you do sort of sustain that level of – I guess apathy is a good word for it – imperviousness to the dangers around her. She’s crossed over into an area where she is no longer valuing herself as a healthy person does. She’s allowing herself to be in a tenuous situation that will damage her. And so you have to open that possibility, because if you’re sane and healthy, you try not to do that, but she’s had traumas that have knocked her and sharpened her in a way that she doesn’t value herself. And so for that, I did feel sorry for her because you don’t wish that on anyone. Most of us, I guess, have someone who loves us who will take us out of a trauma, and she doesn’t have that. I still felt sorry for her, and that’s how I liked her. It’s hard to play someone if you don’t like them.
[Spoilers ahead] Did you consciously separate the different layers or levels of your character? Separate the pretending from the not pretending?
I think we had to keep it all in our head at the same time. Like you do in life, you’ll have the narrative you’re playing out, and then you’re also running a subconscious narrative alongside it. Like what will I have for dinner, or why did I say that to that person yesterday, and why did they say that to me? You have that where you are dealing with lots of realities in your head, and I think that as much as there were things that were revealed at the end of the film that maybe put a different spin on the film, they were still playing out that relationship and they were still having those experiences and fighting that fight, and when they were fighting that fight, they meant that. And so I believed that. I believed that it was real to them as much as it wasn’t real. It was the reality they needed in order to stay alive.
Did you and Stanley spend time together before this, because your relationship is so intense?
Yeah, it was so intense. I guess what we did was just jump in. I guess I suppose you call it method – although I wouldn’t call it method – but we jumped in and immediately started relating in a way that was maybe following the rhythms of the way that Velvet and Fred relate. And I think that that would have been the only way to do it because we only met five days before we shot it, and then we shot it very quickly, and then we were done. So we both kind of jumped in with our eyes closed and trusted that the other one would be there. And they were. We were a good team. We did spend all of our time together when we made it, though. We went to lunch, just the two of us … and you know, we did have a lot of time together.
Because it was such a short shoot, and it was so intense, were those lunches just your cool down periods or did you always try to stay in that intense mode?
They were cool down periods. We would make jokes and talk about our real lives and what happened in them, but we would talk with a level of familiarity that people who’d known each other a week wouldn’t [be able to]. We spoke like we’d been friends for a few years.
Do you have a favorite line or scene from the movie?
I like the scene where he puts the lipstick on me. I like the scene where we go upstairs and I fuck with him. I’m putting on lipstick by myself, and I’m fucking with him and telling him what I did with Chris, and bating him. I like it when she bates him. The thing that is interesting to me about the film is that she matches him. Word for word. She’s just as complex, dark, twisted, fucked up, mean, cruel as anyone. But where it sort of splits off and becomes a war and one … she loses is when we see the fundamental difference between men and women: men are physically stronger. And that was the main thing I learned at University, because I was sort of a feminist at University, and my teacher was like, the one thing you must realize is that there is a difference, and men are stronger … So she loses the war, so she can’t play the same game he’s playing and she’s a fool to try. She has to use a different set of tools. You can’t go head to head with a man and just match him for darkness and twisted-ness at every turn because you’ll take him to his limit and he’ll win. So that’s why women get a bad name, because we have to play a different game.
And no for something lighter, if you could have been in any movie from the past, what would it have been?
I would have been in Shampoo.
I would have been Julie Christie in Shampoo. I loved that movie and I loved her character.