She loves The Smiths, angst-ridden poetry, visiting cemetries... and has a wicked sense of humour. Prepare to meet the real Eva Mendes.
‘I write the best worst poetry in the world,’ Eva Mendes confides. ‘Maybe I can give you one cheesy line,’ she laughs. ‘No, I can’t, it’s too telling.’ She flicks the pages of untidy handwritten notes before relenting. ‘OK, “It screams through the leaves for you”. That’s all I’m saying. You’re getting a piece of my soul here.’
The angst-ridden poetry sits incongruously with the image of the starlet waking up to LA sunshine every day. ‘Everybody comes here to make a mark, to be something, and not everybody gets to do that,’ she says, ‘so you have all these little lost souls bouncing around, trying to fill a void. The sunshine is a big old disguise.’
Eva’s beauty often disguises hidden depths; an intellect that hasn’t always been apparent in her film work – from roles in Hitch and 2 Fast 2 Furious, to her turn as an 80s moll opposite Joaquin Phoenix in We Own the Night. You get the feeling her overt sexuality is a kind of public default mode she wrestles with, and she was eager to make sure ours wasn’t another ‘Eva does sexy’ story. ‘I love my curves, but I have to walk a fine line,’ she admits. ‘If your body’s a certain way, then things can go distasteful in a second.’
These contradictions of who she is and how others see her are not new. She describes the transition from ‘a little girl, to womanhood’ as being ‘hard times’ for her. ‘Overnight you have men looking at you, and you don’t know why,’ she adds. ‘It was confusing. Now I look back and think, “Oh my God, that’s why I was such a little mess in my head.”’
While everyone assumes the whole of Hollywood is indulging in therapy, it’s rare for an actress to admit to doing so. But Eva tells me: ‘I love therapy! There’s nothing like talking to someone who has no emotional tie to your life.’ What’s the difference between how she feels now compared with when she first started therapy four years ago? ‘Oh my God, everything. How I perceive things, how I’m not as reactive as I used to be, how I’m so conscious about hurting myself or others.’
Eva came relatively late to fame. Having originally studied marketing at California State University, she was spotted by a photographer, which led to commercials and music videos then, eventually, to films. Slated to appear alongside Keira Knightley [in Last Night] and in the Julian Fellowes-penned Greek Fire as operatic legend Maria Callas, it seems her time has truly come.
This is an edited version. To read the full interview, pick up the September issue of Marie Claire, on sale from Wednesday 29 July.