French actress Eva Green can easily be called the muse of American director Tim Burton. They have worked on three films together - Dark Shadows also starring Johnny Depp and Michelle Pfeiffer, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, and now a live-action adaptation of the classic Disney animated feature Dumbo, where Eva plays aerial gymnast Colette Marchand, alongside Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton and Danny DeVito.
— In your recent movies you’ve been going higher and higher – quite literally! In Proxima you are an astronaut, and now you are flying on a trapeze. Do you think it is a weird coincidence?
I must have been a bird in another life. I don’t know, it’s very funny. It’s such a great thing because it gives you the opportunity to explore different universes – you are an aerialist and you end up working with the most amazing circus performers, you learn the craft, which is amazing. Then, as an astronaut I met with a few astronauts, I trained physically because those guys are very fit.
— Did you have to do the centrifuge?
I did that. We trained a bit in Star City as well. These people are amazing, they are very brave and they sacrifice themselves. These is something quite “Jesus Christ” about them, which I find very fascinating.
— After all these movies do you see yourself being a pilot or going to space someday?
No, I can maybe do a bit of aerial work, but I am not a good flyer. Space is another subject, after doing lots of research and meeting all these astronauts - it is a very harsh life. Yes, they are making amazing discoveries in space, but it is dark.
— You have mentioned in earlier interviews that if Tim Burton asks, you would play whatever he wants – a mop, a desk, or a chair. Is there a level of trust that you have developed with the director or is it because it’s Tim Burton and he’s one of a kind?
Exactly. You know that it would be visually beautiful, interesting, and different. That the characters will always be something that you have never played before, which is always a good challenge and it is fun. Who would say no to Tim Burton?
— How would you describe Tim Burton compared with other directors? What is the difference between him and Bernardo Bertolucci, or any other director?
It’s always difficult to compare him. Maybe because I have worked with him several times, It is more intimate and I know many members from the crew, so you feel very protected. He always wants you to feel comfortable and he is very collaborative.
Every director is different. He is definitely very warm, very human. Maybe he talks less than other directors, he communicates more with his gestures and you have to understand his body language. He communicates with drawings as well. He constantly draws, I do not even know if he is aware that he is drawing. He would talk to you and he would draw, like blind drawing.
— Talking about filming Dumbo, what was the secrecy like? With Marvel movies, they have to hide their scripts. Did you have the same level of secrecy?
Always. You have to be careful, and they get paranoid.
— Speaking of the circus experience, I talked with Colin Farrell and he said he never saw the circus as a child. What was your experience when you were growing up in Paris? In Russia the circus is like a second nature for us.
I went a couple of times. It is always very impressive and the acts are amazing, but I always felt a bit sad, probably because of animals. As a child, you probably cannot explain why. Maybe you heard that story about elephant Tyke in Hawaii that went bonkers, killed her trainer, because she was stressed out. Or Black Fish, the documentary about orca. They are going insane when they are in captivity. So I think it’s wonderful that the movie is standing up for animal-free circuses. We should only have humans, like Cirque du Soleil – such a wonderful, beautiful circus. This is magic! You want animals to be happy.
— Do you remember the first time you walked on the set of Tim Burton’s Dumbo?
All the sets were very complete, which is very rare. It was so colorful and vibrant and all the extras were there, so you just had to look, you did not have to imagine anything. All the circus performers were doing acts and it was just a fairytale.
— Can you talk about the training for this part? You had to overcome your fear of heights.
First, I started to train just with the physical trainer to get very strong core, like invisible abs, because you have to do crazy things. Then strong arms as well. And after that they put me on a swing, and little by little we went higher and higher. The aerialists have a lot of very sexy bruises – behind the knee or around elbows. They like pain.
— Why do you think Tim Burton likes to make movies about outcasts and misfits?
It’s a very moving thing and it’s true. I think he probably identifies with his main characters. And I think lots of people do, too. We all try to fit in and we live in the world where we want to please and fit the norm. But it’s okay to look different, it’s actually more interesting. I find it quite boring to want to be like everybody else. He is the one who really knows and understands the misunderstood.
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— Your first memory of Tim Burton?
I really loved Beetlejuice as a child. I saw it so many times.
— Is he working on the remake now?