At 31, Alice Eve is at a new, exciting stage in her career. The London-born, California-raised actress has for the past decade been making a name for herself in Hollywood by playing eye candy in films like “She’s Out of My League,” “Men in Black 3,” “Sex and the City 2,” and most recently “Stark Trek Into Darkness,” where she caused fanboys to go weak in the knees by stripping down to her undies. In Neil La Bute’s micro-budget shocker “Some Velvet Morning” (out this Friday in select theaters and currently available on VOD), Eve proves she’s so much more than that.
In the almost unbearably tense drama, Eve plays a beautiful former mistress to Fred (Stanley Tucci), who finds herself in a precarious spot when Fred shows up unannounced at her door demanding they talk. The chess game that unfolds over the next hour and a half is provocative and mega disturbing, recalling the acidic vibe of La Bute’s acclaimed debut, “In the Company of Men.” As a woman who’s not all she seems to be, Eve is sensational in a part that asks a lot of her, both physically and emotionally. (Saying any more about the film, or her role, would ruin the film’s many surprises.)
Indiewire sat down with Eve at the offices of Tribeca Film, the company distributing the picture, to discuss the breakthrough performance and her career up to this point.
Do you see this as a breakthrough role?
Yeah I suppose I do. It was a breakthrough in terms of a personal watershed I guess of being brave and scared and raw — all of those things coming together. And feeling safe that I had the environment where that could happen successfully. I feel safe with Neil, I trust him very much. So yeah I think it was.
Had you felt a struggle career-wise prior to this? You’ve worked steadily since graduating from Oxford in film and theater, but Stateside it seems casting directors have you pegged as eye candy. This film proves you’re the real deal.
A career is a struggle to build and complex to navigate. You get cast in what you get cast and you take that for a while because it’s interesting because you never played it before. So I did “Starter for 10” and I did “She’s Out of My League” and then I was like, ‘Well I don’t think i want to do that anymore. And then yes, you have to turn the ship around a little bit. That takes work and navigation and working out what you want to explore. Then I met Neil and I wanted — he had the ideas and I didn’t know they were the ones that I’d want but I did. So it was him really that had the ideas and I’m lucky to be able to work with him.
How did you navigate that ship when first starting out?
Well I guess my first movie in America was “Crossing Over” and she was pretty dark and that was a pretty twisted tale. But that didn’t become the movie it should have been. And then I did “She’s Out of My League” and that one, I loved that film. It’s a sweet film and I have a lot of time for entertainment’s sake. It’s taken me through a lot of stuff in my life, entertainment, it’s a great source of comfort and pleasure. I believe in it and I’m a populist, so I will always return to that, always. That being said, life makes you complex, life is complex and you realize that your art can be a catharsis in other ways as well and you can go to places that are more painful and learn things from that as well. And so I think what it takes is that you end up saying no a lot. You end up not working basically to get where you want to be. You end up taking time out until something comes along that is right.
Was there a specific turning point, a film perhaps, where you went, “I don’t want to play these types of roles anymore”?
I think that there was a point where I started to get a little bit bored. But not from the film but from the size of a role on a film or the type of… if you’ve played someone already you don’t want to play them again. And I think maybe, one or two before this one I was a bit like, I need to go do something else. Grown up I suppose was the word. I suppose it’s becoming a grown up.
You recently changed talent agents. Did the movie have to do with your new path?
Well, I guess I do feel like I’m on a new path and it’s a path that I’m proud of and that I’ve worked hard to get to. I like the new guys, I think they have a good vision. They’re very intelligent and so I respect that, and I like the way that they are discerning as I am so I’m very happy to wait for something that I feel is worthy of people’s time to make. That sometimes means not doing things just for the sake of doing them.
J.J. Abrams caught some flack for your underwear scene in “Star Trek Into Darkness.” What did you make of the online outcry?
I didn’t know what to make of that. I didn’t understand it quite. I sort of suspected it’s because they didn’t consummate the relationship? I know that people thought it was exploitative. That would infer that I wasn’t there — but I was. I wondered what it was about. I’d do it again.
Will you be consummating it in the third?
I don’t know, we’ll have to see we haven’t got a script yet we’ll have to see. They’re on a five-year mission so there probably will be some romance. It’s a long time up there in space (laughs). Who knows what they’ll get up to. I don’t know, I actually don’t know so that’s really nice for me because most of the time I know and I have to pretend I don’t, but I don’t.
Take me back to the first time you saw “Star Trek.” What was it like going from playing make believe in green screen land to seeing yourself in these alien environments?
Honestly, I saw it with my mom at Bad Robot. I was coming here to do this actually at Tribeca and they were all going to Australia first on the first leg of the tour and I obviously wanted to support this movie. So I saw it just me and my mom and we were the people to go see it together because we must’ve wept three times by the time it had hit the 30-minute mark, so we were completely vulnerable. I hadn’t even come in it yet. It was a huge screen. It was just us in the room. He’s a visionary JJ. He made something that you hadn’t really seen before on the scale. It was pretty much overwhelming, not so much taking the nuances of my performance which I never really want take. I never like watching myself — it’s not pleasant. But just knowing that you’re part of something that gargantuan is overwhelming because there are so many talented people involved in a big movie like that, across the board. So to watch it it’s forceful, it’s a different force to “Some Velvet Morning.”
The two films couldn’t be any more different. How was going from “Star Trek” to “Some Velvet Morning”?
In a lot of ways it was heavenly, and in a lot of ways it was funny, it didn’t feel like we were doing the same thing because in fact, we’re making a movie, we’re doing two completely different activities. One is kind of building a town and another one is telling a very intricate story. It was good because you’re hungry after those big movies to do something intimate and this was it.