Alice Eve

©2006 Dave M. Benett for
Alice Eve
Age: 24. Though her age “depends on the part I’m playing. In Rock ‘N’ Roll, I’m playing 16 and 19.”

Currently: Playing the younger version of Esme, who later becomes a Cambridge academic (as played by Sinead Cusack) in Tom Stoppard’s Rock ‘N’ Roll at the Duke of York’s Theatre. In the second act, Eve plays the character Alice, Esme’s daughter. “Because of her name, I felt it was written for me, which of course it wasn’t, but it feels very right,” Eve says. “Maybe in 100 years time, they’ll forget and think that it was. If I say it enough in interviews, I’ll leave it behind for them to dig up.”

“I was born in Chiswick and brought up in Holland Park, but then we moved to L.A., and I was back and forth a lot for around eight years in total,” says Eve, whose parents, Trevor Eve and Sharon Maughan, are both actors whose work took them to America a lot. “I was in my own world, so I was too young to remember what they were doing, but they were definitely working,” she adds. Eve went to school in the U.S. “I am definitely a London girl now, but I can switch to an American accent on for you,” she exclaims and promptly does so. In her mid-teens, the family returned, first to Hampshire and then to Chelsea where they now live, and where she is staying again temporarily: “I’m in the middle of finding a new home right now,” she says. “I’ve just moved out of Shoreditch, so I’m stopping over at my parents’, but I shouldn’t be there for much longer.”

Parental Legacy: Was acting a given, thanks to her upbringing? “No, actually I rejected it for a long time exactly because my parents were actors,” Eve explains. “Friends would say, ‘You’re going to be an actress, aren’t you?’ and I’d say, ‘Anything but that!’” It was very much me who decided to do it when I finally did. My dad’s agent wouldn’t take me, so it was very much my own doing, and I had to get myself an agent.” She opted to go to university, not drama school, and got into St. Catherine’s College, Oxford, to read English. But first she took a gap year. “I went to live in Los Angeles again by myself and studied at the Beverly Hills Playhouse for nine months.” She calls their approach to drama “very American and filmic” with its emphasis on Stanislavsky and method acting. “It was very un-English and very un-theatre,” she notes. “It was all about finding your inner truth. I found it very interesting.” Did her parents provide her with role models as actors? “It was more organic than that,” she says. “It was simply a part of my life—I was never able to objectify them, I just grew up watching them on stage and screen, and never stopped to question it until people ask me to do so.”

Dreaming Spires of Oxford: Coming back home, Eve went up to Oxford and found herself in a very theatrical college. “It was quite a dramatic—in the presumed way, rather than that they were all drama queens there,” she laughs. The first play she did there was An Ideal Husband, “and I did other plays all the way through,” she adds. “You would get to do parts that you wouldn’t do in a professional theatre, and it meant you were able to spread your wings in a way that you wouldn’t at drama school.” She also directed a short film while at University. “I liked it, but it wasn’t my thing,” she admits. “Though it was wonderful to work with actors, I haven’t got the kind of brain that stands back and sees things holistically. I love to get performances out of people, but that was as far as my talents went in directing.”
©2006 Dave M. Benett for
Alice Eve

A Step Ahead: Even before Eve left Oxford, she was already working professionally. She was tapped for Stage Beauty, the film directed by Richard Eyre during the summer before she graduated, and she also had a small part in Hawking on television. “So I was already one step ahead when I came out of Oxford in 2004—it seems like an eon ago now—and started auditioning for things.” The Rotters’ Club was in the first batch of auditions she went for, and she got that as well. “I was quite proud of it,” she remembers, “it was the first thing I did out of university. It was a good strong story, too, and I liked watching it.” Next came a role in Poirot, then a film, Starter for Ten. Has she ever stopped? “Not much! I was sitting in a taxi today, realising I was exhausted, but I’m not complaining”

The Decider: Until now, Eve’s professional career has been mainly on film and TV. Was that a conscious choice? “That’s where I got taken,” she explains. “The industry makes decisions for you, especially when you’re young and don’t know what decisions to make for yourself. I put myself out for all of it, and film and TV sought me out. But then I sought the theatre out myself—telling my agent I wanted to do a play, and she agreed that it would be a good thing to do. Luckily, I landed this.”

Split Personality: Is there a particular challenge to doing two very different roles in the same play? “There isn’t one till someone asks if there is one,” she jokes. “There’s just acting. When you think about it, you realise that you might do things differently between the two parts. The challenge, though, is in the process you do with Trevor [Nunn, the director], and then it’s about maintaining a relationship with the audience and keeping it fresh for them.” Having been around actors all her life, Eve doesn’t feel out of her depth. “Luckily, I’m not intimidated by actors, or being around Brian Cox and Sinead Cusack might have been terrifying,”
©2006 Johan Persson
Sinead Cusack & Alice Eve in Rock 'N' Roll
she exclaims. “Instead, they were very much like my parents.”

The Divine Tom Stoppard: If actors aren’t intimidating, what about Rock ‘N’ Roll playwright Tom Stoppard? “I was in awe of him and I still am,” Eve gushes. “He’s a divine human being. He’s the paradigmatic gentleman. I don’t think he lets you be intimated by him, because that would be a waste of time and would prevent communication from taking place; but he could be terrifying if he chose to be, I’m sure.” Was she intimated by the play? “Trevor and Tom were very, very clever about not alienating anyone. There are pats of the play that could alienate anyone in the cast, even the most well-read and learned ones, because there are parts in it that you won’t have accessed, whoever you are, because that’s where Tom gets his kicks. But they made sure that we were fully informed on everything in the play—going through every line of the text with us and deciding on the ambiguities. Tom was very present throughout the whole process and still is.” Did she study his work at Oxford? “We read Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, and I did an essay on it. But my computer has crashed since then, so I’m yet to retrieve stuff and see what I wrote.”

Down Time: What does she do when she’s not at the theatre? “There’s always loads of stuff you do in London that takes up your day,” she says. “By choice, I like doing nothing. But I also like cooking and just walking around.” And what’s next after this job? “I was in a panic about that only yesterday. You sometimes think that when a job comes to an end, you’re never going to work again, and that’s entirely possible. So I hope that there is something. But first, I’d like to lie down for a week.”

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29 November, 2006
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