Roundtable Interview With Eva Mendes On The Place Beyond The Pines

Ever since Training Day started making Eva Mendes a household Hollywood name, the actress has been assembling quite the film catalogue, accompanied by a ever-so-lovely reputation. While I love her roles in Once Upon A Time In Mexico and Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call – New Orleans, she’s more prominently known for films like Ghost Rider, Hitch, and The Other Guys – and her next role in the upcoming festival hit The Place Beyond The Pines will only add another high-point to her already accomplished career.

While promoting Derek Cianfrance’s new film in New York recently, I was able to sit down for a round-table interview with the wonderfully pleasant starlet and talk about her emotionally taxing role in The Place Beyond The Pines. Read on to hear Eva talk about her experiences as a mother on the film, the strong dramatic story which pushes her character, and of course her experiences working with Ryan Gosling.

We first started off asking Eva about her on-screen transformation as her character ages throughout the film, as she seems to be the only one noticeably changing physically, and if she talked to director Derek Cianfrance about making it so visible:

Eva Mendes: Because of the tragedy that she suffers, I wanted to make sure you could see it on her face and on her body. I did certain little tricks that I’d like to keep secret to make sure I looked haggard as to appear time had its way with me.

I did talk to Derek about the obvious graying and all that stuff, in fact one of the little tricks I did was to shave down my eyebrows to a very thin point. While I don’t really recommend it for an everyday look, when you want to change your face a bit and look a little insane, it actually works, but I wanted it to stem more from an emotional place than getting into prosthetics and aging too much.

The truth is, you start off the film with Romina in her mid to late 20s and it’s a little ambiguous, and then you’re going into her early 40s and there is a difference there, but it’s not as drastic. We didn’t really want to get into it, we didn’t want the attention to make audiences question “Oh wow, is that her face?”

Jumping off the physical attributes, someone noted there is also a visible emotional change in her character Romina:

Eva Mendes: Did you notice? Great, that’s what I was concentrating on. It’s the same thing I do on every film, whether it’s a big studio film, or a comic book film, or a film like this – I work very closely with my acting coach who I’ve worked with since Training Day, Ivana Chubbuck, and we break down a character. For me it’s a part of the process that I love, when you get to break down a character and work on all that emotional stuff.

Thankfully Derek Cianfrance turned out to be my dream director, too. I just can’t get enough of the way he approaches things. From the audition, I knew we were on to something special because I came to see him for this role and I said to him “Look, I can go in that room and read this material for you, but I don’t think that’s really what you’re looking for. I think you should get in my car, take a ride, and I’ll drive around the neighborhoods that I grew up in around Los Angeles. I think you’ll get to know me and the character are really alike, and I can talk to you about my experiences growing up.”

He was totally into it, and we took this beautiful couple of hours in the car, and I talked to him about my upbringing, showed him where I was from, and drew the parallels between me and the character Romina, and it was so great.

The fact that he was so into that non-conventional approach to auditioning, I thought “Oh gosh this is going to be fun, I like this.”

Getting more into the character of Romina, we tried to pry open her character’s emotional makeup and hear Eva’s thoughts on why her character tries so hard to make her situation with Ryan Gosling work:

Eva Mendes: That was actually my own question before I shot the film, and because I have so many women in my life through family and friends, I decided to have a woman’s day at home before I went out to Schenectady to actually shoot the film. I brought all these women together and we all sat around to talk, eat, and have fun, but I gave them the subject matter and posed a question. I said “So, here’s the situation. You have a child with a man you don’t know, that man is out of the picture, then you meet a great man who wants to provide for this child as if he were his own. Then the biological father comes back into the picture, he wants to be involved in the child’s life, but you have this great man who wants to provide because the biological father is unfit. What do you do?”

The thing is, my initial thinking was you would go with the man who is fit to provide for the child, but all these women said no, and that everything in your body and being creates a primal pull to the biological father no matter how wrong or unfit he may be, and you try everything to make that work, not to say it’s going to work, but you do try and make it work somehow.

I was like “Wow, this is so interesting!” I got so much insight from my friends and family, and women that were in similar situations. It was so helpful for me.

From that, I found when Romina kept seeing Luke (Gosling), I liked her because she was flawed. She wanted to keep the man who provides and is stable, yet was still testing Luke to see if it could work. Before she introduces the baby to him, she’s testing the waters.

She’s scared and trepidatious, and yet there’s a feeling of “Can this work.” Obviously you can’t ignore the fact that Luke is incredibly exciting, he’s a motorcycle stunt-driver, there’s a traveling carnival that comes into this sleepy little town, it’s the early 90s with no Facebook or knowing where other people are, he’s disappeared, he’s come back in, so she’s still like a young woman who is caught up in this larger than life character. You see him and you can just see he’s electric and filled with vigor…

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