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Eva Mendes Talks Convincing Her 'Place Beyond The Pines' Director That She Was The Real Deal, Her Research & Her Goal To Keep Things Weird

The Playlist By Diana Drumm | The Playlist April 10, 2013 at 6:03PM

In her latest film, “The Place Beyond the Pines,” Eva Mendes shirks her sexy image and gives a down-to-earth portrayal of a small-town waitress forced to choose between the father of her child, a face-tattooed stunt motorcycle driver (Ryan Gosling), and a man who can offer her substantial security (Mahershala Ali) – kind of her own “Sophie's Choice,” as Mendes says. Though some may raise an eyebrow at her being cast in a Derek Cianfrance film, Mendes fought for the role of Romina, an important female figure in a film dominated by men and concerning legacy in America, particularly about what is passed down from parents to children. During her research, Mendes gathered up her own family and friends with children to further explore the role and added that thoughtful touch to her performance
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Cianfrance, Mendes, Place Beyond The Pines
That’s great research. I heard you did some waitressing?
That was all Derek, it was such a smart idea. He said, “I want you to take a few days and work at the diner that Romina's going to be working at and waitress.” I said, “Great, fantastic.” Very few people recognize me in Schenectady. I was fine and I was really happy because they were just mad that they didn't get their eggs on time so you know I got attitude from customers when I deserved it. I got tips when I deserved it. So it was great, but the beautiful part of that was meeting and connecting with the women that worked there that were born and raised in Schenectady and their stories and they were wonderful women.

"I feel like I was actually finally accepted into the weird club with 'Holy Motors'. "

It was also super practical when it came to shoot. I knew my way around. I felt great with the space. I knew where to refill the ketchup and the salt. I knew where to put the orders. I had it all. I knew the drill. I knew when I got a break. Derek is so smart, not just because you're living the character, but that's rehearsal. Most of the time when you do a film, even when it's with a great director, you don't even see the place you work at or the location of the house until that day. So the fact that Derek thinks of this and you're already connected to the space, it's amazing. That also helps with the character. It's not an easy job either; it's a pretty thankless job.

We were talking briefly there about your trajectory; you're working with Derek. What do you have planned next for that kind of thing?
That's always where I've been. I'm attracted to those directors and that material because that's where my taste lies. You can look back at interviews from me like 10, 11 years ago when I was doing “Too Fast, Too Furious” and she was asking me, who would you like to work with and I was like Mike Leigh and they were like, “What?” Like that's my dream, Mike Leigh and Pedro Almovodar. They were just like, “Okay, didn't expect it,” and it still stands true today. I still haven't worked with either one of them and I would love to work with either. So I think it's just kind of like, I've paid my dues and hopefully word's getting around that I’m a really hard worker. I still go to acting class and I'm kind of all about the craft, so I'm a geek in that way.

Even working with Adam McKay, Will Ferrell and those guys, that must have been fun.
That was amazing and I just did something with Larry David, “Clear History.” Incredible improv. I love it and I took some improv classes when I worked with McKay and so when this Larry David thing came up. Again, Larry was like, “Uh, this role is not right for you,” and I was like, “No, what is it? I want to audition for it.” I came in and I looked just crazy and Larry and I went at it.

The Place Beyond The Pines
What’s that one about?
It's basically about Larry having to start over. He has to start with a new identity and he goes to this new town and it's all of these people's lives coming together and stuff, but it's really fun. I got to do a lot of physical transformation.

So Larry, Derek, you're constantly having to change people’s perception of you.
Yeah, I'm not doing it to challenge anyone. I'm doing it to have fun.

What are you going to do next? Where are you hoping to go creatively?
I just hope to keep on having fun and challenging myself. I had such a great time on “Holy Motors.” I want to do a little bit more of the weird; I like the weird. I feel like I was actually finally accepted into the weird club with that one. I was like. “Cool, I can do the weird. Yeah, I have feathers for eyelashes.”

Would you ever consider directing?
I directed a short film that was sweet and a good kind of dipping my toe in the water kind of deal, but yeah, I would like to direct something, but it would have to be something that would come to me. I feel like with directing, you should literally like die if you can't tell the story, and I don't feel that compelled to direct. – Interview by Rodrigo Perez

“The Place Beyond The Pines” goes into wide release this weekend, Friday, April 12th.

This article is related to: Eva Mendes, The Place Beyond The Pines, Derek Cianfrance, Interviews, Interviews, Interview


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