Joaquin Phoenix and Eva Mendes co-starred in the drama We Own the Night in 2007. The actress acknowledged that working alongside seasoned actors like Phoenix in this movie was a turning point in her career.
However, it seems that Mendes had to calm her nerves before they began shooting the movie’s s=x scenes with Phoenix.
She admitted to reporters at the Cannes press conference for We Own the Night that she “wasn’t at all comfortable.” The movie features her heated s=x scene with Joaquin Phoenix.
“They were very sweet and they poured me a vodka and orange juice and then I was fine,” she said.
She laughed and added, “I’m extremely professional and I don’t often drink on the job, but that morning I had a little vodka and OJ.”
Mendes, 33, said of the scene: “Thank God it was with [director] James Gray. It was my first s=x scene. Not that it was actually James,” she clarified, to to everyone’s amusement. She pointed to Phoenix and Gray and added, “He did it at the end of the shoot, so it was the last day and I was really, really comfortable with these clowns.”
When asked whether it was comforting to believe that it was her character, rather than herself, Mendes said, “My b–b is still my b–b.” “Wow, that sounded really stupid,” she said after pausing for a while.
In the James Gray-directed film, Bobby (Phoenix) and Joseph (Mark Wahlberg) are two brothers who wind themselves on opposing sides of the law. Bobby is the rebel who owns a nightclub overrun with drugs and thugs; Joseph has followed his father into the New York police department.
In the movie, Mendes portrayed Phoenix’s girlfriend, a role she was initially hesitant to take on. So much so that she declined the chance to play the lead role in the movie for a year.
She once claimed in an interview with Collider, “Actually I said no for a year because I’m a complete idiot and I have a no reflex that I’ve learned just doesn’t work for me. I said no… I’m trying to figure out what it is. I’ve paid a lot of money for therapy, I just don’t understand. It ends up being the things I loved the most in life and the best experiences I have I usually say no to at the beginning.”
This was due to the Hitch actress’s lack of vision for herself in the girlfriend role. She eventually changed her mind, however, when Gray agreed to make certain adjustments to the screenplay for her role.
“I’ve been really selective in my career to play like independent women or women who have something to overcome of course, but to not be just the girlfriend cause you can fall into that hole so easily, you know? But anyhow, and then [James Gray] did a few re-writes. He was very persuasive and he just kept at it,” she added.
Joaquin was like a dog to work with, Eva said in her jest.
She stated: “It’s kind of like working with a puppy dog or a two-year-old. When you have its attention, it’s really cute, but otherwise… But, seriously, he is one of the greatest actors of his generation.”
She often declined jobs because she thought they were nothing more than stereotypes while being proud of her Latino roots.
“There are 40 million Latin people in America. Yes, there are gardeners and maids, but there are also bankers and college graduates and professors. So it’s all about representation and I don’t think we’re there quite yet, but it is getting a little better.”
We Own the Night, a suspenseful drama with a star-studded ensemble that explores themes of familial devotion and is set in 1980s New York, is a significant departure for Eva. It was the first time she had ever felt entirely in control.
“Early on, I didn’t understand why I was getting so much attention. I just knew I had to stick with it. On We Own the Night it just clicked. I remember a very tender scene in bed with Joaquin – it’s not a love scene, we’re just lying there talking. And usually I’m very aware of the camera, but I completely forgot it was there, I was so in the moment.”
Eva says that she was dreading it and that it made her cry.
“It was so hard that the director prepared a vodka and orange juice for me in the morning and – believe me – I do not drink on the job, ever, but I downed it in one. Thank God he shot it at the end, by which time I had a great rapport with Joaquin. And I trusted them. But I was crying because I’ve never shot anything as intimate before.”
“James was really patient. He said, ‘How can I help you?’ I said, ‘I guess there is just that little Catholic girl inside me that I didn’t know was still there.’ And he goes, ‘Well, it’s time to tell her to go home because you are an artist now.’ And I think it was a combination of that and the vodka. It was like, ‘God, you are right. This is the job.’”
But since the intimacy couldn’t be faked, the Fast and Furious actor found it exceedingly difficult to film such moments.
“If you have to hit somebody you fake it, you’re not really going to do it. But if somebody is fondling your private parts, there’s no faking what you’re seeing on screen. You sit there and think ‘Oh my God, that’s really happening.’ And you can’t get it out of your head. Like my dad can’t see this movie, my mum can’t see this movie! I’ve told them when they see it they have to get there 15 minutes late so they miss that scene,” she stated.
“And you can’t get it out of your head. Like – my dad can’t see this movie, my mum can’t see this movie! I’ve told them they have to get there 15 minutes late so they miss that scene.”‘
When it comes to her lover, Eva is maybe a bit more guarded than other aspects of her life. She has been seeing George Gargurevich, the director, for “years and years.” (He wrote and directed the drama 3 & 3, in which Mendes herself appeared together with Charlie Sheen and Kathy Bates.)
They share a home in the Hollywood Hills, but since their relationship is so obscure to the public, she is often thought to be single.
“I was named on a list recently of the ten hottest bachelorettes and I was like, ‘Really? I didn’t know I was up for grabs. Good to know.’ So there are people who don’t even know I have a boyfriend, which is fine by me. There are no public displays of affection. I don’t want that attention in my life.”
She often goes out with George to see bands when they do go out. “I love the English bands. I adore the Smiths, the Stone Roses, Oasis, all of those guys. Liam Gallagher is one of the sexiest men alive. We’ve got a lot of friends from Manchester and it’s a really cool city – so is London. LA is OK but I miss the vibe you get from a really great, dense city.”
She enjoys cooking as well as hiking and working out at the gym. “I work out five or six days a week, and maybe do a little hiking at weekends. But I work out so that I can eat what I want. I’m constantly bargaining with myself and saying, ‘You had a plate of fries, so that’s 30 minutes more on the treadmill.’”
Regarding clothing “I love them – but not labels so much. I get irritated when I go to an event and they say, ‘Who are you wearing?’ I’m very specific about my style. Most of my stuff is vintage. I love jumpers and skirts. And bags. And boots, too!”