Crazy things happen in cinema when a good girl starts breaking bad.
Some, like Julia Roberts and Charlize Theron, win Oscars. They are among a group possessing sweet hearts or gorgeous looks who are reaping rewarding wins (Halle Berry, Nicole Kidman) or nominations (Amy Adams for The Fighter, Anne Hathaway for Rachel Getting Married) by deglamorizing themselves or playing tough cookies.
Alice Eve doesn't own an Academy Award -- yet. But the striking British beauty who stood out in frothy romantic comedies such as She's Out of My League, Starter for Ten and The Decoy Bride, has shown that potential after pushing the lightweight fare aside to take on meatier roles with emotional heft.
Eve does more than hold her own in a world of strong, powerful men, whether she's acting alongside Bryan Cranston, Ray Liotta, John Cusack and Stanley Tucci or working with cutting-edge directors Neil LaBute and J.J. Abrams.
Less than a week after ringing in 2014, the London native sounded relaxed over the phone from Los Angeles after spending the holidays with her family in Barbados, ready for the "baptism by fire" awaiting this "New Year's Eve."
With two brothers (one lives in her London home) in a male-dominated family, Eve also plays to win while talking sports. Admittedly, she would show more interest in college football (and the national championship game played the previous night) "if I knew the rules."
Raised on English football ("I'm a Chelsea supporter") and field hockey, Eve said she used to love watching Wayne Gretzky make the nice ice moves in the NHL. Her thoughts suddenly turned to another champion as she went to Google to fill in her interviewer on retired Formula One driver Michael Schumacher's late December skiing accident in the French Alps.
"I'm shocked you didn't hear about it," she said. "Apparently his boots malfunctioned and he tumbled headlong into rocks, causing brain damage. Very sad."
In the intense crime drama set in upstate New York, Eve plays a disenchanted yet willful single mother named Chloe, who runs a seedy hotel and is forced to butt heads with a number of shady characters, including a Polish bag man/hit man (Cranston) whose eyesight is deteriorating.
This gangster is nothing like the notorious Walter White meth kingpin he played in Breaking Bad. Yet Cranston, who just won his first Golden Globe best actor award on Sunday (January 12) to go with his three consecutive Emmy victories, turned out to be "at the right moments, incredibly terrifying" as Topo, Eve said.
"He's a committed actor," she added, admitting the chance to go head-to-head with Cranston was somewhat intimidating. "But it was great to work with him. He takes his craft very seriously. And in this movie there was no option, really. We both were in a situation that required serious application. And he was there and very present. And, obviously, very talented."
The emotionally straining and physically demanding role included a series of verbal sparring matches between Chloe and Topo. During a smackdown staredown 33 minutes into the film, Chloe says to her nemesis: "What are you gonna do, right? I mean there's not much demand for a blind guy whose only skill is killing people."
Before playing that key scene, a match of wills and wits that she carried with some crackling dialogue and an all-American accent, Eve had only one thought:
"Don't turn up empty-handed," she said with a laugh. "I brought everything. I think I gave the film everything I had inside of myself. And I was left lacking at the end of it a little bit. ... I was depleted, definitely. I was tired. But it was, creatively, it was a great experience. And we do these things so that we grow from them. And I definitely grew from this experience."
Cold Comes the Night was wrapping in November 2012 just in time for Cranston to get ready to shoot Breaking Bad's final eight shows.
Even if he had an idea how Walter White's fate would be decided, Eve thought it would be mean to pry, and avoided the subject during dinner breaks. "I didn't want to take advantage of the privilege of working with him by asking him to give me spoilers."
As of early January, she still didn't know how it ended.
Her down time with Cranston was spent discussing the challenge of embodying such characters, forcing both of them to "plunge the depths of your understanding of another soul," Eve said. "And you try and work out how someone with perhaps a different set of tools and a different life would react in certain situations. And that requires empathy and it requires connection with other people and other people's approaches to life." (Bryan Cranston, right, with Alice Eve.)
They spoke at great length about Cranston's approach to life, too.
"He's a very pragmatic man," Eve said. "He seems to be a loyal man. He has a happy marriage (Cranston and Robin Dearden have one daughter). I had a lot of respect for Bryan and I'm really glad I got to know him, actually."
Asked if the 31-year-old Oxford graduate, the eldest of three children whose parents are still actors, learned anything from the 57-year-old Phillies and Dodgers fan who was raised in a show business family and portrayed a high school chemistry teacher, Eve added, "Yeah, I suppose his commitment to his craft is admirable. And his absolute belief in the experience and committing to the experience, which he does both inside Breaking Bad but also in all the other work he does. He utterly commits to what he's doing and I think that's something to learn from."
Eve's Breaking Bad connection goes beyond owning the box set and working with Cranston.
She acted in movies that included two other pivotal players from the show -- Aaron Paul in 2013's Decoding Annie Parker and Krysten Ritter, who played both the doomed girlfriend of Paul's Jesse Pinkman and the sarcastic best friend of Eve's perfect-10 Molly in She's Out of My League.
Eve recently made Dirty Weekend, her second film with LaBute, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and was delighted that the city celebrated its final moments in the sun as the setting for Breaking Bad.
"There were a lot of conversations about how it became part of Albuquerque's identity in some ways," she said, mentioning landmarks such as the Octopus Car Wash that "portrayed" the A1A Car Wash in the series with the catchphrase, "Have an A1 day."
That wrapped up an A1 year for a busy Eve, who went from Abrams' big-budget Star Trek Into Darkness to serving as co-producer on Death of a Farmer, which was made for 30,000 pounds and is scheduled to be released in 2014.
The film about a recently widowed farmer dealing with loneliness stars her father (Trevor Eve) and mother (Sharon Maughan), was written and directed by her brother Jack, and includes a soundtrack composed by her youngest brother George.
In Dirty Weekend (currently in post-production), Eve plays a coworker who comes to the aid of a businessman (Matthew Broderick) haunted by a year-old tryst in what's billed as a comedy drama.
Her previous film role for LaBute was in Some Velvet Morning, a 2013 Tribeca Film Festival entry he wrote and directed that costarred Tucci as an obsessive ex-lover who leaves his wife in an attempt to rekindle a romance with his much younger mistress.
A review in The New York Times stated, "There's much to admire in how Mr. Tucci and Ms. Eve perform Mr. LaBute's artful, apocalyptic duet."
LaBute has been known for showing men behaving badly while often taking the male chauvinist's point of view in his depiction of women.
In 2010, Eve did a staged reading with LaBute (following in the footsteps of her father, who acted in the director's 2002 Possession). Drawn to LaBute's blunt take on relationships, she apparently understands the method to his manliness.
"Obviously, he puts himself often in an amoral position or he takes a position that's maybe controversial," she said. "But it's a different perspective and he talks from that position with absolute candor and clarity. And I think that's brilliant and very, very hard to do, to occupy a position that is perhaps scorned or judged and to tell that version of that truth. Because everyone has their own truth and he'll give that to you."
In the production notes for Some Velvet Morning, LaBute praises Eve, saying, "There was no need to have her audition. We just sat and talked, and she told me her take on the character and the dynamic between these people. I was simply won over by the intelligence of what she was talking about, and of course, I also knew what she could do on stage."
He offered that others have yet to tap into her full potential as an actress, adding, "Career-wise, people seem to be more focused on her as being a star than being an actor."
Asked to respond to the last statement, Eve said quietly, "Um, I think I'm an actor."
Yet she seemingly isn't concerned about how the public perceives her.
"I have no idea how people look at me, which is a weird thing," she said. "But I think that the longer you live, the less you know about that kind of thing. Maybe as a child you had clarity, but I only know how the people I love look at me."
They certainly realize what moviegoers are slowly discovering.
Whether she's playing the ax murderer Josie in the hilarious 2006 dark comedy Big Nothing, desperate Australian actress Claire Shepard, who goes to extreme measures to get her green card from an immigration officer in 2009's Crossing Over, or Emily Hamilton, the kidnapped fiancee of Edgar Allan Poe (Cusack) in 2012's The Raven, Alice Eve knows how to take the good characters with the bad. And still find the strength in all of them.
Film still from Cold Comes the Night by Tanya Giang. Film still from The Raven (John Cusack, right, with Alice Eve) courtesy of Relativity Media.
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