As Emily Hamilton in The Raven, Alice Eve plays the love interest of John Cusack’s Edgar Allen Poe. And it’s a more complicated role than that sounds. She’s simultaneously at odds with her protective father (as played by Brendan Gleeson) and the demands of 19th Century Baltimore society while trying to tame her lover’s demons and addictions. She also has to spend a solid chunk of the film trapped inside a coffin, which provides for some fairly intense scenes.
I sat down with Eve a few weeks ago to discuss the demands of her role, what it’s like interplaying between Gleeson and Cusack, and just how many days she had to spend in that coffin.
From V for Vendetta director James McTeigue , “The macabre and lurid tales of Edgar Allan Poe are vividly brought to life – and death – in this stylish, gothic thriller starring John Cusack as the infamous author. When a madman begins committing horrific murders inspired by Poe’s darkest works, a young Baltimore detective (Luke Evans) joins forces with Poe in a quest to get inside the killer’s mind in order to stop him from making every one of Poe’s brutal stories a blood chilling reality. A deadly game of cat and mouse ensues, which escalates when Poe’s love (Alice Eve) becomes the next target.”
Head inside for the interview. The Raven is in theaters this Friday, April 27.
This is kind of a tricky role to play because the audience, at first, has to wonder how you actually feel about Poe. And then later on they have to be totally sold on it. How did you and John [Cusack] work on establishing your chemistry?
I think that the main thing with Emily was that she was almost his Ezra Pound. She had absolute respect and adoration for his writing. So I think she knew him through that, she knew his vulnerabilities and she knew the nuances of his mind. And I think she really understood him through that and that’s where their bond was formed. That’s what she admired in him and that’s perhaps what she loved before she even loved the man, but once the ma came along – she loved the kind of wild rogue that he was.
In terms of crafting the chemistry, I mean John’s very present and I think that being present and accepting whichever energy is flowing is what chemistry really is. And so we did that. Because we were both willing.
The film takes place in 19th Century Baltimore. Did you do any research into the time?
Absolutely. I mean, of course the restrictions on women were high, as they were up until recently. But very much more so then. Also, Emily was without a mother. So she was sort of required to accompany her father to events and couldn’t be seen with a man at any other social gatherings. So in many ways that convention would have decreed at the time, she was a rebel.
Your character has a complicated relationship with her father, but not much screen time to establish it in. What was it like working with Brendan [Gleeson] to achieve that?
He’s fantastic. Have you met Brendan?
He’s great. He’s a very special man, a gentle man. I think the main tenet of that relationship was that he’s protective of me. He wasn’t a bad man and we didn’t have real antagonism between us. He was protective, we were very close. I was sort of his companion in a lot of ways and I think he was fearful at this point that he was losing me. And I think we came from this point of view of compassion for that relationship rather than a point of negativity. And I think there was this sadness that was at the heart of that. That led to whatever strife was evident between us.
You’re stuck in a coffin during some of the film. What was that experience like for you? You shot for two or three days in there.
I think Trevor [Macy, producer] said two days but we also went back in January and did two more. I think it was four days. I remember spending the Christmas vacation dreading returning to the coffin. It was definitely one of those things you get through, but I did finals at Oxford University. And I’ve gone through nothing self-inflicted since then as bad and I don’t think I will. There was nothing like going into that finals hall at Oxford to write three hours. So anything is more preferable to me than sitting behind a desk and writing.
Acting is a great luxury, a joy and a pleasure. But there are those days where it’s really unpleasant. But you know that it’s an obstacle that you overcome.
Did you study Uma Thurman in Kill Bill Vol. 2 at all?
Absolutely. Especially when she’s [punching upward] which we obviously didn’t copy because it would have been a ripoff. She did it perfectly well.
In terms of Poe’s legacy, what are some of your favorite works of his?
There’s on where this guy doesn’t have his glasses on and he falls in love with his grandmother. I think it was called “Spectacles”, I can’t remember. I thought it was a nice allegory on love. And then “The Raven”, when read aloud, is a magnificent piece of literature. It doesn’t work for me as well just reading it, but when it’s read aloud it has real power.