Alice Eve: Blonde ambition

Alice Eve is flitting from table to table at the Electric, a private members' club in Notting Hill Gate. A social butterfly in flight, the British actress is waving at everybody in sight with a dreamlike, old-fashioned and polite air about her. She greets the waiter as if he is the kindest person on the planet, rocking her head slightly from side to side as she talks to him.

Eve, 27, has come straight from rehearsing Cyrano de Bergerac at a big studio space down the road in west London. The original Edmond Rostand play, written in 1897 and based on the real life of Cyrano de Bergerac, the French soldier, poet, and duellist, whose gigantic nose triggers his self-doubt was adapted by Anthony Burgess for the RSC in the mid Eighties. In Trevor Nunn's revival at Chichester Festival Theatre, Eve plays love interest Roxanne opposite Joseph Fiennes's Cyrano.

Nunn – who also directed Eve in Tom Stoppard's hit play Rock 'n' Roll in 2006 – cast Eve in his new production, after she wrote him a letter suggesting they work together again; an offer, it seems, Nunn could not refuse. The director claimed her Rock'n'Roll audition was "one of the best by a young actor I've seen in a long time", considering her "a stroke of luck" for his play, which later transferred successfully to Broadway.

"I wrote to Trevor and I said, 'I'd love to take you up on your offer and have you teach me how to do a classic role' and he said 'OK'," says Eve. "This is my first foray into the classics and iambic pentameter."

Eve is immersing herself fully in the part, going home every night and floating her eyes over the script repeatedly. "Trevor calls Roxanne the brightest woman in France," adds Eve." In Rock'n'Roll I was only fourth lead. This is a big investment. The character Roxanne carries the heart and love of the play." It's very different working with Nunn on a classic "swashbuckling romance", rather than a new play, she says, referring to the production as "blockbuster theatre".

"The entire play is written in verse, in rhyming couplets. It's like finding one's voice in another universe." At the mention of Fiennes, her co-star, she swoons: "He is just a pure delight. I mean, it doesn't surprise me that Gwyneth Paltrow plays her best performance opposite Joseph Fiennes. He is such a wonderfully generous actor."

Nunn's method in Cyrano de Bergerac is apparently to "create the shape of the drama and then track the emotional journeys", says Eve. "It's such a visual feast. The set is staggering." She talks about Roxanne as if she is her best friend. "Roxanne doesn't even suspect Cyrano loves her. To her absolute undoing, it never occurs to her to love him because of his nose – which is her tragedy. She loves everything about his mind and the letters he has written, which she thinks are coming from another man. She is in love with his soul and she doesn't realise."

Eve is the daughter of British actors Trevor Eve, of Shoestring fame, and Sharon Maughan, formerly one half of the Gold Blend ad couple. Seeing her parents on television was like "watching your mum and dad at work".

"From a home perspective, the theatre experiences were more profound than the television ones. There were the animated conversations and the high energy levels. All that dynamism would be brought into the house when my parents were doing a play."

She went to Bedales and then on to Oxford to study English via Westminster school. Part of her childhood was spent in LA, which may explain why she can pull off a good American accent (notably as Simon Pegg's girlfriend in 2006's Big Nothing). She first appeared, while still at Oxford, as Miss Frayne in Richard Eyre's Stage Beauty and then played Cicely Boyd in the TV series, The Rotters' Club, based on Jonathan Coe's novel, followed by the shallow-but-beautiful love interest of James McAvoy in the 2006 Tom-Hanks-produced rom-com Starter for 10.

This year, she has already made two films for US release. In She's Out of My League, she plays a sexy, successful woman who falls for a man working in an airport, while in Crossing Over, a film starring Harrison Ford and Ashley Judd about immigrants trying to get legal status in LA, she plays a young and desperate Australian girl, who ends up being cajoled into having sex for favours.

It was only two years ago that Eve made her professional stage debut in Rock'n'Roll, which also starred Rufus Sewell, whom she dated during the run. "It felt organic to perform with him and then go home with him at night," she says. She has also dated Rafe Spall (son of Timothy), with whom she starred in The Rotters' Club. A few years ago, Tatler placed her at number six in a list of eligible women to marry. She now lives alone near Ladbroke Grove in a flat she bought a year ago, where she stays awake at night suffering from insomnia. "I worry about anything and everything there is. It can take on a thousand forms. There's always the artist's crisis – if you are going to be thought good."

When she's not acting she likes to "play at being in the country" at her parents' retreat in Sussex. She also likes yoga and acupuncture. "I work on being rooted in myself. I do these things because the job I do takes its toll. My body is my tool. But I think I've got addicted to yoga. My body gets cross with me if I don't use it and certain bits start to creak."

She dreams of playing Lady Macbeth and Cleopatra, but says she is still too young – and has a deep-seated regret that she has never been "courageous" enough to be a writer – although she is currently working on a romantic screenplay.

"I was talking to my mum the other night as to whether becoming an actress was inevitable for me because of my parents being in the business. I'm looking at whether acting is intrinsic or whether it is nurture. Acting really takes a lot out of you. Probably I am an actress through and through, because everything else other than acting I play at doing. When friends can't deal with problems, I try to convince them to pretend to be in a movie. That's my way of dealing with things! The trouble is sometimes the feeling is greater than what you can pretend. I do live in a bit of a dream world."



'Cyrano de Bergerac', Chichester Festival Theatre, Friday to 30 May (01243 781 312; www.cft.org.uk)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    10 best high-end laptops

    10 best high-end laptops

    From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
    Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum