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)

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
film
News
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
tv
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
  • Get to the point
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.

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor