Eva Green is reunited with visionary director Tim Burton for Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children.
Ms Green, who also starred in Burton’s Dark Shadows, plays the eponymous Miss Peregrine, who fiercely guards a band of children with unique abilities, known as ‘peculiars’ from the perils of the outside world.
They live in a remote mansion on an island off the coast of Wales where Miss Peregrine has the power to manipulate time – creating a ‘loop’ where she can reset the previous 24 hours so that the children never grow old and are hidden from the outside world and their enemies, the Hollows.
“Miss Peregrine runs the home for the peculiar children, and she protects them from the outside world, from those monsters that eat children – they’re called Hollowgasts in the movie – and she will do anything to protect them,” she explains.
“She will risk her life and she will kill. And she is peculiar herself. She can transform herself into a bird. It’s quite complicated! She has this peculiarity as well, to manipulate time, so that the last 24 hours can be lived again. So every night she has that ritual of resetting the time.”
Based on the best selling novel by Ransom Riggs, Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children and Tim Burton is the perfect cinematic marriage, she says. The novel was illustrated with eerily haunting old photographs that Riggs had collected over the years.
“When you see the photographs that Ransom has in his book, you’re like, ‘oh my God, of course Tim is going to direct it.’ Only Tim could direct this, actually. What Tim does is he always brings emotion and poetry, and it’s always very delicate. It is unique. He has such a great vision.”
Although she admits that at first she was slightly apprehensive about working with a group of children, she was instantly at ease with the youngsters who would, on screen, become her surrogate kids.
“I was very intimidated at the beginning, because I didn’t know if they were going to respect me, or how should I behave, and actually they were very kind and very professional,” she says.
“Even the little ones were very serious. I love watching children on set, because there’s something very natural about them, easy-going, and they live in the moment, so that’s quite inspiring. I wish I could be like that again, ‘don’t think, just be.’”
Asa Butterfield stars as Jake, the young American who seeks out the children’s home after hearing stories of the ‘peculiars’ from his grandfather (played by Terence Stamp). Ella Purnell plays Emma, who can manipulate air, Finlay Macmillan is Enoch, who can bring inanimate objects to life, and Milo Parker is Hugh, the ‘lord of the bees’ who has a hive of bees living inside him. Samuel L. Jackson is the terrifying Barron and Dame Judi Dench is Miss Avocet.
Ms Green was born in Paris and her first film role was in Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Dreamers. Her other films include Kingdom of Heaven, Casino Royale, The Golden Compass, Cracks, 300: Rise of an Empire, Sin City: A Dame To Kill For and The Salvation. On TV, she stars as Vanessa Ives in Penny Dreadful.
Q: How much of the film have you seen so far and what do you think?
A: I just saw when my character is transforming into a bird. It’s quite impressive! I’m never really good at watching myself, but it looks absolutely magical, and very Tim Burton actually – just beautiful.
Q: When did Tim first mention this project to you?
A: I think it was like two years ago. He just said, ‘Read this book and tell me what you think. And if you like it, maybe you could be in it.’ I could play anything for Tim – I could play a tree, a broom, anything (laughs). It’s a bird in this movie. It was such a gorgeous story, and a very cool and eccentric character.
Q: How close to the book has the film ended up?
A: I think the movie is inspired by the book, but it’s a bit different, I would say. The old photographs in the book are absolutely beautiful – spooky, and haunting. When you see the photographs that Ransom has in his book, you’re like, ‘oh my God, of course Tim is going to direct it.’ Only Tim could direct this, actually. What Tim does is he always brings emotion and poetry, and it’s always very delicate. It is unique. He has such a great vision.
Q: Tell us about Miss Peregrine. Who is she?
A: Miss Peregrine runs the home for the peculiar children, and she protects them from the outside world, from those monsters that eat children – they’re called Hollowgasts in the movie – and she will do anything to protect them. She will risk her life and she will kill. And she is peculiar herself. She can transform herself into a bird. It’s quite complicated! She has this peculiarity as well, to manipulate time, so that the last 24 hours can be lived again. So every night she has that ritual of resetting the time.
Q: That’s to save them from the first wave of German bombers?
A: She stops it when the bomb is about to hit the house. That’s why she can seem a bit tough sometimes with the children, because if one child is late then the whole loop can go wrong and the consequences will be very dramatic. I know Tim describes her as ‘a strange Mary Poppins.’ She’s eccentric and fearless, and she’s kind of a unique – a weird and wonderful character to play.
Q: Is it fair to say she is like a surrogate mother to these children?
A: Yeah, absolutely. Her children are her life. She’s a mother, a demanding mother. Sometimes she can seem a bit like a commander general, not like a soft governess, but deep down, she would sacrifice herself for them.
Q: Tim has a reputation for easy-going sets. Was that the case here?
A: Absolutely. You’re not intimidated and there’s no pressure. It’s kind of like a happy vibe. You laugh a lot, and there’s no right or wrong, and there’s no judgment. It’s relaxed. It’s very rare, I have to say. It’s going to sound cheesy, but it’s like a family, because he works a lot with the same people and it’s just fun. You’re allowed to be children again!
Q: You are working with a lot of children, here. What was that like? Did they form a bond?
A: Very much so, yes. I was very intimidated at the beginning, because I didn’t know if they were going to respect me, or how should I behave, and actually they were very kind and very professional. Even the little ones were very serious. I love watching children on set, because there’s something very natural about them, easy-going, and they live in the moment, so that’s quite inspiring. I wish I could be like that again, ‘don’t think, just be.’
Q: This isn’t a typical superhero movie, is it? A lot of these peculiarities might be seen as a hindrance more than a power.
A: Yeah, I think in the outside world, these abilities that the children have would be seen as a handicap and these children would be persecuted because of that. But on this island, they’re kind of celebrated for being so unique, and the message in the film, for children as well as adults, it’s just, ‘be yourself, no matter how strange you are.’ That’s what Tim does best. I feel like he understands the hearts of outcasts, and he celebrates them. It’s beautiful.
Q: Both you and Judi Dench starred in Casino Royale but you didn’t actually have any scenes together…
A: Unfortunately we didn’t have any scenes together. She’s such a lovely down to earth woman, and then she’s such an iconic actress. She plays an Ymbryne as well, in the movie, which means she can transform into a bird. She plays an avocet bird. I don’t if you’ve seen what an avocet is, but it’s a very small bird with a long beak – quite a nervous, fragile bird. And my character, the peregrine, is kind of a bird of prey and much tougher. It was interesting. She also had a few flicks in her hair. I do as well. We had one major scene together, and it was kind of a dramatic scene, and Tim was like, ‘Okay, you have to move your heads in the same direction, but they have to be symmetrical and quite a sharp movement.’ We had to be kind of half-bird-half-women. It was fun.
Q: How much of Samuel L. Jackson’s appearance was CGI? He looks incredible.
A: I saw that this morning, and there was nothing added. He had those thick white contact lenses, this big sharp arm knife, and it looked quite impressive, and very scary actually. But that’s the great thing about being in a Tim movie – you feel like a child, because you put a costume on and it’s so far from you, so it’s very liberating in that way.
Q: You’ve seen your transformation scene. What was that like to act out?
A: It was all on wires when I did it, and I’m quite scared of heights – I’m a bird who’s scared of heights – and it was kind of like, ‘Okay…’ But it’s great. It’s a bit like choreography, like a dance. Of course I didn’t transform into a bird, though it would be wonderful to have that ability (laughs)
Q: Do you like action scenes generally? Do you embrace it when there’s a physical challenge that’s part of the job?
A: Yeah, I like when it gets physical, and if there is a bit of training before. I have a tendency to be too cerebral, so if there’s an opportunity to get more in my body, to be physical, then I kind of want to do it, yeah.
Q: How would you describe the experience of making this film?
A: It’s like being in a fairy tale – being in this house, surrounded by those children. It’s like going into a dream, or something. It’s so nice to be surrounded by kind people, and to not have the pressure from anybody and just to have fun.
Q: What’s the first Tim Burton film you remember seeing?
A: Maybe Beetlejuice – I saw that many times as a child. And Edward Scissorhands is so poetic and moving, it just breaks my heart.
Q: Do you think this one will remind people of Edward Scissorhands?
A: I hope so, yeah! That would be great. I mean, fingers crossed.
Q: Is a Tim Burton set as unique as his films are?
A: Yeah, because he’s actually so normal and humble and open. He will really listen to any ideas and want you to be comfortable.
MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN is now available to own on DVD.