GQ, Mar 2007
America’s Most Wanted: An Amazonian A-lister with a sexy sense of humor and a nice line in flirting. If Eva Mendes didn’t exist, you’d have to make her up. Sanjiv Bhattacharya enjoys the perfect date with Hollywood’s fantasy woman.
I’m having lunch with Eva Mendes at an informal little Japanese place in East Hollywood, and she has just given me permission to keep a close and attentive eye on her breasts.
I’ll explain why in a minute, but suffice to say, I’m having a lovely time. It’s one of those searing winter days in Los Angeles, not unlike the searing summer days – blue skies, big sun, the steady whoosh of cars – and we’re the only ones out on the sun-dappled terrace, right across the street from the Church of Scientology’s grandiose “Celebrity Center” building. There’s a sign outside advertising a very reasonably priced brunch, where presumably new recruits might meet some of Hollywood’s scientologist stars. I’m not tempted, though. Not today. Not only do I happen to be lunching one of the most beautiful women in the world, but I’m also keeping her puppies under surveillance. As far as I’m concerned, the afternoon is going swimmingly.
“I’m sorry about this, I really am,” says Eva. She’s not apologizing about her breasts – why would she? They look just fine cupped into a bra, pushing against her crisp cotton blouse. No, she’s sorry that the food isn’t quite up to par and that the restaurant’s not sufficiently flash. She’s sorry that our little lunch date hasn’t quite worked out the way she planned it.
“I had it all figured out,” she says. “We were going to have such a sweet time.”
Oh but we are, Eva. Well, I am. It’s not just the chest surveillance detail that’s making my day, it’s that a bonafide A-list scorcher actually made plans that included me. That never happens. Whenever I get to hang out with nuclear hot Hollywood actresses, they tend not to expend any effort on the details of where and when and what cuisine. They have “people” who decide these things – “people” who pick sterile hotel suites for a strict hour or so and often insist on coming along and “hovering”. But not Eva. For the last two weeks, the latest Revlon goddess and general fantasy girl has taken time out from her usual schedule of making giant studio movies with the likes of Nicholas Cage and Denzel Washington – movies like Training Day, Out of Time, Once Upon A Time In Mexico, Hitch and 2 Fast 2 Furious – to rustle up three ideas for where and when to hang out with a scruffy English journalist she never met before. Three!
Her first idea was to go ten-pin bowling and then onto dinner. Now tell me that doesn’t sound like a date. I had visions of us both at the Lucky Strike Lanes in Hollywood, Eva thrilling at my ability to quote whole scenes of the Big Lebowski, me showing her my distinctive bowling technique. Ever so tenderly I would guide her hand with mine, and if the moment was right, and I sensed she wanted me to go further, I would sit her down and reveal to her the biomechanics of the bowling swing using differential calculus and Newton’s second law. The fun we would have!
But then she called to say she’d had a better idea. “There’s this little market that I go to called Beachwood market,” she said. “We can get sandwiches there and hike up the hill to the Hollywood sign and just kinda ponder life. What do you think?”
A picnic – of course! What could be more romantic than me and Ms Mendes gazing out over the city of Angels? “Why Eva, here’s my coat to sit on while I uncork the Taittinger. Let’s watch the sun set behind the Hollywood hills and lean gently into each other…” Maybe, just maybe I’d sustain a minor injury while defending her from a mountain cat. A boy can dream.
But this morning, Eva called to say that she’s not up to a picnic after all. Not after the GQ photoshoot yesterday. Apparently it was held at a ranch way up in the Malibu Canyons, and even though she wasn’t feeling her best – she threw up as soon as she arrived – she nevertheless dutifully took off her clothes and posed for a good four hours as the desert wind whipped around her ankles. So now she’s got a cold.
“I’m not sick sick,” she explained. “Just on the verge, you know? And if I went for a hike, you know, I might… I’m really sorry. I really wanted to take you up there, it’s so beautiful. Can we just have some lunch instead? What kind of food do you like? I know this great place called La Poubelle. It means ‘trash can’ in French.”
Sounds classy to me.
“I know right? I love that all these Americans think they’re going somewhere fancy.”
The trouble with La Trashcan is it’s shut in the afternoons, which neither of us realize until we’re both standing outside, famished. So we just pile into the ramshackle Japanese place next door. Eva seems uncertain. “I’ve eaten here before,” she says. “You’ve had better, I guarantee it.” But there’s no sense in driving anywhere at this stage. We’re just too hungry, it’s nearly 3pm. So we start ordering like maniacs, writing checks our stomachs can’t cash. I get the dumplings, the battered chicken, Japanese peppers, and a beer. Eva gets the miso soup, seaweed salad, lotus root and the grilled salmon – “can I get the teriyaki sauce on the side? And brown rice. And a Sapporo Lite.”
I tell her, that’s a hefty order, for a girl. And she grins and leans across the table. “What it is – I’m lucky. When I put on weight, it doesn’t go to my ass or thighs. It goes straight to my boobs.”
What – you eat and your boobs grow?
“Sure. For Ghost Rider, I went up two bra sizes.”
Ghost Rider is her latest movie, a Marvel extravaganza with a budget in excess of $100 million. Nicholas Cage plays Johnny Blaze, a stunt motorbike rider who sells his soul to the devil (Peter Fonda) and has to do his bidding at nights. Mendes plays Cage’s love interest, Roxanne Simpson, a foxy TV news reporter who gives him a reason to stand up to the devil. Except the comic books have Roxanne as a buxom, blue-eyed blonde – a Pam Anderson type, not a Latina Cindy Crawford, with a dash of Sophia Loren around the eyes and the extravagant curling lips of Gina Gershon.
“Yeah, Sony took a chance on me,” she says, wading into my dumplings. “You know how passionate comic book fans are. So I didn’t want to let them down. I let myself gain a few pounds. I don’t know if you can tell but I actually doubled my bra size.”
OK, let’s do an experiment – you start eating and I’ll keep an eye on them. I’ll let you know if I see anything.
“Deal. You do that. Just remember I’ve got my bra on, so it’s not like I’m going to burst out of my top or anything.”
No problem. Wait – I think I saw something.
“That’s me breathing, sweetie. Hey, does your food suck? I’m really sorry we couldn’t go on that picnic.”
No worries. There’s always the Scientology place. I hear they do a brunch.
“Er… OK. You go ahead.”
Come on, it’ll be fun.
“OK, let’s do it. But let’s get hammered first.”
According to the Revlon website, Mendes is “sultry, seductive, so divine.” Her press file make extensive use of words like “exotic”, “passionate” and “vivacious”. All of which is true, of course – she’s a witheringly beautiful woman. But Eva is also friendly. She’s a giggle. She doesn’t take herself too seriously. She’s not one to complain about paparazzi or the dearth of roles for Latina women in Hollywood. She’s not a soap-boxer of any sort. She has taste – off the top of her head she lists a few of her favourite people as “Liam Gallagher, Deepak Chopra, Borat and Tony Montana [Al Pacino’s character in Scarface]. I even called all the stupid numbers to get that ring on your phone – ‘say hello to my lil friend!’ I’m obsessed.”
And she’s modest. For all the dough she has accumulated, she doesn’t flash it around like a lottery winner. Mendes lives in a sensible house in the hills – chic, but not extravagant. She drives the same Landrover as she did 4 years ago – “I know, I know, I have to buckle down and do what all good actors do and get myself a Prius.” She wears no bling whatsoever. “If I liked diamonds, I’d wear them, I just happen not to like them.”
Her one extravagance, she says, is spas and massages. “One thing I’d love to do when I’m older is run a kind of boutique hotel in Costa Rica – just 10 rooms or so, that provides good healthy cuisine, great music, massages. It probably won’t happen, though.”
Why not? It sounds reasonable enough to me.
“I just can’t see myself as an old woman. I’m one of those people, I always thought I would die young. I don’t know why.”
It’s an odd comment. She’s a far-cry from the live-fast-die-young type. Mendes is the one name you never see in the tabloids, whooping it up in nightclubs, staggering out of limousines or getting done for drunk driving. She’s no Tara Reid or Lindsay Lohan. In fact her only tabloid moment to date was the rumour about her and Joaquin Phoenix, but she’s keeping schtum about that for now. She’d sooner talking about eating worms.
“I ate worms with Aborigines,” she says, with a mouthful of lotus root. “Big fat ones.” It seems Ghost Rider was filmed in Melbourne, so she arranged to have an Aborigine experience, venturing out into the bush with five Aborigine women to cook kangaroo tails and knock back a case of beer. “My job was to bring the beer and the kangaroo tails,” she says. “It’s easy – you can get it all at the gas station.” Then for dessert they had worms. Wichetty grubs to be precise. “They’re these fat worm-like creatures that live in tree branches. You can cook them or eat them raw. I had mine cooked because I thought it would be more sanitary. It’s still pretty gooey.”
Another thing about Eva – she loves her music, lives for it. She can’t sing a note, so she says, but she’s an avid fan. She even pseudo-managed a band a couple of years ago. “It was my friend Charlie, we recorded his songs in my apartment and I played them to the Farrelly brothers” – she was making their Siamese Twins comedy, Stuck On You, at the time – “and they used three of them in the film!” Now she has half a mind to start a band called Call Your Mother, just because she likes the name.
Her bag is, broadly, indie rock. I mention the Strokes and she gets all animated. “Oh my God, I saw them in New York this summer,” she says. “There’s nothing as exciting as experiencing your favourite band live. It makes me so happy.” It turns out she’s pals with the Strokes – she starred in the video of their single “The End Has No End”. But Eva is a fan of so many bands, particularly the English kind. “Joy Division, the Smiths, New Order, Happy Mondays, Jarvis Cocker, Oasis… And Babyshambles – such a genius name, I can’t even take it.”
Inevitably, when she went to Manchester back in 2003 for the first time, it was something of a pilgrimage. But it wasn’t just The Hacienda that got her going. “I’d love to work with Mike Leigh,” she says. “I hear his creative process is really intense. Not much of it is scripted, apparently. You just study the characters for months on end and go at it.”
I can see it now – “Eccles: A Love Story”, starring Eva Mendes, Jim Broadbent and Timothy Spall. Broadbent gets laid off from the cake factory, and his highly sexed mail order bride, Eva Mendes, has an affair with Spall, who fired him. Hilarious yet heart-wrenching.
“Make it happen! That sounds awesome! You can write it!”
Eva grew up in Silverlake, the rock chic neighbourhood in the Los Angeles sprawl. Silverlake’s the bit with the good record shops and skate shops, a garage band scene and a decent roots reggae night. It’s where Beck lives, as everyone in Silverlake keeps saying. But he didn’t when Eva arrived thirty years ago, the newborn baby of two Cuban parents from Miami. They left Florida on account of a job opportunity for her dad, a meat distributor. And Eva recalls a solid, working class childhood, neither rough nor plush. “Silverlake wasn’t gang-ridden or anything, back then. Just a little edgy,” she says.
She was a happy child and well behaved – strictly raised by her mother, she navigated her teens without getting into any trouble of note. At first she dreamed of being both an astronaut and an opera singer. “At the same time,” she adds. “I’d do opera in the week and go to the moon on weekends.” But she didn’t pursue anything with any passion. School was a listless unmotivated time. She had about as much interest in acting as she did in her marketing course. But nevertheless, show business found her. By and large, she let her career happen to her in the early stages.
“My neighbour was a photographer and he kept bugging me to pose for pictures,” she says. “I’m eternally grateful now, but at the time I was like ‘hmm, pictures, I dunno’. But that was my break. He was shopping his book around one day when some manager said, ‘who’s she’, and wanted to get in touch. So I met him and he was nice. He said he would send me out for commercials and I just went with it – something different you know. It beat school. And then the next thing I knew, I got a movie. I’d never even taken an acting class at that point. Children of the Corn Five. I was horrible.”
There were a couple of music videos thrown in around this time – “Hole In My Sole” with Aerosmith and “Miami” with Will Smith. But it was a couple of minutes on “Training Day” that changed her life. She has a tiny part as Denzel Washington’s baby’s momma – his Latina bit on the side. “I got a lot of job offers off those two small scenes. That’s why I tell people there is no opportunity small enough to not advance you in life. I mean, I had four lines in that movie, and they were mostly in Spanish.”
Yes but Eva, you were naked. It’s no wonder you made an impression.
“Very true,” she says, grinning. “Full frontal too. Not too many American actresses do the full-on nudity. I’m very European in that sense. Nudity is not a big deal to me, if it’s in the right context. I’m not taking my shirt off for Children of the Corn V – which they asked for, by the way.”
Really? I’m not sure children should be taking their shirts off for dodgy horror movies.
“Absolutely. Even if they are of the Corn.”
She went on to do another Denzel movie, a pacy thriller called Out of Time. Evidently she reveres Denzel on some level. “I learned so much, just by watching him,” she says. “Sometimes, I’d ask him for advice, but I never disturbed his process, I was always very respectful.” Then she advanced to a leading role in Hitch opposite another black superstar, Will Smith, whom she describes as “such a good, decent human being. That’s why he’s so successful. There’s a goodness about him that you just want to prevail.”
Hitch is by no means a classic. But it touches on an interesting topic – the art of seduction. Smith plays a date doctor who helps guys get girls – he teaches them basic pulling techniques, like ignoring them at first, not going ga-ga, appearing confident, that sort of thing. It’s reminiscent of The Game, the bestselling book from last year. I’m wondering if Eva thinks there’s anything to it.
“Actually, ignoring me a little bit kinda works at the beginning. It’s true.”
“Ha ha, very cute.”
“You can’t keep doing it. If you keep ignoring me you’re a jerk. An arse as you as in England.”
Yes, arse has an ‘r’ in it – why did that carry over to America?
“I don’t know. It sounds dirtier with an ‘r’.”
What about creating a spectacle, a memorable moment of some sort – that’s part of the Hitch playbook.
“No, no – no scenes. Quiet is good. Mysterious. If you’re committed to the quiet thing, you look like you’ve got a lot going on even if you haven’t. And don’t act smooth. I’ll take a bumbler any day. Hugh Grant made a career out of it, please.”
But he’s a smooth bumbler. He’s a bit too good at it.
“You’re right. He bumbles brilliantly.”
Are you a sucker for the Rolls Royce treatment – fine wines, fancy restaurants, limousines.
“Not really – I’m such a cheap date, it’s not even funny.”
That’s what all the girls say, but they secretly love the red carpet treatment.
“Well, that’s true. But I said cheap, not easy. I have high expectations. You’re probably better off going out with a more expensive date with lower expectations. You have to be smart for me. I need my man to be very intelligent and well read, to make up for what I don’t have. I admit it – I’m not booksmart. Hey, I’m sweet and lovable, but I’m not an intellectual, let’s face it.”
So you like a man in glasses.
Is a sixpack essential?
“Never. Not unless you’re drinking it. A little pudge is cute, actually. Remember Elvis when he just started getting puffy? That was cute. Just before he went all crazy with it.”
What about height – does he have to be taller than you?
“No, I don’t care about that. Mick Jagger’s not a tall man. And he’s not technically very good looking. But he exudes such sexiness. I met him once in an elevator in Paris. I told him I loved him which of course he’s never heard before. From a stupid little girl. That was way too excited past her bedtime.”
Thank God for you women – you give the unconventional a shot at being sex gods.
“Yeah, right, not like you guys. Your date doesn’t have to be able to read as long as she can fit into a size two and giggle.”
Is your boyfriend a geek? You’ve got a boyfriend, right?
“Do I? Really? Interesting.”
Yes, apparently no one knows who he is – he’s never been seen with you, he’s not in the movie business, he’s this big secret and you’ve been going out with him for 7 years.
“How do you know it’s a he?”
I’m just conjuring with the thought of Eva Mendes and her lesbian lover when the waitress shows up talking about dessert. We’re both stuffed, two beers and four courses a piece. I’m just about to wave her away, but Eva reaches for the menus. “Come on, let’s do this. Let’s try the things that sound the worst. I’m having the ginger crème brulee.”
This is just about the breasts now, isn’t it. You’re not hungry, you’re on a mission to get bigger boobs.
“Ha! Have they grown? You haven’t been paying attention.”
No, but I do have a question. If you couldn’t couldn’t increase your breast size by eating, you would have got a boob job for Ghost Rider?
“No, not for me. That’s a brutal operation. Very invasive. I’m really into the subconscious, you know? I always wonder if you can hear the doctors talking about you when you’re lying there. Because you’re out, but you’re still alive, right? I’d want to be plugged into my ipod or something.”
Don’t tell me – the Strokes.
She thinks. “Oasis. Cigarettes and Alcohol.”