STORYANDRAIN – A lot about the actress Eve Hewson can be understood from the two pins she’s wearing on her oversized trucker-style denim jacket.
One reads RIP Baby Girl under a portrait of the late R&B singer Aaliyah and the other just reads Time’s Up for the #MeToo movement to fight sexual harassment. As for the jacket, she got it at Barneys, but forgets the designer. Hewson, 27, can gush about a ‘90s music icon just as much as she can about feminism. “Some people just don’t like that word for whatever reason. I’m not afraid of it at all,” she says with a big smile. So how does she define it? “Equality. That’s how I see it anyway. That’s why I think if you are a nonfeminist, you are an asshole because you don’t believe in equality for women.”
The Irish actress is seated at a cozy booth at Sweetwater, something of a Williamsburg institution that predates the condos nearby and is beloved by locals like Hewson, who lives in the neighborhood. She orders eggs over medium, avocado, and bacon as a late lunch. This month she plays Maid Marian in Otto Bathurst’s Robin Hood movie, costarring with Taron Egerton, Jamie Foxx, and Jamie Dornan. Hewson majored in psychology at NYU but has been acting since she was 15, mostly in independent films like Nicole Holofcener’s Enough Said and the TV show The Knick. She grew up in Dublin, the daughter of Bono, the leader singer of U2. Even though her given name—Memphis Eve Sunny Day Hewson—screams rock star progeny, she spent a low-key childhood on the South Side of Dublin in a house full of pets. She was a tomboy who made everyone call her Elliot after the star of ET. She gives a quick lesson in geography and class. “Dublin is very specific. I sound like I’m a posh from the South Side, so I have a very light accent. I’m not proud of that but that’s my accent. My dad is from the North Side and so is Colin Farrell. If you live in the west coast of Ireland, it’s like “Jaysus, Mary, and Joseph,” she says with a deeply exaggerated and hilarious brogue.
Hewson, who has zit-free pale skin and almond shaped eyes with a wide, sexy mouth, is a perfect actress to represent a generation of women who are intelligent and casually outspoken and, well, fun. She’s friendly without being fake. She can bond instantly with anyone, recounting her star sign (Cancer), Hogwarts House (Slytherin) and go-to Diptyque candle (Baies). She can play drums and piano and tends to brood. She might nurse a little crush on Drake. The most committed relationship she has right now is with her gravity blanket.
This is her first big studio movie. Her first intro to Robin Hood was the Disney animated version. She was at home in Brooklyn on a summer break between projects when her manager told her to put herself on tape. “I had like a tripod that I put on top of my trashcan in my kitchen and I stood where the good lighting was and did a scene that didn’t make it into the movie.” She ended up beating out 100 girls for the part. She had initially auditioned with a British accent, but when they filmed they had her use her natural Irish accent. Jamie Dornan uses his Northern Irish accent, too, and it’s the kind of reimagining of the Robin Hood tale that’s more about big ideas about immigration and war and reactionary, bombastic leadership (sound familiar?) than period detail. “What I like about the story is that it’s really Maid Marian and Little John who are pushing this young white guy to take his power and grow into his responsibility.”
She was filming when the #MeToo movement was beginning to coalesce. “I haven’t had anything really bad, but when all that stuff came out, it did make me look at situations at the time I had sort of brushed off,” she says. “I’m over it and now I feel like I not only have the power to speak up but I need to speak up. I’ve been on set where crew members say things to you, whisper in your ear, follow you around. I had to do a sex scene once outside in a car and like the policeman was there to help us film. He had to be there. He kept like walking into the shot and looking up my skirt. And after a while I got out of the car and went up to him and said, I know what you’re doing, I see what you’re doing. And then the producers were like, please don’t lose your visa, we’ll handle this. And they handled it and they were amazing and it was fine. But those things they do come up on set and it does make you uncomfortable. At the time I was like, oh, whatever.”
Now she’s leaving to film in New Zealand for several months for a series based on Eleanor Catton’s Man Booker Prize winning novel The Luminaries, set in the gold rush in the 1860s in remote parts of New Zealand.
She’s a fan of auteur directors like P.T. Anderson or Harmony Korine (“I was so sad I wasn’t in Spring Breakers”). On set she has a habit of directing the scene in her head—what she would do as a director. “I thought it was just happening in my mind until Jamie Foxx came up to me and he was like,”‘When are you going to direct?’ And I was like, ‘What do you mean?’ He was like, ‘I see you thinking about things. You’re a director,’” she says. “He’s very intuitive.” You get the feeling it won’t be long until she’s running her own set.