‘People have been referring to me as Bono’s daughter my entire life. I can’t lose sleep over it’
Eve Hewson is stepping out of the shadow of her famous father with three high-profile roles this year. The 28-year-old talks to Shilpa Ganatra about locking down with her family in Dublin, her search for an Irish boyfriend and how the #MeToo movement changed her mind about giving up acting
Eve Hewson is a few minutes late for our Zoom call, and full of apologies because of it. She explains she got the timings mixed up, and only realised during the family lunch. It’s easily forgiven, especially as it’s rare for the Hewson clan to be in Dublin at the same time. In less pandemicy times, her job as an actor whisks her away from everyday life for weeks at a time; her older sister Jordan resides near her in Brooklyn, New York, and her father… well, he could be anywhere in the world, given that he’s Bono. For lockdown, the Hewsons returned from the four corners to the family home in Killiney. Eve is using it as a time for reconnection — especially as she left Dublin 10 years ago, when her younger brothers weren’t even teenagers — and rest.
“I’ve been sleeping like a maniac. I think I’ve basically slept through half of the entire pandemic,” she says in her New Yorktoned accent. “I’m genuinely enjoying it, because when I’m filming, I have to get up at like 4am.”
In waking hours, “we’ve been doing a lot of cooking, drinking, smoking too many cigarettes, and all the things that we shouldn’t be doing. Then trying to reverse all of that by drinking green juices. It’s actually been quite a good time.”
The Dublin interlude is much needed after a hectic 18 months. Following the rule of thumb that trends can be identified by three instances, Eve filmed a trio of projects that foretell a leap in profile this year: Tesla (a biopic about the inventor Elon Musk, starring Ethan Hawke) and Netflix miniseries Behind Her Eyes (from the team who produced The Crown), and The Luminaries, based on Eleanor Catton’s Booker Prize-winning novel. Currently on BBC One, it’s the first to be unveiled, and her first major lead role, which meant little downtime throughout the six-month shoot in New Zealand.
“I’d played the lead in a four-week shoot for an indie movie called Paper Year a few years ago, so I remembered how exhausting it was. So going into this, I was really prepared to go hard or go home. I basically went from scene to scene every single day for six months and then at the end of it, I collapsed. I actually had my friends come meet me in Hawaii on the on my way home and we spent a few days just hanging out on the beach. Hawaii got me through, especially with the really hard scenes that are very emotionally disturbing,” she says. “As soon as I decided that I was going to Hawaii, a make-up girl printed out a picture of it for me and I stuck it in my trailer. So every day, if I had to do a hard scene, I’d be like ‘okay, but countdown to Hawaii in three months’.”
Later, I scroll through her Instagram in search of a post of this celebratory holiday. But in-between the snapshots of her life, which range from high-fashion photoshoots for Chanel to her recent presence at the Black Lives Matter protests outside the US Embassy, there’s no mention of the trip to her 89,000 followers. It’s not a total surprise, given that the need for privacy must have been instilled in her from a young age, but it’s a move to respect in this ‘pics or it didn’t happen’ world of ours.
When I bring up her attendance at the rally, she’s unequivocal about her support. “Of course I joined the protest,” she says. “I support Black Lives Matter because I believe black lives matter. I think it’s so important for more white people to vocalise this. We’re seeing that happen across the world now, and it’s a beautiful thing to watch. I think for so long, people have been scared to speak out or say the wrong thing, but there’s something about this particular moment in the movement that has really opened up a conversation that has been long overdue. I was really proud to be there and see so many Irish people show up and support it.”
Aged 19 to 31, all but the youngest of the four Hewson children have now stepped into public life and, evidently, the apple doesn’t fall too far from the (Joshua) tree. Jordan, the eldest, earned a coveted place in Forbes’ 30 under 30 list last year thanks to her tech company’s Action Button, which makes activism easier in the digital age. Younger brother Elijah, 20, is frontman of rock band Inhaler, who were included in the BBC Sound of 2020 poll. And with The Luminaries, Memphis Eve Hewson, who turns 29 on Tuesday, is at a turning point in her performing career.
“My dad couldn’t be more thrilled for me. Between us, he thinks he’s the Irish Kris Jenner,” she says, laughing. “We’re going to bring out a line of lip kits any day now.”
Eve ( right) with her mother Ali, father and U2 frontman Bono and sister Jordan; ( below) with her Tesla co-stars Jim Gaffigan, Ethan Hawke, Rebecca Dayan and Ryan MacLachlan ficial business in some ways. I think a lot of it sends the wrong message,” she says. “You have to be very careful about the way that you represent [women], especially to do with sexuality, and what’s deemed sexy in Hollywood. If they’re going to decide, ‘okay, this girl is the love interest, and this is what she should wear’, it can’t be just middle-aged men deciding that. There has to be women involved in the conversation too. Because then we are just pitching only one idea to young teenagers, and it has to be more diverse than that.”
An example crops up later when we’re raving about Normal People — she notes the subtlety of a scene in which Paul Mescal walks with his hands in his pockets “and you see his bum in those school trousers. There’s something familiar about that. It feels filmed with a female gaze”.
As to the inevitable rejections, Eve has her head firmly on her shoulders. “I’ve learned with auditions that you prepare, show up, do your job, and then the minute you leave, just let it go. The more auditions you do, the more rejections you get, so you build up a thicker skin, and it’s easier. You just become a cynical old lady,” she says, laughing.
“But I think competition and failure is healthy and necessary, for any actor, artist, writer, director. That can genuinely feed you. I’m obsessed with the Michael Jordan documentary The Last Dance. In it, he talks about how his dad told him always turn the negative into a positive. If he had a bad game, or if they didn’t win, that would feed him so that in the next game, he would come back and smash the floor. I watched it agreeing that’s exactly how you have to think about failure. You might do a movie and it might not do well, or nobody thinks it’s good, or people just don’t see it because of the distribution. You just have to take those blows and try and turn them into something positive.”
As it was, she did consider ditching the career, but it wasn’t for the reasons her parents feared. It ended up being Hollywood’s gender imbalance that made acting too restrictive. “Before I took this job, I had a complete existential crisis,” she says. “I was going through that period in your 20s where you start to question everything, and I didn’t like acting anymore. I was becoming aware of the way women are pigeon-holed in our industry, and how women are represented on film.”
She recounts meeting a top studio executive and asking how many women were on the board. He had to be reminded that they had one, which spoke volumes about how valued she was.
“That kind of stuff really started to bother me. I started to think I don’t know if I want to be a part of it, or subject myself to that kind of inequality.”
In the nick of time, the #MeToo movement started to gain momentum. “All these women were coming out and
books, watching films, and reading scripts, in a preliminary effort into becoming more involved behind the scenes, either as a producer or director. “I’m feeling that burn, definitely,” she says. “I don’t know if you can tell, but I’m a massive control freak. I felt for a long time it probably wasn’t a good idea to direct because I’m such a control freak that it would probably be dangerous — like feeding the beast. But now I’ve been on so many sets and I’ve learned so much from many different directors. I’m feeling more capable that is something I should do and want to do. I have no specific plans, but I’m definitely open to that.”
I ask Eve if she has a hankering to work with anyone in particular, and it takes precisely no seconds for her to answer that it’s Alec Baldwin, of 30 Rock and Saturday Night Live.
“He is a genius. I would like to act with him and I’ve always said that. I want to put it out into the universe. I think he’s just fantastic.”
Has she met him?
“I’ve never met him. I don’t know what I would do,” she says, as if genuinely stumped. “I love his podcasts. I just love the sound of his voice. Oh, and you know who I love? Goldie Hawn. I was just watching Private Benjamin the other day, and then me and my sister watched The First Wives Club. She brings me so much joy.”
But for the next while, it’s all about letting her forthcoming projects loose into the world, a flurry that feels like the next phase in her ascent. The Luminaries is halfway through and will receive a US release in autumn. Tesla is due in cinemas in August and Behind Her Eyes, based on Sarah Pinborough’s novel, is nearly ready to go, though release dates are to be confirmed as coronavirus impacts schedules across the world.
After that, “it’s a matter of whenever we can start shooting again. Once people figure out what the protocol is and if it’s safe to go back to work, there are a few things that I’m looking at that would be wonderful to be a part of. But everything is so up in the air that we just have to be patient. No studio or production company wants to endanger anybody, or be responsible for anyone getting sick”.
If all goes to plan, there may be a project to keep her this side of the Atlantic. Is this taste of home is enough to tempt her back permanently?
“If I found a nice Irish boy, I certainly would,” she says, wickedly. No better advertisement than in a newspaper, I suggest.
“Great, you can change the headline to ‘Are You Single? Eve Hewson Looking for Boyfriend. Preferably Irish’,” she says, laughing. “No I’m just kidding. I think I would [move back], especially because my favourite people live here. It’s kind of tricky, being an actor. I say I live in New York, but I don’t really — I’m always away wherever the job is. So where do I put down my roots? I guess I’ll have to tackle that when the time comes.”
For now, it’s a case of seeing how the pandemic situation plays out… and dealing with the influx of suitors from the call-out. Form an orderly, socially-distanced queue, lads.
The Luminaries continues on BBC One tomorrow night