Alice Eve has boldly gone where few women have gone before.
In Star Trek Into Darkness, the 31-year-old British actress stars as Dr. Carol Marcus, a mysterious new member of the Starship Enterprise’s crew who sneaks aboard to help them travel to the Klingon home world of Kronos to capture terrorist John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch). Marcus joins Capt. James T. Kirk (Chris Pine), First Officer Spock (Zachary Quinto), Lt. Nyota Uhura (Zoe Saldana), and the rest of the gang from the first Trek film, also helmed by J.J. Abrams. And the newcomer’s scantily clad scene with Kirk in the film will surely have many Trekkies' tongues wagging.
Eve, meanwhile, is much more than just a pretty face. In addition to starring in a bevy of films, including the biopic Hawking, coming-of-age dramedy Starter for 10, and the romantic comedy She’s Out of My League, she’s a graduate of Oxford University and is “arguably the sharpest one” on the ship, according to Cumberbatch.
In an interview with The Daily Beast, Eve opens up about her journey from London to the furthest reaches of the galaxy.
I was talking with Benedict Cumberbatch last week about Hawking and Starter for 10. He said you were the only one who didn’t fall for the “neutron cream” gag onset.
That’s kind of him! Yes, it is true. But I think it’s because I was bullied by Simon [Pegg] for so many years, that I knew it was just another tactic. It’s relentless. He does all that practical-joking stuff, so I knew that if Simon was texting me the night before saying, “Don’t forget to put your neutron cream on!” I knew that something was awry.
Now, I wanted to start off with your early years and work your way up to Star Trek Into Darkness, if you’ll bear with me.
Let’s do it!
Do you remember your first amateur acting gig?
Yeah, I did a school play, Twelfth Night, and I played Olivia when I was 12 at Bedales School. I just loved it. It was the first time I’d put makeup on, so that was pretty rad, and then I forget myself completely onstage, and that’s the drug.
Did your parents [Trevor Eve and Sharon Maughan], who are also professional actors, steer you towards or away from acting?
It’s very hard to see that stuff because you’re in it. I definitely don’t think I was steered away from it, but I wasn’t allowed to be a child actress or anything before I finished my education. So I think it was a moderate handling of a wild girl.
A wild girl?
I think I was a bit wild, yeah. I like to entertain, to perform. I was social. I just had a lot of energy, and I still do. I guess you have to have a lot of energy to do this!
You have heterochromia, which is pretty unique, with your left eye blue and right eye green. Were you aware of that as a youngster?
It’s so weird, this thing with the eyes! All through my life, I didn’t really consider my eyes at all, and then I became an actress. It’s great, I guess. They’re just in my face, and one is green and one is blue. It’s different, and I’m definitely a proponent of being different in any way you can in life, so I guess if you’re born a bit different that’s a good thing.
So you studied English at Oxford. Not too shabby!
[Laughs] We were able to do lots of plays that unfortunately we put on for the public and they had to pay to see—I still can’t get my head around that! I did a Howard Barker play called Scenes From an Execution, The Importance of Being Earnest, and I went to Edinburgh with a play we did that was an adaptation of a Groucho Marx story called Animal Crackers. Edinburgh was really cool, but you had to stand out all day and give fliers out for your show that night, and then go and do it.
After you graduated, did you immediately know you wanted to go into acting?
I think when I got there [I thought] I’d find some other passion, but such is with passions—if you have one, you don’t tend to find another one and it just stays until you recognize it. When I left, I went straight into auditioning. The first thing I did was a Richard Eyre film, Stage Beauty, and I did that while I was still at Oxford during my summer vacation. After that, I went on to do The Rotters Club, which was a TV series set in the ’70s based on a Jonathan Coe novel.
When did you move out to Los Angeles?
I came here with a movie, Starter for 10 , because Tom Hanks produced it and his company brought us out here. After that, I got an agent and my agent told me to stay. Then I did another movie called Crossing Over. I guess I’d lived in L.A. when I was younger because my father had a TV show that was here, so we were here for about four or five years. I even had an American accent when I was younger which changed back to English when I got home. I’m definitely of both cultures.
Starter for 10 is so good. I wish it had a different title.
I know. That was a big debate, and it just didn’t travel. It’s such a sweet movie and it was a great experience.
Was it tough to break into Hollywood? There’s a gap on your résumé from 2007 to 2009.
Yeah! I’ve had my times where I thought I couldn’t do it anymore, and there’s that gap on my résumé from ’07 to ’09. I had just done She’s Out of My League and wanted to find something that resonated, and didn’t. Those were lonely years.
The thing I like about your character in Star Trek Into Darkness is that she’s not a one-dimensional love interest. She’s a tough woman. And you’re attractive but you’ve been to Oxford as well and have a bevy of stage, television, and cinema credits. Did you every feel like Hollywood was trying to pigeonhole you as the token “hot” woman?
Yes, she’s a woman in her own right. It’s not Hollywood’s fault it’s a visual medium and you’re kind of typecast accordingly. I can’t play a 65-year-old grandfather, as much as I’d like to. But I think over time, through the experience of working at what you want to be, you find a strength in yourself, and then that strength shines through, and you’re willing to play people who are diverse, strong, and dynamic.
I know you probably get asked this ad nauseam, but did you watch any Star Trek growing up?
I did with my grandfather. We used to watch it on Saturday afternoons. I thought it was a bit boring and a bit slow, and I guess I thought he was a bit of a geek for liking it. At the same time, I knew he was so cool that I just wanted to hang out with him and do what he did, even if it was boring and I wanted to be watching My Little Pony. Then I stopped, and I got back into it when J.J. asked me to join. I watched a lot of Star Trek from my computer while I was preparing for this.
In addition to the Simon trickery, were there any other fun moments with the cast?
It really is relentless, and there’s a nonstop string of joking with the group. It’s a big group of guys and then Zoe [Saldana] and myself, with J.J. at the helm. That energy is intoxicating, and it’s a very potent group to be around. I managed to get Simon a couple of times…you don’t have to do much to get Simon. If you even point your gun at him he feels got, so I’ve done that a couple of times.
People commonly associate Trekkies with geekdom. What are the geekiest things about you?
I think I’m probably quite geeky in a lot of ways. I’m pretty into books, kind of obsessive about that. I guess geekiness is manifested as obsessiveness, so I don’t know if women can be called geeks for being into shoes, but it’s the same obsession that guys have when they collect these dolls and stuff. It’s the same meticulous attention to detail, but it’s just forgiven because we put them on our feet. I don’t understand why. But I have too many books! I’m a bookworm.
Portrait of a Lady, Jane Eyre, and then Andrew Marvell is my favorite poet. Everything in the Romantic movement is clearly a rebirth of grand proportions that kind of defined who we are, so Wordsworth, Keats, etc. My thesis at school was on Wordsworth.
“Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood” is one of my favorite poems.
Look at you, man! Rarely do you meet an American who knows his Wordsworth.
What else do you have in the pipeline?
There’s this movie with Bryan Cranston [Cold Comes the Night], and he’s cool as a cucumber, man. It was a pretty tough experience. We made it in upstate New York and were filming in a motel, and I play a single mother who has to turn her motel into a brothel to make ends meet. And I did this film with Neil LaBute and Stanley Tucci called Some Velvet Morning. It was just Stanley, Neil, and me in a room, and we shot it in 10 days in Park Slope, Brooklyn. It was very different from Star Trek Into Darkness, where you’d have 250 people on set at a given time. We were doing 10 pages a day, and it was a head-fuck. But we just had this world tour where we showed Star Trek Into Darkness in different countries, so I’m going to take a little break now and maybe lay down on a beach, and then get myself back together.