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Eva Mendes

STUCK ON HER

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Miles Fielder meets Eva Mendes the beautiful, funny and ambitious star of Training Day, Hitch and now Ghost Rider and finds a serious actress on the rise.

Aside from wanting to work with wild man Nicolas Cage and being a self-confessed freak, Eva Mendes’ motivation for playing a cartoon damsel-in-distress in the camp comic book adaptation Ghost Rider is seeing Latino women being fairly represented on the big screen. The 32-year-old Cuban-American actress (whose first name is pronounced Ava) explains: ‘In the comic, my character Roxanna is blond, blue-eyed and voluptuous. I thought I’d given ‘em one out of three with the cleavage. An American girl is no longer just a blond-haired, blue-eyed girl. I’m an American girl. Unless a role calls for a specifically Caucasian girl, it’s unfair that we’re not considered for more things. I don’t want to be the typical hot Latino girl.’

Mendes was born in Miami and grew up in Los Angeles, where she studied acting and secured an agent after a family friend took publicity snaps of her. Her first film appearance, in 1998’s Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror, didn’t bode well for a serious acting career. But a small role as Denzel Washington’s girlfriend in the highly regarded corrupt cop thriller Training Day opened doors for her.

‘That opened everything,’ Mendes says. ‘Right before that I was thinking, “This sucks. What am I doing? B-movies and TV shows.” Then I did Training Day and something clicked. I was only in two small scenes, but there is no such thing as a small part. You can shine.’

Mendes subsequently shone in Robert Rodiguez’s cultish tortilla western Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Carl Franklin’s clever modern noir Out of Time, and the Farrelly brothers’ sweet twin comedy Stuck on You. The latter film was followed by two more comedies, the Will Smith rom-com Hitch and the yet-to-be-seen Wendell Baker Story, made by Owen and Luke Wilson, which set Mendes up as a screen beauty with a game sense of humour.

Ghost Rider notwithstanding, Mendes would now like to concentrate on serious roles. To that end, she’s just finished the New York crime drama We Own the Night, in which she appears alongside acting heavyweights Robert Duvall, Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Wahlberg. ‘My first real dramatic role,’ she says. ‘The most difficult I’ve ever done, and the most gratifying. It was very dark.

‘I loved doing Ghost Rider because it allows me to do movies that are a bit edgier. I’d love to do a film with Mike Leigh, or with Pedro Almodovar. That’s my taste. You’d be surprised at the stuff I say no to, because it would be harder to get my foot in the door with these other directors. I could be working on a lot more, but why would I want to if it’s not going to get me to the next level. I produced a film last year called Live! It’s a very small film [a satire about a television network filmed as a mockumentary], but I’m hoping people will catch on that I don’t just want to be an accessory. Why can’t I use my sexuality and be a serious actress?’

No reason at all. All part, no doubt, of the grand plan of seeing Latino women being fairly represented on the big screen.

Ghost Rider is on general release from Fri 2 Mar. See Also Released

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