Mena Suvari On 'Garden Of Eden," Filming Sex Scenes
Mena Suvari first turned heads in Hollywood with American Beauty and her comic turn in American Pie. Now she is playing the doe-eyed Eastern European princess is in The Garden of Eden, based on a posthumously released Ernest Hemingway novel, which hits theaters December 10.
The Estonian-Greek-American actress and model was born in Newport, Rhode Island, and has lived in the Virgin Islands, Charleston, S.C., and now California. While living in Charleston, she signed up to work with Wilhelmina Modeling Agency which came to recruit girls from her middle school, Ashley Hall. Her greatest accomplishment with Wilhelmina was modeling for Oscar de la Renta print ads. While living in California with her parents she made her television debut on a Rice-A-Roni commercial followed by appearances on Boy Meets World, ER and Chicago Hope.
Suvari’s film career has made great strides since her Slums Of Beverly Hills days. Whether she plays a prudish choir girl in American Pie, an intriguing seductress in American Beauty, a dirty mouthed cheerleader in Sugar and Spice, a sexually open artist in Six Feet Under, or a perky tennis player in Rumor Has It, Suvari is her own kind of It Girl.
Suvari’s latest character as Catherine Hill Bourne is a mixture of many of her previous roles, marking the evolution of her acting career. In our exclusive interview she gives her take on the production behind the adaptation of one of Hemingway’s raciest novels. “It’s very sexual, and people don’t necessarily know what to do with that, how to market it,” Suvari told Uinterview exclusively. But for Mena, filming the sexual stuff was nothing short of a day’s work. “I’ve done things like that before, and I don’t look it at it like that,” she says. “What captivated me was the story, as a whole, and this woman, [my character] Catherine’s journey.”
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It was good. It was fun. It was nice to see everyone again, because we shot this film like four years ago, and then it premiered in Rome, and after that we just didn’t hear about it, and all of a sudden Roadside Attractions picked it up.
I have no idea. I’m just very thankful that it’s finally coming out. We all put our heart and soul into this project. I think that’s what you want most as an actor, is for people to see your work. The Garden of Eden, the book, is one of the most beautiful stories I’ve ever read. It’s one of my favorite, favorite books. And I feel like everyone should just read that book. For me, it changed my life, changed my perspective on so many things. So it’s a good story to be told. But it’s unusual, especially with the business changing so much. It’s not a run-of-the-mill broad comedy or animation in 3D. It’s very sexual, and people don’t necessarily know what to do with that, how to market it.
I didn’t really. I’ve done things like that before, and I don’t look it at it like that. What captivated me was the story, as a whole, and this woman, [my character] Catherine’s journey. The sexuality in the film is just an expression of that journey — her trying to find her own identity, going moment by moment and trying to make herself whole. I think a lot of these decisions came out of her insecurity, really.
The scenes when we were in the bar — at the hotel with Marita — those were kind of heavy scenes for me. There was a lot going on, there’s like a tornado inside of Catherine, and trying to still function mentally and emotionally, and I just feel really grateful to have such an amazing director, he supported me 110 percent on this film. It was very important to me on this film that a lot of the language carried over from the book into the film, and I really worked with him on that and understanding where she was coming from every moment. He really worked with me on that.
I hope that Hemingway’s not rolling over in his grave and that people can enjoy the story and film. I think everyone, even the publisher, has the best intentions and just tried to make it as true as possible, but you don’t know. It’s said that the second half wasn’t even completed, and he struggled for 10 years to write it, and his wife Mary brought two shopping bags full of loose-leaf pages to the editor, and that’s the book that you have today. Published posthumously. So you don’t really know. But what’s compelling is that people like Hemingway. People love his works. He had the most amazing ability to create these character studies, these rich characters that were so multi-faceted and dimensional. It’s a story that had to be told. I don’t know, as much as I read, that’s what I discovered. I don’t know how much was put together and what was created but I think that the book plays out really well. It was a bit surprising for me to hear that the second half wasn’t even completed. I mean it was literally like shopping bags full of 3,000 loose leaf pages. Not even organized. So I can’t imagine that they just kind of put it together. I hope Hemingway’s happy with it, for once in his life.
I’m working on some amazing tv shows actually -- just a lot of amazing material. I worked on 'The Cape' for NBC, it’s like a Batman-type show. Instead of Gotham it’s Palm City. It’s premiering in January. I play this character, Dice, who’s a superhero villain. It’s really fun. I've never played a character like that. I have super powers. So that I’m excited for.