Eve Hewson: I’m Bono’s daughter, but I still have to work for a living
Published 21/03/2012 | 12:27
Eve Hewson talks exclusively to Chrissie Russell about her famous family, money, internet trolls and her|hunky co-star Sean Penn
Eve Hewson was basking in the glow of rave reviews for her first big movie this week. But the joy of acting and the heady world of the red carpet aren't the only reasons she's in the film business. There's another, quite practical explanation why Bono's daughter is so dedicated to her acting career.
“I don't get handed money — and I never will,” she says. “I have to work!”
Finding work should be a lot easier for the 20-year-old actress thanks to her stellar performance alongside Hollywood A-lister Sean Penn in This Must Be The Place, due in cinemas shortly.
Sadly, the young star isn't at home in Dublin to enjoy the buzz. After two years studying acting at New York University, she's hoping to finish her course ahead of schedule — but that means buckling down and focusing on college work from now until the end of summer.
When her parents, the U2 frontman and his wife Ali, stay in New York they go to their multimillion-dollar duplex penthouse in the exclusive San Reno building on Manhattan's Upper West Side.
By contrast, Eve's current home is a small apartment near NYU that she shares with a fellow undergrad. Her parents' pad is off-limits to the student and her pals.
“We're not allowed to stay there,” she says wryly.
Her dad might be one of the world's wealthiest rock stars but his daughter is no spoilt little rich girl.
In her first in-depth interview ahead of her movie's launch later this month, Eve explains why she felt compelled to pursue acting against her parents' wishes, how cut-throat the industry can be and just what it means to have Bono as a dad.
If they wanted to, the Hewson clan could all put their feet up and not have to worry about earning a cent for several generations to come.
But according to Eve, Bono's younger girl, the chances of this happening with her wealthy family are just as unlikely as they are for the rest of us cash-poor mortals.
“It would be impossible for any of us to just sit back, relax and be rich. That's not who we are,” she says laughing.
“I don't talk about money with my parents and I'm not the child who gets everything I want.
“My parents have been great about keeping us disciplined and making us work for what we want.
“We're lucky that we get to travel places and we enjoy going out and having fun — but I don't get handed money and I never will. I have to work.”
So, no danger of Eve living off daddy's money, like an Irish Paris Hilton?
She laughs again: “In my family I would never dare to think of being Paris Hilton! And to me that doesn't look like a happy existence — it's just not who I am.”
It's 2.45pm in New York and Eve is between theatre classes at New York University, grabbing a bite to eat with one hand and fielding our interview via phone with the other.
As yet, she's the only one of her siblings to follow Bono into the entertainment business.
Older sister, 22-year-old Jordan, starred alongside her in the 2005 indie flick Lost and Found, but is now studying at Columbia while brothers Elijah and John are still at primary school.
Taking up acting was a surprising move for Eve, given how vocal her mother has been about wanting her children to avoid the limelight.
Ali once described showbiz life as “tough and lonely and not what you want for your child”.
Behind the scenes, Bono was just as vociferous in his desire for Eve to stay away from performing.
“Both my parents were against it,” she says.
“It's because they know that world and it's really hard. For a young female, especially, it's excruciating.
“The rejection is awful, the competition is terrifying and you're constantly up and down.
“My parents knew that, because they know actors and they know that world, so when I decided this was what I wanted to do, they were like ‘no, no, no, please no!' I had to really fight for it.”
But Eve persevered and signed up to New York University determined to prove her acting bug wasn't just a flash in the pan. After almost three years of acting classes, theatre production, theatre design and academic studies, she hopes to graduate this year, leaving her free to pursue acting full-time.
“There were times when I wondered if I was doing the right thing, studying when I could have been going to auditions. But it was important to me to train and know what I was doing,” she explains.
“I didn't want to just finish school and run off to LA, because I knew people would be watching me.
“I knew there would be doors open to me just because of where I'm coming from, and I didn't want to get opportunities and then f**k them up. I didn't want to suck.”
She's well aware that being ‘Bono's daughter' carries its own perks and pitfalls.
“It's great because more casting directors and directors want to meet me,” she admits. “But whether it's because of my dad or who I am, it's up to me to make the most of those meetings and be the actor they're looking for.
“That's the thing about acting — you can't fake it. If you're up there on the screen saying those lines and you're bad, then you're bad and no director is going to sacrifice his movie and cast me in it just because he wants to meet my dad. No great director that I would want to work with, anyway.”
She's surprisingly frank and less guarded than you might expect from someone who has grown up surrounded by fame.
Her recent years in the States have given her accent a transatlantic tone, but while she's slightly more confident and self-assured than your average 20-year-old, she's not arrogant.
Nor is she such a celebrity-in-the-making that she wasn't starstruck at working alongside Academy award winners Sean Penn and Frances McDormand in This Must Be The Place.
Directed by Paolo Sorrentino and due for release on March 23, the movie sees Eve cast as skateboarding goth Mary, a troubled, tattooed teen who befriends ageing rocker Cheyenne (Penn) as he travels from Dublin to America following the death of his father.
Penn's performance, heavily influenced by The Cure frontman Robert Smith, was critically acclaimed at the recent Sundance festival, with Eve garnering praise for her commitment and dedication to her role.
“It was such a moment in my life to be able to say I was Sean Penn's co-star,” she enthuses. “He was amazing to work with.”
In her previous movie, The 27 Club, she also played the young foil to an ageing rocker — is she carving out a niche?
“No, I'm not trying to make my next movie based on a music legend,” she replies. “When This Must Be The Place came along it didn't matter to me that it was a rock and roll film and that people would make connections to my dad.
“It was just such an incredibly beautiful script that there was no way I was saying no to it just because of what people might say.”
But there are, of course, people with plenty to say.
“The negative stuff is mostly on the internet, which I don't read. Except on very sad days,” admits Eve.
“People say awful things, but you can't listen to it, it's not personal.”
Her growing profile means she's sure to come in for greater scrutiny. Already her appearance is being monitored, with youth fashion bible Teen Vogue heralding her as “one to watch” thanks in part to her Chanel debut on last year's Cannes red carpet.
There's also a celebrity boyfriend, James Lafferty (26), from the hit US show One Tree Hill, who is reported to have been dating the actress for over a year.
Despite the occasional tweet — most recently about her boyfriend's ill-thought-out Valentine's treat of cupcakes when she's allergic to gluten — her relationship is one area Eve won't be drawn on and questions are met with a polite but firm “I'm not talking about him”.
She sees herself staying in America post-graduation because it's where her agent is, where work is and she's not bothered by photographers. “No one knows who I am and no-one cares. I could jump in front of a camera man and he'd just tell me to get out of the way.”
But Eve says she misses Dublin and looks forward to being able to make more trips home once college is over.
For the moment, she has to rush off to an afternoon class. Before she leaves I want to clear up a mystery. For years the press referred to her as ‘Memphis Eve' but recently ‘Memphis' has vanished — is it a re-branding exercise?
“No, I think people have always got that wrong,” she says slowly.
“I get called Memphis Eve but my first name is Eve. I know Memphis is in there somewhere but on my passport I'm Eve Sunny Day Hewson.”
She pauses. “That doesn't really clear it up, does it? I'm as confused as you are, I should probably check that out.
“How funny, I don't know my own name ... !”
She might not, but I suspect the rest of the world soon will.