Eve Hewson lit up the Cannes Film Festival. So can she rival her dad Bono in the star stakes? Patrick Freyne reports
Her father is a world-saving rock-star and her mother is a high-profile activist, but up until recently, nobody knew much about 19-year-old Eve Hewson. The second child of Bono and Ali Hewson has, for most of her life, been kept out of the limelight. But on her 18th birthday last July, Bono brought a suitably embarrassed looking Eve on stage at a U2 show to the strains of the band's song ‘Party Girl' — although there wasn't much evidence of her having partied.
Unlike the children of other Irish rock stars, her life has not been a catalogue of high-profile follies or media intrusion. Instead, Eve went trouble-free from St Andrew's in Blackrock to college in NYU, splitting her time between the family's homes in New York and Dublin.
Then things changed. She had a much-documented, short-lived, relationship with James Lafferty, the American star of One Tree Hill (a programme named after a U2 song), a high-profile film role in the forthcoming This Must be the Place, in which Sean Penn plays an addled rock star, and made a highly publicised appearance at the Cannes film festival.
Irish viewers will have to wait until later in the year to judge her performance in This Must be the Place, but American director Charles Mehling certainly thinks that she has talent.
Although, when he was searching for an Irish actress in New York to star in the music video he was making for The Script, he never imagined that he'd eventually be casting a rock star's daughter.
“We didn't think it would be so hard to find a young Irish actress in New York,” he says.
“And we were at the point of considering an American actor with an Irish accent, which is an abominable idea — there's nothing worse than a fake New York-style Irish accent.”
But then Robbie Ryan, Mehling's Irish director of photography, saw a tiny news story in an Irish paper: “Bono's daughter to star alongside Sean Penn.”
Calls were made, feelers were put out, and before he knew it, Mehling was sitting in a New York café across from Eve Hewson, formerly Memphis Eve Hewson, “a beautiful, classically Irish-looking actress who was coolly enthusiastic about everything — the perfect co-conspirator. She just happened to be Bono's daughter.”
The resulting music video can be found online, as can a lovely 12-minute spin-off film featuring Hewson as a believably homesick economic migrant living anonymously in New York.
Hewson herself is hardly likely to be forced abroad for work, but she has been beavering away at her craft for some time.
As far back as 2005, she and her sister Jordan appeared in Lost and Found, directed by Erica Dunton, and produced, uncredited, by Bono. Indeed, possibly in the interests of deflecting unwanted media attention, Eve and Jordan are listed in the credits as ‘Brenda M Stankard’ and ‘Paddy M Stankard’. But Eve wasn't to remain uncredited for long.
Dunton, herself the daughter of a successful father (respected cameraman Joe Dunton), knew she'd found a star. “I was so impressed that I cast her as a lead in The 27 Club,” she told me.
Filmed two years after Lost and Found, The 27 Club was the tale of a grieving, drug-addled rock-star who goes on a trans-American road trip. Hewson stars as a young Irish hitch-hiker who joins him on the road (she seems to specialise in playing foils for burned-out rockers).
Shot while Eve was still in school, and debuting in Tribeca in April 2008, it was a low-budget, low-profile feature debut, but many were suitably impressed.
“Eve Hewson is a natural beauty inside and out,” says Dunton.
“Her raw talent radiates the moment she's on screen. Her instinctive gift to connect to and take care of her characters is clear in all her performances.
“She is an old soul and she has learned to channel her organic empathy so that I, as the director, get to work with it and the audience, as the emotional viewers, gets to enjoy it. I am very much looking forward to working with her again.”
Hewson seems to have had good fun on the set of that movie (there is a series of YouTube videos featuring her goofing about with her co-stars David Emrich and Joe Anderson).
Then, the same summer, she took part in an acting programme at the New York Film Academy, a well-respected institution that prides itself on tutoring the children of celebrities. Another quirky short film ensued, Jorma's Blind Date, directed by another Film Academy alumnus, Jon Seidemann, and crediting a misspelled Eve Hewston.
And that was as far as Eve Hewson's public profile went until the past year, when she began to be photographed alongside her dashing US boyfriend (that relationship is now at an end), featured in the Sean Penn film and appeared in Charles Mehring's Script video and short film. Back in the summer of 2010, she was juggling both projects in the sweltering New York heat.
“There was no special security or paper work or legal release forms or entourage — it was like working with any young actress,” recalls Mehling. “Maybe it's an Irish thing, but she was really relaxed and disarming. She's reserved, but not guarded.
“She's not spewing with bombastic charisma, but she seems very serious about what she does. She seemed like a New Yorker, she knew the New York vibe very well.
“Her dad was only mentioned a couple of times in passing so I got the sense that it was neither a sore subject nor a subject that defines her.”
Indeed, Olwen Fouéré, who plays Hewson's on-screen mother in This Must be the Place, also paints a picture of a young woman remarkably unaffected by her family's fame. “People always say fame doesn't change the famous, it changes the people around them,” she says.
“But I felt very comfortable in her company and I thought Sean [Penn] and Eve worked very well together, possibly because there's a family connection. I got the feeling that she has thought very deeply about doing this and wanting to do this and you get the sense of somebody who's going to give it everything she's got and is going to work very hard.”
How does Mehling rate her as an actress? “She's very focused for her age. She was willing to give things a go and she did her best to interpret what I was looking for.
“I feel like she played who she is. I don't feel like she stepped far outside her own character, and I didn't need her to or ask her to, so I don't know how dynamic or versatile she is.
“She was playing a young Irish girl who missed her mom and dad and was far from home which is probably close to what she is. She was perfect.”
Any criticisms? He laughs. “I had to ask her to up her Irish accent because it was a little thin compared to the English actor [Luke Treadaway] who was playing her Irish boyfriend.”
How Bono’s kids managed to stay normal
Bono and Ali Hewson have been very protective of their children’s privacy over the years and seem acutely aware of what can befall the children of celebrities.
Ali recently revealed that she had warned Eve not to go into showbusiness, and she also says that she resists spoiling them.
“We have taken them to see the townships of South Africa,” she said in an interview last year. “Although they have so much more than myself and Bono did while growing up, we definitely don't spoil them.”
This approach seems to be working. While the younger boys, Elijah and John, are still in primary school, the older girls seem content to keep a low profile. After secondary schooling at St Andrew’s, 22-year-old Jordan is quietly studying at Columbia, and 19-year-old Eve, prior to her detour into acting, was at NYU.