The 1920s was a time of change for women, who struggled to break away from centuries of repression that kept them in the home and playing housewife.
Women to this day struggle to find their own identity. It’s something that Mena Suvari said drew her to Hemingway’s Garden of Eden.
“As a woman you’re expected to live a certain lifestyle, or behave a certain way or look a certain way,” she told Tail Slate during a recent interview. “And I could relate to that, and the role of Catherine.”
Suvari, who has played roles in films such as American Beauty and Day of the Dead, was a fan of the Ernest Hemingway novel upon which it was based.
Published posthumously in 1986, the story follows a writer who marries a free-thinking young woman named Catherine (Suvari). The two spend their honeymoon in France. However, Catherine soon bores of the relationship and finds different ways to torture her new husband, who deeply loves her.
One of the things she does is draft a rich and beautiful Italian woman named Marita (Caterina Murino), with whom she begins a sexual relationship. She then forces her easily manipulated husband into a relationship with the girl, which then begins to destroy the marriage.
“She tries to fit this square peg into a round hole, and I think if people are fully honest with themselves, you have to fully honor and respect yourself before you get into a relationship,” Suvari said.
There’s lots of drinking, smoking and… making love. But the 31-year-old stressed that the movie was more than just a few racy sex scenes.
“This film is a very sexual film,” Suvari said, “but it’s also a character study and about the discovery of ones self and the transformation of ones self. It’s not just sex scenes for the sake of showing someone having sex.”
Outside of the racy love scenes, there is one other thing to note about the film: the stunning replica of a 1927 Bugatti.
“I had a few scenes with it, and everyone was really nervous,” Suvari said, laughing. “Jack [Huston] drove it a lot better than I did… I always make the insurance companies nervous. They’re always like, ’yeah, why don’t we put the stunt girl in there.’”
Her biggest challenge was getting used to the manual transmission.
“I would easily stall the car, so when I was driving down a hill they had sandbags set up and everything as if I was going to roll over and crash into someone,” she said with a laugh.
For her next role, Suvari goes from the beautiful shores of France to the dangerous streets of Palm City in NBC’s Batman-inspired The Cape.
“I play this character named Dice, and she’s a superhero villain,” she said. “I’m kind of like Catwoman, so I have a good purpose.”
Suvari said it was a challenge as the action role was unlike any she’d done before. And she’s hoping for a chance to return.
“I hope [they’ll invite me back] because they didn’t kill me off,” she said.
Hemingway’s Garden of Eden opens Dec. 10 in NYC and LA.