Interview: Eva Mendes on David Lynch, Ayn Rand, and Making it in Los Angeles

When I sat down to interview Eva Mendes, I knew what everyone knows right off the bat about her: She's incredibly beautiful. But I didn't know she's funny too until I saw the film The Other Guys, a buddy cop comedy with Will Farrell and Mark Wahlberg in which Mendes co-stars. As I was shown into the room where we were conducting our interview, I was simultaneously struck by her attire and attitude. Impeccably dressed from head to toe in a form-fitting pink dress that showed off her beautiful figure and stunningly high heels, Mendes was casually petting her beautiful Belgian shepherd, Hugo, who slept peacefully on the couch next to her. During our interview, Mendes would prove herself thoughtful, warm, and willing to laugh, even at herself.

Amanda Mae Meyncke: What is it in life that you want the most?

Eva Mendes: [After a long pause] I guess … balance.

AMM: And how do you work towards achieving that in your life?

EM: I'm actually big into meditation, transcendental meditation, and that really helps create not only a sense of balance, but all the other stuff this is gonna sound cliché ... serenity and kind of a calm state of mind. And not that I'm like that all the time, but it helps me deal with life's ups and downs, coming from more of a centered place. Also it helps with creativity, and I never thought about it in that way until I read, and listened to, the audiobook of one of my favorite directors David Lynch, Catching the Big Fish. The audio is really interesting because you hear his voice and there's something so amazing about him, and his voice its so incredibly regular and I mean that in the best way possible. He sounds like a regular dude and then you see Eraserhead, and you see Mulholland Drive and Wild at Heart ... and its just like "What?!"

AMM: How has transcendental meditation helped you creatively?

EM: It's almost like it helps creatively on a level that I can't describe. I can give you a list of things I think, but it's tapping into something so deep that when I reap the rewards, I don't even know I'm reaping them. It's a more overall kinda thing.

AMM: What other books have you been reading? What's your favorite?

EM: The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. I just love architecture, and I just love the idea of being someone who sees the world differently and doing everything you can do in order to actualize that dream. And really sticking to your guns when everyone else is telling you that you're crazy. There's something very romantic to me about people who persevere, and who get told "no, no, no" on a daily basis, and still do it anyway. Frank Lloyd Wright is someone I look up to, and find so inspiring because I believe, and you can check me and correct me, but I believe he was most prolific after 80.

AMM: Does that "sticking to your guns" aspect resonate with you personally?

EM: In a way, in a broader way, just part of being an actor, you're told on a daily, on a momentary basis, "No it's not going to work, no, no, no, no." Especially early on, when you're trying to get somewhere. At least later on they say no in a kinder way. But early on, you've got to get thick skin and you've got to persevere.

AMM: What sorts of music do you like?

EM: Lately I'm obsessed with Dead Man's Bones. They're amazing. And then I love Julian Casablancas, some solo stuff he did called Phrazes for the Young, that's unbelievable. I've been getting back into Burt Bacharach, that's my summer hits, my summer jams! Amazing and his songs are just so happy. I'll throw Henry Mancini in there, that real kind of old-school, beautiful, almost ethereal ... "Moon River" is one of my favorite songs. But I'm always up for a new band, that's why Dead Man's Bones are rocking my world right now.

AMM: If you weren't acting what would you be doing?

EM: With my love for architecture, probably some kind of interior design or building design.

EM: Actually I don't feel it as a problem, and I have such a tight group of friends that I've been friends with since I was 10 years old. And I have a really good kind of bulls--- radar, and it's amazing 'cause it's a good one. People in my inner circle of loved ones -- we're tight and I've never misjudged someone as far as I know; I can feel someone's intentions, I know their intentions before they probably are honest enough with themselves to know it, so that's my strength. The other part is that I'm really loving and open at the same time. I have to be a little bit guarded, because I can be very open and I like to include people, but then again I have to remind myself to be careful.

AMM: How do you feel about Los Angeles?

EM: I love L.A., I grew up here. I know the city, but when I say that I grew up in L.A. some people are like, "How weird was that?!" Well, I didn't grow up at Chateau Marmont or on Sunset Boulevard, I grew up in a normal home, it was totally normal. I tend to stay away from Beverly Hills, I'm an east-side snob, I'm Los Feliz, I'm Beachwood, I'm Silverlake…

AMM: What sort of advice would you give someone who was starting out in Los Angeles?

EM: That's tough. If you don't know anybody? God, that's very tough because you know, part of me wants to say, "Turn around and go home" because you know, I can get so protective of people who come here without anybody. The one thing I cannot tolerate in life is seeing people being taken advantage of, I cannot tolerate it; I can't even see it in a movie. That can borderline on abuse and so what I would say is: really know when to put that guard up, and know how to really read people because that will help you along the way. Knowing when someone's the real deal or not, but still with putting your guard up and self-protecting, you've got to stay open. It comes back to balance. It's that fine balance of staying open, because once you stay open, it's incredible what starts unfolding. When I've been open and accepting of where I am, things start opening up.

Eva Mendes co-stars in The Other Guys, which opens everywhere this Friday.