In a groundbreaking moment for Ireland earlier this year, the country etched its name in history with a staggering 14 Academy Award nominations, proudly showcasing the talents of Irish luminaries like Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Kerry Condon, Barry Keoghan and Paul Mescal.
As Oscar predictions begin anew for the new season, Keoghan and Mescal re-enter the fray, each vying for spots with their performances in Saltburn (for the former) and All of Us Strangers and Foe (for the latter). Joining them is 32-year-old Dublin-born Eve Hewson, who leads the poignant musical dramedy Flora and Son, helmed by John Carney (Once, Begin Again).
In Flora and Son, Hewson embodies a single mother in Dublin navigating the challenges of raising her troubled son, Max (Orén Kinlan), while grappling with minimal support from her ex-husband (Jack Reynor).
The story takes a turn when she discovers a discarded guitar and embarks on lessons guided by an online instructor based in Los Angeles, portrayed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Through this journey, Flora discovers her voice and a poignant connection with her son.
Critically acclaimed for her performance, Deadline praised Hewson’s “tour-de-force breakout,” while the Boston Herald hailed her as “glorious” in the titular role.
Flora and Son debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in January and was picked up by Apple TV+, where it’s currently streaming. Hewson already stars on the streamer’s Peabody Award-winning series, Bad Sisters, also set in Dublin.
For Hewson, Flora and Son is a culmination of a gradual ascent in her career.
The daughter of U2 frontman Bono and his wife Ali Hewson, their second-born daughter’s earlier roles include small roles in 2011’s This Must Be the Place alongside Sean Penn and 2015’s Bridge of Spies, starring Tom Hanks. She was part of Steven Soderbergh’s ensemble medical period drama The Knick in 2014. Hewson portrayed Maid Marion in the 2018 star-studded Robin Hood, sharing the screen with Jamie Foxx, Taron Edgerton and Jamie Dornan. In 2020, she played Nikola Tesla’s wife opposite Ethan Hawke in the biographical drama Tesla.
A graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Hewson now stands poised for her moment in the spotlight. Here, she delves into her journey with Flora and Son.
Did you audition for this role?
I actually didn’t audition for it. I assumed I was going to. My agent sent me the script and I devoured it, loved it and was like, ‘This has to be me.’ But I think John Carney wasn’t thinking about me for the role. There were other people he saw as Flora.
I think he’d seen me in things where I was playing a period character, or in a costume and he just couldn’t picture me as Flora. I had to get on Zoom and convince him that I was Flora.
How did that go?
I kind of went ‘Full Flora’ and was very passionate and intense about my love for her and what I wanted to do with her. It’s one of those things where there’s a chemistry that happens sometimes with a director and an actor where you have the same ideas and the same taste. It’s a spark that’s lit and that happened at that meeting.
Why did you assume you’d have to audition?
Usually, you have to audition for things, and especially for this part, because it was a lead, I assumed that he would want to see me on tape. But I also have done enough work now that I think people are like, ‘Okay, she can play different parts.’
In this case, John Carney wasn’t yet sold on the idea of you playing this part. An in-person meeting is more conducive to creating a connection instead of the barriers presented over Zoom.
I’m usually a little bit more modest when I go into these meetings with directors. I’m usually kind of like, ‘If you would like me to do it, I would like to do it.’
With this, I don’t know what happened to me. Something came over me and I was just very confident. I was like, ‘I know what this is. I love this. I know exactly what I’m going to do.’ John even said [later], ‘She kind of told me what the movie was; I thought it was something different, and then she was like, no, it’s this.’
I guess he liked my vision. In an unusual turn of events, I was very confident in myself that I could get this job done.
What did you love about the script and the character that made you just go for it in the Zoom meeting?
The character is just brilliant. I love the idea of a movie being a character study, which we don’t really see anymore. I thought there was so much I could do with it. With me being Irish and Flora being an Irish character growing up in Dublin, I really know who she is. I felt a very instinctual, visceral connection to her.
You are the Flora in Flora and Son! Was that daunting?
No! (laughs) I’ve been acting a long time and I was like, ‘Give me my lead role! I’m ready, put me in coach! I am ready to rock!’
I have other actor friends that ask me, ‘Why do you think that you could carry a movie?’ I’m like, ‘I don’t know, I just do.’ (laughs)
You have to believe in yourself that you’ve got this. But there was a lot of pressure for sure. I felt that in my prep. I’m a very organized, detail-oriented weirdo, so I had a schedule every single day for two months of my prep for this film because I knew it would be a big undertaking. I felt that pressure.
Then when I was shooting it, it was just like, ‘Don’t look left, don’t look right, don’t look back, just keep going, keep going.’ At the end of the shoot, you can start to analyze all of the things you did wrong, but I believe in putting your blinders on and going for it at the moment.
The relationships that Flora has around her, including her son, her ex-husband and her guitar teacher are very rich and deep. Did you have chemistry reads with any of the actors playing opposite you?
Usually, I would but this all came together quickly. Jack Reynor is good friends with John Carney and was in two other John Carney projects, so he was already cast as Ian (Flora’s ex.). They were looking for who could play Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character, but we never met before. We never had a chemistry read. Then Orén, who plays my son, he had sent in a tape and they cast him pretty quickly as well.
You shot this film as an independent feature in five weeks, but you’ve also appeared in big-budget studio films. Do you have a preference for the type of scale you’d rather work on?
This project was the dream job. I don’t really care about doing big stuff. I’ve done big stuff before and it’s a pretty miserable experience. I’m not going to lie. I much prefer an indie set. I much prefer character-driven stories.
It’s funny now because Flora and Son is a low-budget indie and it was bought by Apple and put on this big platform, with billboards all around Los Angeles! But it doesn’t matter the scale. I go for the character and I’m drawn to the experience of the project rather than the size of it.
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