As we sit and talk, though, it's Green's mysterious eyes that capture your attention. A sultry stare also comes in handy for “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” from writer-directors Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller. Like the first “Sin City,” it is based on Miller's graphic novels. Green plays the twisted femme fatale Ava Lord in the film, which opens Aug. 22.
A penetrating gaze also informed her character, Vanessa Ives, in the recently completed first season of Showtime's “Penny Dreadful.” In the sophisticated horror series set in Victorian England, Green is an enigmatic medium who at times is possessed by strange spirits.
“She's phenomenal — the fulcrum of the piece. She's a ferociously committed actor,” says “Penny Dreadful” creator John Logan, the Tony Award-winning playwright and screenwriter of “Gladiator” and “Skyfall” who spent six months wooing Green for the role.
“A TV series requires quite an important commitment and that was my fear,” says the 34-year-old French-born actress. “But Vanessa is such an amazing role with so many colors to play.”
The first season of “Penny Dreadful” gave Green a number of showcase moments. In the second episode, Vanessa is at a séance when she is suddenly controlled by several demons. It's a riveting scene that goes on for five or six minutes, during which the actress becomes several different people.
As Ava Lord in “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For,” Green also had some of those turn-on-a-dime and become another person scenes. The trick to doing them, she says, is “not going over the top — that and the transitions, of course.”
“Ava plays the damsel in distress but she is also kind of a bitch,” adds Green, who appears almost shy and reserved. “The challenge to that was making her believable because she's lying all the time.”
Rodriguez says Green was the only person that he and Miller could agree on to play Ava. “She pulls it off to where you go, ‘She's a dame to kill for,' ” he says.
In June, a poster for the film was banned by the Motion Picture Association of America “for nudity.” The graphic-comic stylized illustration shows the actress in a see-through white robe that emphasizes the curves of her figure. ABC also rejected a TV ad for the film because of Green's sexy pose.
When asked about it, she shakes her head. “I thought it was a joke when I heard. John Logan sent me an email when I was in Hungary and asked, ‘What's up with this?' I'm not sure why people objected,” she says. “You sort of guess the outline of the boob. I am holding a gun, though, and no one questions that. It's all about nothing really.”
There is a fair amount of nudity in “A Dame to Kill For,” which is in 3-D, but the actress is no stranger to that. She made her film debut in Bernardo Bertolucci's sensuous coming-of-age film “The Dreamers” (2003). Set against the backdrop of the 1968 Paris student riots, it tells the story of three young people and their sexual experimentation.
Green actually grew up in Paris. Her father is Swedish. Her French mother is Marlène Jobert, an actress who worked with Jean-Luc Godard and Louis Malle, two of France's greatest New Wave directors. Interestingly, before being cast in “The Dreamers,” the actress had a poster on her wall of Bertolucci's most notorious film, “Last Tango in Paris” (1972), starring Marlon Brando, which made waves because of its sexual content.
In 2005, another heavyweight director, Ridley Scott, cast her in his Crusades epic, “Kingdom of Heaven.” The next year found her in the re-launch of the James Bond franchise in “Casino Royale” as the sexy but strong Vesper Lynd, a female to match Daniel Craig as the newly minted 007.
Though Green now bases herself in London, she says it was that film that accounts for her English accent.
“I had a lot of pressure when making it, actually. The studios were insistent that Vesper had to be British. So I worked night and day on my accent with a coach,” Green says. “And I still work on it because of certain intonations or tendencies. I'm kind of a geek that way. I love languages and working on accents. It helps with building a character.”
Along with her film career, Green has appeared in a number of fashion ads for the likes of Armani, Lancôme, Emporio Armani, Montblanc and Dior, among others. I ask her to show me the large rings she is sporting. “It's like my armor,” she jokes. “These two are from a Russian designer that I'm very fond of, and this one's from Morocco, and this I've had since the age of 15, which is a long time,” she says, pointing to the silver skull.
Green was planning to talk with Logan the next day about the second season of “Penny Dreadful,” which starts shooting in Dublin in September.
“It's a luxury to work with him because I can go, ‘Do you mind if we cut that?' Or, ‘I wish we had more complexity there.' And he like, ‘No problem.' He is so gifted and open. I feel lucky.”
She wouldn't give any hints where her character might go in the 10-episode second year. “I think John would cut off my head.” But she would say: “It won't be the same. It's not like, here she goes again. She's going on another journey.”
As if she's not busy enough, Green recently signed on to shoot “Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children,” which Tim Burton will direct. The two had previously worked together on “Dark Shadows” (2012). She plays the title character, a guardian of a group of orphans with special powers.
As far as roles are concerned, Green prefers complexity, but says, “I don't want to be typecast with people thinking ‘She is just dark and a femme fatale.' A good comedy might be simpler, maybe. I don't know. I like complex. So we'll see.”
As intense as the roles she takes on might be, don't think Green spends all her time brooding. “I can get out of the character really quickly and have fun with the crew,” she says.
Since the actress describes herself as a quiet homebody type, it's curious as to why she's attracted to such strong and fearsome roles.
“I don't know. I should ask a therapist,” she says with a small smile. “It's kind of liberating for me to play kind of evil people because I'm so not like that in real life. You know, I'm not too confident. So it's just kind of fun.”