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In 2007 Joaquin Phoenix co-starred alongside Eva Mendes in the drama We Own the Night. The actor shared that this film marked a shift in her career thanks to collaborating with veteran stars like Phoenix.

But the love scene in the film proved to be especially challenging for the star, who hadn’t done anything like it before.

Eva Mendes turned down ‘We Own the Night’ for a year

Eva Mendes smiling
Eva Mendes | Ernesto Ruscio/Getty Images

We Own the Night was a 2007 crime drama directed by James Gray. It starred Joaquin Phoenix as an owner of a bar that gangsters would frequent in the late 1980s. A series of circumstances pulled the bar owner into an all-out war the mobsters were having with the New York police.

Mendes played Phoenix’s girlfriend in the film, but it was a part she originally had her doubts with. So much so that she turned down an opportunity to star in the film for a year.

“Actually I said no for a year because I’m a complete idiot and I have a no reflex that I’ve learned just doesn’t work for me,” she once said in an interview with Collider. “I said no…I’m trying to figure out what it is. I’ve paid a lot of money for therapy, I just don’t understand. It ends up being the things I loved the most in life and the best experiences I have I usually say no to at the beginning.”

This was because the Hitch star didn’t see herself playing the girlfriend role. But she later changed her mind after Gray was willing to make some changes to her character in the script.

“I’ve been really selective in my career to play like independent women or women who have something to overcome of course, but to not be just the girlfriend cause you can fall into that hole so easily, you know? But anyhow, and then [James Gray] did a few re-writes. He was very persuasive and he just kept at it,” she added.

Eva Mendes cried before her sex scenes with Joaquin Phoenix

Mendes once shared that one of the most difficult parts of shooting We Own the Night was the love scene she had with Phoenix. So much so that she even needed a couple of drinks beforehand to get through the shot.

“I’ve certainly never shot anything as intimate before. It was really hard. I was actually crying because it was really hard for me to get there. And I told James and he said ‘How can I help you?’ And he was really patient,” she said in a 2007 interview with Cinema. “I said, ‘I guess there is just that little Catholic girl inside me that I didn’t know was still there.’ And he goes ‘well, it’s time to tell her to go home because you are an artist now.’ And I think it was a combination of that and the Vodka. It was like ‘God, you are right. What am I doing? This is the job.’ It was a major moment of growth.”

But what made shooting such scenes incredibly hard for the Fast and Furious alum star was that the intimacy couldn’t be faked.

“If you have to hit somebody you fake it, you’re not really going to do it. But if somebody is fondling your private parts, there’s no faking what you’re seeing on screen. You sit there and think ‘Oh my God, that’s really happening.’ And you can’t get it out of your head. Like my dad can’t see this movie, my mum can’t see this movie! I’ve told them when they see it they have to get there 15 minutes late so they miss that scene,” she said.

Eva Mendes refuses to do love scenes when she returns to acting


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As many know, Mendes took a long break from acting to focus on her family. The actor has been married to The Notebook star Ryan Gosling and shares two daughters with him. Recently, Mendes gave an interview on The View discussing a potential return to the big screen. But if and when she does, she will only do so under certain conditions.

“I have such a short list of what I will do,” she said. “Before kids, I mean, if it was a fun project — but now I won’t do violence, I don’t want to do sexuality; the list is short.”