She’s been reborn through a cow and dug her own grave. Eva Birthistle’s career has been nothing, if not interesting.
“I’ve done a lot of horror films and they are exhausting,” she said on a visit to her spiritual hometown Derry last week. “Before I did them I didn’t realise how draining both physically and emotionally they are. I was a big horror fan and that’s why I wanted to do them.
“They are hard work and you end up doing weird, dark things. I was reborn through a cow in one of them; I had to dig a grave and get in it at three o’clock in the morning on a very wet November night. Horror is not glamorous.
“Having had my first child, it’s put me off making horror films now. I had no children when I shot ‘The Children.’ To me now that is a deeply disturbing film.”
Eva was in town to present the further education awards at the North West Regional College where she once studied performing arts.
“It’s always nice to come back to the place which kick-started my career,” she said.
“Performing arts at the Tech which put me on the road to acting, so it’s really nice to be back, especially for this reason.
“That course had just started and we were the first students and the teachers were just starting and I think that made it a friendly, very tight knit group. I laughed a lot for two years - and had a great time.”
Since then Birthistle has carved out a varied career in film and television, from horror to historical drama, and films dealing with social and political issues like Ken Loach’s ‘Ae Fond Kiss’ and the Bloody Sunday film ‘Sunday.’
“With ‘Sunday’ I was portraying a real person and that brings with it its own responsibilities,” she maintained.
“You always take a great deal of care with whatever you are doing, but when you are portraying someone who has been through what they have been through, you want to do it in the best, most honest way.
“You feel like you owe it to them to get it right. It matters, it’s an important story.
“Ken highlights these issues on social issues so well and handles it with great honesty.
“To this day ‘Ae Fond Kiss’ is one of my favourite jobs and he is one of my favourite directors to have worked with as is Paul Laverty the writer.
“They choose their subject matter because it needs to be looked at and examined. It was the least ‘acty’ job I have done in a way, because he wants it to feel very natural and honest. It is a unique way of working because of that.
“You don’t work with a script as such, you get little bits as you go along. He is so full of integrity and the team that he works with is on the same page as he is. It makes for a lovely environment.
“With movies like this and people like Ken, they are making these movies for very good reasons, not for entertainment, but for change.”
Recently Eva has been seen in the BBC historical drama ‘The Last Kingdom.’
“We happened to start on BBC, but Netflix have bought it now, which I think is great as it will get a wider audience. I have no problem with that. Most of the stuff that I watch is on Netflix, not terrestrial ‘telly,’ it’s box sets.
The beauty of doing TV is that you know it is going to come out and people are going to see it. There’s always that gamble with film in that it might not come together, or get a limited release and then disappear. With TV you have to work in a much quicker way so it has an energy about it as you have to just crack on. But it might mean that you just get two takes at it and move on when you might feel that you haven’t quite explored it properly.
Eva is expecting her second child later this year and - as well as giving up horror films - she is looking at writing and directing in the future.
“I started writing when I was pregnant with my first child and I always wanted to direct so I thought the best way to get into that was to write,” she added.
“I didn’t know how much I was going to love writing. I have a feature which is now in development with the Irish Film Board and I am going to direct it.
“I will always act, but I am very much geared towards writing and directing and that’s very much better suited towards having a family.”