She met her current love, music producer George Augusto, shortly after high school, and the two now own a midcentury house in the Hollywood Hills. To hear Mendes tell it, her idea of a fun night is staying home with her dog, Hugo, a Belgian Malinois, to watch the episodes of 60 Minutes she Tivo’ed. Lately she has been listening to recordings of Maria Callas, whom Mendes says she’d love to play onscreen. “You can catch me at a very dark hour listening to an aria from Norma and crying my f---in’ eyes out,” she says. “I love doing that.”
She’s also fascinated by the diva’s decision to abandon her career for shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis. “She gave it all up in the name of love, only to be left because she gave it up,” says Mendes, who is developing a project based on a Callas biography by Nicholas Gage. She admits that the story has become something of an obsession for her, seeing in it, perhaps, resonances with her own dual passions. “I’m a modern woman in the sense of I take care of myself, I’m fiercely independent and I’m really ambitious,” she says. “Yet I have these old-school thoughts ingrained in my mind. I do like to belong to a man. I love having a man in my life and being his woman at the end of the day. I know it’s a dichotomy.”
Motherhood is another role Mendes has yet to fully resolve. “I’ve never had a longing to have children,” she says. “I’ve been thinking about it lately because it’s like, Oh, God, am I going to do this? I don’t know is the answer.”
Despite her candor about most issues, she refuses to discuss her 2008 stint in rehab at Utah’s Cirque Lodge—for what her reps then vaguely called “professional support” for “personal issues”—professing that audiences know too much about actors. But she does go to therapy weekly, she allows, and “loves” self-help, pointing out that she regularly listens to audiobooks by self-help gurus Wayne Dyer and Eckhart Tolle. “It’s really interesting,” she says of Tolle’s The Power of Now, “especially because Eckhart has such a comforting voice. It’s great to fall asleep to that and just have that sit in my subconscious.”
The next time we meet, it’s the day after the Met ball, and Mendes has her hand stuck in a glass of ice at the St. Regis hotel. The diamond-studded ring she’d borrowed to wear the night before with her Dolce & Gabbana strapless floral gown is still on her finger. The jewelers had shown up that morning to retrieve it, she tells me, but try as she might, she couldn’t yank it off. So now she’s soaking her swollen finger, hoping to remove the ring before her afternoon flight to L.A.