Lea Seydoux: not just a Bond girl.
NOMINATED BY ANNE-SOPHIE BERBILLE
INTERVIEW BY ANASTASIIA FEDOROVA
Have to admit, I have a photograph of Lea Seydoux pinned to my wall. She's holding a white dove and wearing Alexander McQueen kimono. It's taken by Collier Schorr, and I ripped it from a fashion magazine. My husband has got a crush on Lea Seydoux too. Among your friends there are most likely numerous admirers, both male and female. Seydoux is not just another actress whose career you follow, she is a crush, a role model, an inspiration. What is the secret?
She's wearing a patterned red dress, blue denim jacket and red velvet sandals. Just like one would imagine: sand blond hair, radiant complexion, French accent. At 30, Seydoux has got a Palme d'Or for a role in Abdellatif Kechiche's La Vie d'Adèle. She has got an extraordinary ability for transformation: from the maid in Wes Anderson's Grand Budapest Hotel to uncompromising Lone Leader in the upcoming Lobster to the mischievous face of Prada Candy. Her most critically acknowledged part in La Vie d'Adèle, however, sums up her talent pretty well: both the film and her character are heartbreakingly lifelike.
SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond epic, is a completely different story: a glamorous fantasy featuring the biggest explosion in cinema history. But even here Seydoux (under the guidance from director Sam Mendes) is trying to use similar artistic approach: tension, darkness and inner conflict. Her character, doctor Madeleine Swann, is the new type of Bond girl, not a pin up but Bond's equal in intelligence and action.
At a press junket in Corinthia hotel in London I am not the only journalist. Waiting in the large lush room with their coffees and laptops, my colleagues are used to the routine of interviewing film stars at a merry go round of film promotions. They are not too happy with Lea, she doesn't speak in prepared monologues which would make good quotes. Instead, she touches upon unnecessary depths of her experiences as an actress. She struggles for words sometimes, and there is an uncomfortable silence in the room. These moments feel awkward and, well, incredibly lifelike.
Lea Seydoux is perfect just because she isn't. There are circles under her celestial eyes. She doesn't hide her insecurities. She looks stunning on the red carpet wearing Prada or Miu Miu but the image we're more drawn to is the one of her everyday life she describes: leaving her Paris flat in a neighbourhood which is far from posh, no make up, jeans and t-shirt. There is treasured privacy in this image, intimacy which is irresistible in the age of endless digitalised vanity.
With SPECTRE premiering worldwide in the beginning of November, we talked to Lea about her heroine Madeleine Swann, reinventing the image of the Bond girl, insecurities and her path to acting.
What was your feeling about playing a Bond girl in the beginning?
I was quite afraid. For me the Bond girl was something like a seductive little cliché. I was not afraid of being a cliché, maybe more afraid of the behaviour expected from the Bond girl. She’s a real woman, very confident, and that’s something that I’ve never played before. My characters are always tortured, and they don’t have an obvious feminity. It’s the first time I really play a woman, and when I saw some footage I didn’t recognize myself.
Who’s your favourite Bond girl?
Eva Green is my favourite, and I love the love story. It’s also Daniel’s first James Bond.
How is Madeleine different from her predecessors?
I think she was a part of Sam Mendes’ perspective from the very beginning: she is unexpected and uncommon for the Bond girl, much stronger and much more independent. She doesn’t use her body to seduce Bond. She’s more of an intellectual, strong mind. The film as a whole sets a new definition of Bond. It’s darker, deeper, much more complex.
What made you overcome the fear and accept the part?
I feel today for an actress it’s not about the appearance anymore. We don't define ourselves by our physical appearance even if we want to be beautiful. We still flirt and take care of ourselves but now we have mind as strong as men’s, we are as intelligent, have the same possibilities. The beauty and sexuality can be also a weapon if you decide it, but you can also choose not to use it. Madeleine is beautiful and well dressed but she’s not interested in playing with that, and I’m not interested either. I don’t care about beauty. I mean of course I love to be surrounded by beauty, but even in fashion super models used to be the superstars but not anymore, now it’s about the spirit, personality. My character is not just beautiful, but real, tangible.
"I feel today for an actress it’s not about the appearance anymore. I don’t care about beauty. Now it’s about the spirit, personality."
You hardly ever pick roles of just pretty girls.
I wouldn’t be able to do it. This girl is more of a spirit.
How was it acting with Daniel?
The first time I met Daniel I was very shy. He looks like a man, and next to him I feel like a little girl or a boy, not very like a sexy woman. I was worried how is it going to look like, if the chemistry would work, but in the end it was great. It’s a new experience, something I’ve never acted before, it’s in English, my biggest part in English so far. I think Daniel is great in James Bond, it suits him so well, he is made for this character.
Did you get the part easily after the screen test?
The screen test was terrible. I was nervous and had a little beer to relax. I forgot my lines, had a panic attack, I was like "I’m so sorry, I don’t know...". Sam Mendes was not there, and when I met him later I was incredibly shy. I was blushing so I was trying to cover my cheeks with my hands.
But in the end he still chose you, it’s amazing. Did you like the costumes in the film, were you comfortable with Madeleine’s very feminine style?
I liked that she was different from me and very stylish, very chic. I’m not too posh, I like to dress but not like her, she’s more classical, more of a woman. I felt really comfortable though.
"When I was a kid I was afraid to be completely unable to reach the world. Now I have a social position, a job, a function. Finding my place makes me the happiest."
Do you feel like a celebrity in your everyday life?
Yes but it doesn’t change much I have to say. It’s a different level of celebrity, not like Daniel who’s a real superstar and can’t really walk on the street unnoticed. In Paris I take the subway and everything. Usually I don’t wear make and dress very casual. I live in an African neighbourhood where no one goes to the cinema, and also in my films I have different looks, and in the end if people recognize me they are always very nice. In France the comic actors are the real superstars, real heroes for the kids from the suburbs.
Coming back to the beginning, when have you first decided that you wanted to be an actress?
I was not so young, 19, and I started to do castings. I was a bad student, not good at school and often left alone. And then I met a friend. He was an actor and I found his life great. I felt it was made for me.
as Madeleine in Spectre.
You often mention that when you were younger you felt really alone.
Yes, I even had an imaginary friend. It was a little fairy called Eleanor. It was my first way of acting, I was talking to myself a lot, I mean, talking to my friend. But to be honest I think I’m still the same. I think that now it has changed in a way, I found my way in acting. It gave me a chance to meet people, to have social ability, to belong to the society. When I was a kid I was afraid to be completely unable to reach the world. Now I have a social position, I have a job, a function. And I’m apparently good for that. I belong to the world, I found my place. I know so many people who are lost and who feel that the world is not fitted for them. Finding my place makes me the happiest.
So this is how you found acting, by looking for your place in the world?
I was frightened. I think life is frightening. I had to survive. It’s a very human feeling, we have enormous abilities in terms of surviving. In our countries it’s not like war or anything but there is always an inner war, my own personal fights. Sometimes life can be very peaceful and quite, but you have to fight every day, we all fight. It’s strange that I see everything as a fight, maybe it’s because I’m French.