Ludivine Sagnier, one of the leading actresses from acclaimed French films 'Mesrine: Killer Instinct' and 'Mesrine: Public Enemy No.1' talk to RTÉ.ie.
Born in a bourgeois Paris suburb, Ludivine Sagnier, has been acting since the age of ten, although it wasn’t until she became the muse of filmmaker François Ozone that audiences began to take note. Most significantly came their international hit ‘Swimming Pool’ (2003), a sexually explicit drama.
Now 30, married and with two young daughters, Sagnier has become a celebrated actress, having appeared in such acclaimed films as the murder mystery, ‘Eight Women’, and the wartime drama, ‘Un Secret’. She talks to RTÉ.ie about her new project, the double bill ‘Mesrine: Killer Instinct’ and ‘Mesrine: Public Enemy No. 1’, detailing the incredible true story of Jacques Mesrine — gangster, womaniser, jail breaker and fugitive, who remains something of a cult figure across the Channel. As Sylvia Jeanjacquot to Vincent Cassel’s title character, Sagnier plays the prostitute turned lover, who was with Mesrine right up until his violent demise.
RTÉ.ie: What is it in your opinion that separates French actresses from the Hollywood norm that gives them that. ‘je ne sais quoi’.
Ludivine Sagnier: It’s very difficult to define. Something that is ‘impalpable.’ It’s true that French women have an aura. Marion Cotillard or Eva Green, for example. French actresses, they have it [she clicks her fingers]. I don’t know what, but they have it. There’s vulnerability. In Hollywood vulnerability is viewed as a failure, whereas in France it is seen as strength.
RTÉ.ie: How much did you know about Jacques Mesrine beforehand?
LS: Well, to be honest, I was never really bothered with the crime pages. But when I was asked to read for the part for Sylvia I started to interest myself. The thing is I was born in ‘79, the year he got shot [gunned down on the streets of the French capital by a police hit squad], so to me he was like a historic person. I had a box of documentation and I started to enquire, like a private detective, particularly online. Plus Sylvia had written her own biography, which was very revealing. So I used those things and also my imagination.
RTÉ.ie: Did you meet her?
LS: No, because she didn’t want to. She’s completely overwhelmed by this tragedy…and she wanted to be paid.
RTÉ.ie: She spent four years in prison and was quite badly injured in the assassination.
LS: She lost her eye, her arm and her poodle. The dog saved her.
RTÉ.ie: In another film, ‘The Girl Cut In Two’, you play someone fatally attracted to an unsuitable older man.
LS: It gets worse! Usually the broken hearts are much more interesting and daring than strong women who understand everything. Maybe it’s that my life is so normal and balanced that I try to get myself endangered.
RTÉ.ie: Were you not a bit of a wild child, extolling the virtues of smoking, drinking, eating gourmet food, without any interest in living a healthy lifestyle?
LS: Ahh…I changed so much. I used to be a kind of a Lily Allen type, but now I’m a mum, so I go to the gym, I don’t smoke anymore. Its not because I want to be healthy it’s because my husband (director Kim Chapiron) is like the Taliban. And, I don’t really drink much because I’m too tired.
RTÉ.ie: You’re still comfortable filming nude scenes?
LS: You know being naked onscreen seems to be so easy but it’s such a challenge. In ‘Mesrine’ I have some love scenes with Vincent. It wasn’t that easy at all, especially because there were so many heterosexual males on set and they were like ‘’Okay!’ [She mimics the eager rubbing of hands]. I have to be tough. It’s really intimidating.
RTÉ.ie: After ‘Swimming Pool’, you were hailed as “the new Bardot”.
LS: Clichés are a tool to communicate, but when I’m compared to Brigitte Bardot I’m flattered because she was an actress that really broke the rules. She was a rebel. In that way I feel close to her.
RTÉ.ie: You chose not to walk through the doors that began opening up for you in LA.
LS: For me, being ambitious means also wanting happiness…I love the United States, but the competition is so intense. I remember going to castings and the other actresses watching me with so much hate. In French we have a saying. ‘You have to sweep in front of your own doorstep first.’
RTÉ.ie: Will it be a while before you allow your daughters to watch your films?
LS: My eldest daughter watched ‘Peter Pan’ [Sagnier played a mute Tinkerbell in the 2003 remake] and she watched ‘Eight Women’, but she doesn’t understand it. The other day she says at school in front of the teacher, ‘You know my mum she killed her father’. [Laughing] So yeah, nudity, of course she’s too young to see that, but you know I don’t feel ashamed. When she’s old enough she can say how my mum was so sexy because it’s never in a way that I regret.
‘Mesrine: Killer Instinct’ is in Irish cinemas from 7 August.
‘Mesrine: Public Enemy No. 1' is in cinemas from 28 August .