ABOVE: LÉA SEYDOUX IN SISTER. IMAGE COURTESY OF ADOPT FILMS
Léa Seydoux has certainly reached Gallic It-girl status; but the 27-year-old actress negotiates the worlds of film and fashion with an increasingly varied and ever-evolving CV. Shot by countless fashion photographers (Steven Meisel, Mario Sorrenti, and Ellen von Unwerth among them), Seydoux has established a relationship with the house of Prada as the face of their Candy fragrance and their 2012 Resort collection, all while working with directors as diverse in style and substance as Ridley Scott, Christophe Honoré, Benoît Jacquot, Woody Allen, and Quentin Tarantino. However, her latest effort as Louise, the titular sister in the sophomore effort from Franco-Swiss director Ursula Meier, is perhaps Seydoux’s most multifaceted and heart-wrenching role to date.
Set at a ski resort in the Swiss Alps, (and featuring striking cinematography by Agnès Godard), Sister stars Kacey Mottet Klein as Simon, a 12-year-old boy who steals ski equipment from wealthy guests to turn a profit, which in turn supports himself and his older sister. With no parents in sight, Louise, jobless and largely absent, prefers pursuing a string of suitors to looking after her kid brother, who fends for himself in a dismal apartment tower situated at the foot of the mountain.
What begins as a scrappy coming-of-age story turns bleak at a second-act plot twist, and Simon’s relationship with Louise—in addition his position as an autonomous not-quite child, not-yet adult—reveals, with utter poignancy, his vulnerability and desire for maternal love. Seydoux’s Louise is largely negligent, self-absorbed, and seemingly self-destructive, but the fleeting moments of tenderness that transpire between Louise and Simon speak to an unbreakable familial bond.
Interview sat down with the surprisingly shy and soft-spoken Seydoux in New York on Monday, to discuss the differences between French and American films, filming Sister and Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol simultaneously, her relationship with Mottet Klein, and her latest project, Christophe Gans’ Beauty and the Beast.
COLLEEN KELSEY: Looking at the movies you’ve made, and the roles you’ve played, the word that first comes to mind is variety. What about a certain role makes it interesting to you?
LÉA SEYDOUX: The director. I always choose a film for the director.
KELSEY: And less so for the character?
SEYDOUX: No, the character is important, of course, but I like when there’s intelligence. I like when it’s, how do you say, sensible. So for me a film is very subjective, and it’s a point of view. I like to be brought into a world [of a director].
KELSEY: And was that the case with Ursula? Were you a fan of hers from before?
SEYDOUX: You know, it’s only her second film. I like her personality. I did the casting for her first film, and because it was her first film, I didn’t know about her work. When I met her that time, I could see that she was a great director.
KELSEY: Who has been your favorite director to work with so far?
SEYDOUX: I really loved working with Woody Allen. And Ursula as well.
KELSEY: Who would you like to work with next?
SEYDOUX: I don’t like to project myself; I like to be surprised. There are many directors that I admire.
KELSEY: And you also just did Farewell, My Queen. You’ve been in a number of period dramas—is it good to get out of the corset once in awhile?
SEYDOUX: Yes—but I love period films. I’m doing Beauty and the Beast.
KELSEY: Yes, with Gérard Depardieu. Can you tell me anything about it?
SEYDOUX: I know he’s very difficult.
KELSEY: Have you started filming yet, or is it still in pre-production?
SEYDOUX: Yeah, in pre-production. And you know Vincent Cassel? He’s doing the Beast.
KELSEY: Do you know a lot about the style of the film? Is it going to be more of a classic fairy tale, or more surreal?
SEYDOUX: Very “princess.”
KELSEY: What do you find to be the differences between making movies in France and making American films?
SEYDOUX: It’s different, but it’s still acting, you know. You still have doubts and you’re scared, always, but I really love doing films in America, because I love to speak English. [laughs] But I think there’s something very entertaining about American films. But I also like the intimacy of French films.
KELSEY: You must get different things out of doing a film like Sister and then doing Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol.
SEYDOUX: Yes. But you know, it was funny, because when I was shooting Sister I was doing re-takes for Mission: Impossible.
KELSEY: You were going between these two extremes.
KELSEY: I have to ask—did you go away on ski vacations while growing up? Are you a good skier?
SEYDOUX: No, I’m not. [laughs] I was always the last one.
KELSEY: Your character’s relationship with Simon, Kacey’s character, is a very natural and intimate one to watch. Did you set aside time to get to know one another before shooting?
SEYDOUX: Yes, we spent some time together. It wasn’t easy at the beginning because I was coming from Mission: Impossible. I could feel that he, I don’t know if he was scared, probably. But I spent time with him. I went to Lausanne in Switzerland and we bought chocolates and went shopping. He has this very strong personality. It was very nice. I really liked it.
KELSEY: Are you still close now?
SEYDOUX: Yes. And the thing is that, at the beginning of filming, it was not easy because I was doing re-shoots, I had to go back and forth. And for him, I wasn’t there everyday, so, maybe that’s why it was strange for him. And then, when I finally stayed, we became very close. We have the same humor. We are two kids.
KELSEY: Louise as a character is certainly flawed. Why do you think she can’t give Simon the attention and affection he needs?
SEYDOUX: Because she’s a kid.
KELSEY: She’s just not ready to make that step to sacrifice her selfishness?
KELSEY: What did you appreciate the most about Sister as a story?
SEYDOUX: I loved the fact that they are in their own world, in this tower, and that they are completely out of the society. I like when there’s fantasy—always, in all films.
SISTER IS OUT IN LIMITED RELEASE THIS FRIDAY, OCTOBER 5.