STACY MARTIN IN LONDON, JANUARY 2014. STYLING: KAREN CLARKSON
Through a transatlantic phone connection, Stacy Martin‘s voice, despite its softly French-inflected English accent, conveys a slight but palpable uneasiness. “I’m not a nymphomaniac,” she interjects suddenly. “It’s a film.” Her need to make this distinction is not surprising considering that, fresh out of acting school, the 23-year-old ingénue’s debut role is in the patently provocative Lars von Trier film Nymphomaniac. Martin plays the younger version of Charlotte Gainsbourg‘s character, Joe, who, in fact, does possess the film’s title trait. But Martin didn’t find it all that difficult to relate to her character’s predilections. “As an actress, I just had to go through Joe’s discovery,” she says. “It was very organic. There’s a line in the film that is something like: ‘It’s the accumulation of relationships that makes her a nymphomaniac, not one single particular relationship.’ It’s such a good line. Only Lars could write it.” The point is, while the sum of the parts may be absurdly extreme, the parts themselves are infinitely relatable.
Nymphomaniac portrays hardcore, full-penetration sex over the course of its four grueling hours (and that’s just the length of the non-director’s-cut version). Martin and co-stars, such as Shia LaBeouf, wore prosthetic genitals that took up to three hours to put on every day. For some of the steamier scenes, they even had porn-actor doubles—”Basically her privates have become mine,” Martin says of her stand-in. But Martin thinks of it as a movie about relationships—about life. “The sexuality is just very real,” she says. “It’s important to show that. Sometimes it’s bad and sometimes it’s ugly, and there’s no shame in that.”
Martin had something of an unconventional childhood. Born in Paris to an English mother and a French father, she was raised between there and Tokyo, and decamped to London at age 18, where she studied acting while supporting herself as a model. She never expected her career to take off so quickly. (In her next project she stars with Tommy Flanagan in the independent British drama Barking at Trees.) Martin seems rather mature considering her recent entry into showbiz, and she regards challenging the audience one of the more thrilling aspects of her work. “If you’re in a relationship, you give yourself over to the other person, especially when you’re having sex. You’ve sort of lost control. It’s not something that’s valued in our society because we are so individualistic.” Martin pauses a moment, then adds, “Maybe it’s good for people to think about that. Maybe we don’t want to live like this anymore.”
COSMETICS: LA MER, INCLUDING CREÌ?ME DE LA MER; ESTEÌE LAUDER, INCLUDING PURE COLOR CRYSTAL LIPSTICK IN TWINKLING RUBY. HAIR: DANIEL MARTIN/D+V MANAGEMENT. MAKEUP: ARIELYEH. MANICURE: SABRINA GAYLE FOR CHANEL/LMC WORLDWIDE. SET DESIGN: JUDE SINGLETON. SPECIAL THANKS: PROVISION STUDIOS AND THE ARCHES.