Centre France June 10, 2001

Great Variation

by Marcia Maalox

She incarnated the virtuous Joan of Arc in Luc Bessonís film, and comes back as a madame in The Claim, which opens soon.

She has big eyes and a slightly cracked voice. An androgynous silhouette and a lad look; in the street, she doesnít walk, she undulates. Saintly in Joan of Arc, she is a madame in The Claim, the new film by Michael Winterbottom. Milla Jovovich goes from the sky to hell, from virtue to vice, with a confusing naturalness. Thatís like her, this walking between the two: singer and actress, American and Ukrainian, rocker and romantic. In Joan of Arc she saved France from English invasion and gave back to the nation her identity in front of God. In The Claim, adapted from a beautiful novel by Thomas Hardy The Mayor of Casterbridge, she falls in love with a prospector who, a long time ago, abandoned his wife and his daughter. In the America of the 1800s, Milla again finds her duality. Angel and demon, of course.

A life and a career already full

In the hotel where she's staying she canít escape notice; a little make-up transforms her into a top model. She is accosted for an autograph and asked about her private life which is mysterious. Of course, she was Mrs. Besson for a short time and she acted in two films directed by the most famous French director. But she found again herself free. Their personalities were not compatible. Their paths diverged. He made one or two films, entrenched himself in his property in Sees, in Basse-Normandie. She went out to conquer the world by way of Hollywood. Milla Jovovich doesnít dawdle. She settles where the wind takes her. And she sets off again. The result is a career already full. She is only 25 years old. At 11 years old, she was a mannequin. At 15 years old, she could sleep, like OncíPicsou, on a heap of dollars. At 16 years old, she made an album. Her desired success remained unfamiliar to her; she doesnít understand why she is admired. Maybe a bit of exoticismÖ "When teenagers of my generation were asking themselves what they will do one day, I was asking myself which contract to sign." Milla Jovovich had a headstart. There is an explanation: she takes the light well and the camera loves her. There is a mystery to the photogenic, that Milla edge. Companies quickly spotted her - she wore Versace shirts, Armani jackets, and the colors of LíOreal. Well advised, she coined her face and her modern look girl-boy and acquired a precious independence. "Iím not obligated to accept anything", she says. To be able to choose is the luxury of life . . .

Vagabond in soul

She is everywhere and nowhere. She is a gypsy in soul, a vagabond. Milla Jovovich was born in Ukraine, in Kiev, in 1975. She lived in France, in America, perhaps in Lapland? Her father, a doctor, left his native Yugoslavia and went to Moscow for training. He fell in love with a Soviet actress. The doctor continued to care for the sick while the actress left her art, but later spoke about it to her daughter. Milla inherited nostalgia: Mom narrated tales of the studios, the smell of make-up foundation, the camaraderie, the cameras. Dreams are passed on . . . in 1981, the Jovovich family fled the Iron Curtain through Berlin, Paris, New York, & finally Sacramento. In California, Milla discovered convertibles, TV shows, ketchup, and Billy Joel - a windfall for a child. She learns the language quickly. Her mother introduced Milla to show-biz and she let herself go: itís more interesting than mathematics.

Rock'n'roll and running away cascades before the dedication

She listens to Nine Inch Nails and U2, she poses for magazines, she opts for a guitar while her friends play with Barbies. She is passionately fond of rock . She sees herself with a mike in front of spasmodic spectators. Mom tells her, "Take your exams firstÖ". Milla runs away with a boy and marries him in Las Vegas. Three days after, Mrs. Jovovich annuls the marriage as Milla is only 16 years old! Return to the starting point. Refuge with a bass player, this time in London. Itís farther away. Here, the fashion industry contacts her: Mario Sorrenti, top model photographer, takes her under his wing: a dedication. Business managers make offers & the great dressmakers invite her.

Glorious? Indeed. But there is film. Milla stars in Return to the Blue Lagoon, some comedies, and finally in The Fifth Element, a huge success. In one month, she becomes the idol of teenagers. Without losing her direction. "I am just founding my own production company," she says. In The Claim, she gives a mystic note, faraway, to her role of Madonna of the streets. She acts with her ambiguous charm while noting with simplicity that she simply prefers to be a woman. "You have the right to cry, you wear beautiful dresses, and you are rescued first when the boat sinks . . . "