Femme April 1998

By Gonzague Saint Bris translation by Patricia Belzile & Michael Hayes

Milla Jovovich not quite the same, not quite another ; married, happy, soon to be Joan of Arc.

It's to Femme that she chooses to say it: Milla Jovovich became madam Luc Besson. In love, she talks about her husband like nobody else could. A revealed actress, she also celebrates the genius of her director.

Like Anne of Kiev coming from the Ukraine in the eleventh century to marry Henry I of France, Milla Jovovich, born in the same place, has also married her French man, but in Las Vegas. And he's Luc Besson. Milla is a persona with the bearing of a dancer worthy of Isadora Duncan. She has iced blue eyes and well cut shoulders, apt to carry an armor. She looks like Joan of Arc, the lady that she will soon portray on the big screen for Besson, like a fighter in the conquest of Orleans. Born in Kiev twenty two years ago, under the sign of Capricorn, she emigrated to California with her parents in 1980 and lived with them on a farm near a forest, not far from Sacramento. At eleven, she was photographed by Herb Ritts and at seventeen she played Charlie Chaplin's first wife in the film . Rarely will a rising star talk to you that remarkably about literature. She quotes the great russian poetess Anna Akhmatova, she evokes Zola, discusses the human comedy, reads a poem of Pouchkine and declaresa "I would love to have Voltaire, Diderot, Madam Pompadour, and Madam Chatelet at my table."

"I love Balzac", claims Milla, "because of his details of Parisian life, because of what he knew on every social strata. He would have made a wonderful director. I read him so many times in Los Angeles! I was suffering in that desert, where there was no culture, no museums, where even my friends had a limited life. I thought L.A. was the center of the world." So it's with a sweet veneration that the heroine of talks about her mother, an extremely beautiful woman: "She was an actress in Russia. It was almost predestined for me. I continued down her path to finish her work. She couldn't be a true artist in a country that wasn't free. She gave me liberty and I gave her back her dream.''

- What importance has your continent of origin for you?
"The tradition of Russian spirit is a lot of humor, history and art at the same time. And so many suffering and frustrations, it's enormous!"

A childhood memory?
"One day I went to see a clairvoyant; I was eleven and she said to me that my parents had problems. She stole my money. I came back to my house broke, so my father beat me."

- When did your destiny change?
"I read so many books. I was looking at life through windows, and finally I met a man. I got married with Luc Besson in Las Vegas, not in five minutes, but in ten! He didn't ask me", she says smiling, and she added delightfully: "I asked him. It was funny. We got married on December 14, the exact birth date of my grandmother. We had for witnesses a couple of friends in the film business. Luc is so sensitive that he perceives things like a woman. I never met a man like that, one who's that brilliant. His comprehension of me, as a female artist, is exceptional. I admire him because he began at the bottom, wearing sandwishes on film sets. He's able to do anything; to write a whole night, sleep for one hour and work all day. Nobody can buy him. It's good because I want a pure man."

She has a beautiful gesture, gracious and natural. She adds, "I'm not free anymore. But I'm happy with the choice I made. Luc is the best of men. I thank God to have given me a man that loves me so much. And it's totally mutual. Never I was understood by others more than by him."

Milla and Luc just bought a castle in Normandy. Two hundred hectares of land, a nice little wood and a pond. And Milla, crazy with happiness, adds: "My little garden and my coop." There, in the copse, she wants to gather a commune of artists like the ones who form her imaginary museum: Lee Miller, Tina Modotti, Modigliani, Alfred Steiglitz or Georgia O'Keefe. "While Luc never had the call of the country, I always had love for the earth. The place is sublime. You look at the castle and immediately fall in love. It's just perfect. And around you, the air tastes like a big meal."

- When did you meet Luc Besson for the first time?
"It was in New York, it was very hot and I felt that he found me too sophisticated. Later, I met him in Los Angeles, at Chateau Marmont. I had been to a party the night before and I was resting by the side of the pool. My hair was undone and I had no make-up on; that's when he understood. I remember his eyes looking like the eyes of an eagle that spots his prey. I always had the feeling that I would one day live in an unknown land with a man I would love like I never loved anyone. During the shooting of our first film (TFE), I saw a man who had confidence in me. I loved him like a friend without opening my eyes. He'd come with me to my dance, ballet and boxing classes, things I never had the time to do. Luc gave me the chance to work on myself. For friends, we really liked each other. I saw when I was twelve, an age so innocent and magical. Besson knows so well how to direct actors. On the set everybody respects him. Everywere he goes he's respected. When you go see his film it's like he put an ocean into an aquarium."

Milla talks about the affectionate environment of their marriage: "Luc has two daughters. I adore them, but I'm frightened by the idea of making mistakes with them. I don't know what to say to them. It's not the same thing to be friend with other people's children and to have your own. So I tell them, "Don't listen to me or listen only with one ear."

- What is your other pastimes, your hobbies?
"I like the work of Stanislavski. I did photos of color with gray, red and green but also green-gray like a dry flower in an old book. I also like colors that are changed by time. You go places like to India or Morocco, it's always the same shade. Russia has another color; it's the memory of the past with her aristocrats, of the lost greatness."

- What inspires you the character of Joan of Arc that you will interpret in your role?
"She's a woman that too many people have recreated. Nobody really what what she was like."

- Is there something that exasperates you?
"What I hate with French men is that they love really young women".

- When you were sure of your passion for Luc, what was the first thing you did together?
Milla is an artist to the end. So she responds quickly with a flash in her eyes : "Free fall."