Movieline May 1997

Feathered Friend
by Vicki Jo Radovsky

Milla Jovovich is best known as the pretty-baby model who filled Brooke Shields' bikini in the 1991 beach bomb Return to the Blue Lagoon (and, like Brooke, she hawked jeans in Calvin Klein ads). She also played supporting roles in Kuffs and Chaplin. So how on earth did she land the female lead in Luc Besson's $75 million-plus sci-fi film The Fifth Element, the mystery-shrouded project that will open this month's 50th-anniversary Cannes Film Festival? "Luc really didn't see me in this film at all the first time we met," says the 21-year-old Russian-born beauty. "It's easier to sell my face than my talent." When she happened to run into Besson at L.A.'s Cheateau Marmont, she got a second chance. Her screen test convinced him she should star opposite Bruce Willis and Gary Oldman as Fifth's fantasy creature, about which she can say only that it's "a mix between a bird, a lion cub, and an innocent Ewok." You'd probably have to have recently entered into the mindset of a bird/cub/Ewok to assess Oldman and Willis as Jovovich does: "Gary's much more down-to-earth," she says, "but Bruce is really cool, too." With or without feathers, fur and whatever else she sports in The Fifth Element, Jovovich is possessed of an exotic beauty. "I did my first magazine covers when I was 11, but the boys called me names like Cherry Boobs and Raisin Tits," she recalls. "I'm lucky my mom was on my ass all the time not to betray myself for the glamor and parties and stupid shit." Having backed herself up with acting lessons, Jovovich now states her ambitions with deceptive simplicity: "I just want to make one really good movie a year. And when I die, to know I was honest as an artist."