NY Times March 27, 1994

Rhymes With Sheila
by Rick Mari

Milla Jovovich is no ordinary model-actress-whatever. She's a model-actress-singer-whatever who has crossed over almost as many careers in her short, happy life as has Madonna -- and at half her age.

Her multimedia resume so far: At 11, her first cover, for the Italian fashion magazine Lei. At 14, her first billing in a movie, "Return to the Blue Lagoon." Now, at 18, she has her first album, "The Divine Comedy," which will be released on the SBK/ERG label early next month. Her slavic name has been truncated to, simply, Milla, in anticipation of its impending famousness.

"I know it sounds awful," Milla said over coffee recently at the Book-Friends Cafe, a bookstore-bistro in the Chelsea section of Manhattan. "You're gonna say, 'Cher, Bjork, Madonna . . . Milla.' And I feel so horrible that I don't have my last name. But the thing is, people have such a hard time with my name. It's such a tongue twister."

SBK signed her to a development deal when she was 14, based on her modeling and acting. Read: her looks. "They thought it was a great package," she said with a cynical tone.

Models do make pretty packages. Cindy Crawford transformed herself from a bodacious cover girl to an MTV personality. Elle MacPherson has, in the movie "Sirens," proved her skills as an erotic thespian. Naomi Campbell recorded an album.

Milla never became a supermodel. Instead, she said, she decided to become what she jokingly called "SuperMilla."

Her look, on this dark, wet afternoon, was pure thrift-shop waif. Her flawlessly symmetrical face was free of makeup. Her brown hair hung unevenly over her shoulders, pinned to one side. She wore a pilly charcoal V-neck sweater pulled tightly over a white T-shirt. Black Converse sneakers stuck out from under her long black skirt.

She also wore a Cartier watch, which, she said, once prompted the British magazine Time Out to remark, "If Milla's trying to do grunge, she should take off the Cartier."

Chain-smoking, she waved her hands nervously and spoke in a rush of adolescent "O my god's," occasionally pausing to level her very blue eyes into the Medusan gaze of a professional beauty.

Acknowledging the audible influence of her idol Kate Bush, Milla called her own music "ethereal but twisted, pure and not pure." She began recording the album two years ago and wrote three of its songs during the filming of "Dazed and Confused," in which she played a guitar-playing hippie nymph. Her breathy singing voice relates earnest sentiments of love and loss over a heavily produced backdrop of mandolins, dulcimers and hurdy-gurdies. "If you can pluck it, it's on my album," Milla said in a flat American accent that belies her exotic provenance.

The only child of a Russian actress and a Serbian physician, she spent the first five years of her life in Kiev, Moscow and London, before the family relocated to California. (She has since moved back to London.)

Her modeling career "peaked at 11," she said, although she worked steadily into her teens. She also played one of Charlie Chaplin's teen-age brides in "Chaplin."

High school was a "blur" of underground Los Angeles clubs and older men. "I don't regret anything I did," she said, when asked if she often found herself the prey of Hollywood Humbert Humberts. "I mean, I didn't get molested or raped or anything."

Milla fully expects a barrage of wisecracks to greet her musical debut. "I'm such an easy target," she said. "I totally expect all the skepticism and all the jokes: 'Ex-"Blue Lagoon" model chick doing an album.' "But I know that if I didn't have all that, I wouldn't be able to do what I'm doing now."