Playboy May 2002

Milla Jovovich - 20Q
by Robert Crane

the power waif sets us straight about fake id cards, french husbands and celebrity shoplifting

At 26, Milla Jovovich has saved the world more often than anyone had any reason to expect. Jovovich's parents were a Russian actress and a Yugoslavian medical student who left the Soviet Union for California when their daughter was five years old. Milla, who was called a commie at school, started taking acting classes at the age of nine. Jovovich made her film debut on Disney Channel's The Night Train to Kathmandu. In 1988, at the age of 12, she made history as the youngest girl ever to appear on an American fashion magazine cover. Richard Avedon photographed her as one of Revlon's most unforgettable women. Jovovich graced 15 covers that year, and People magazine named her one of its 50 Most Beautiful People.

At 14, Jovovich earned her first major film role, in Return to the Blue Lagoon. She took on supporting roles, opposite Sherilyn Fenn in Two Moon Junction, and in Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused (at 16, she wed her co-star Shawn Andrews, but the marriage was annulled months later). Roles in Bruce Evans' Kuffs and in Chaplin, starring Robert Downey Jr., followed. In addition to acting and modeling, Jovovich was developing her music and signed a deal with EMI Records, which released The Divine Comedy to critical acclaim.

Jovovich hit it big in films when director Luc Besson cast her in The Fifth Element opposite Bruce Willis. She appeared in Spike Lee's He Got Game and then she and Besson launched their dream project, The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc, placing her in the role once played by screen icons Ingrid Bergman and Jean Seberg. The impressive cast included John Malkovich, Dustin Hoffman and Faye Dunaway. Jovovich, meanwhile, had married Besson. After several tempestuous years they divorced.

Jovovich continues to model (she has a deal with L'Oreal) and has appeared in The Claim, Wim Wenders' The Million Dollar Hotel and Zoolander. This year she stars as Alice, the zombie killer, in boyfriend Paul Anderson's Resident Evil. Other projects include No Good Deed opposite Samuel L. Jackson, You Stupid Man, co-starring William Baldwin, and Dummy with Adrien Brody.

Robert Crane caught up with Jovovich at Chateau Marmont in Hollywood. He reports: "Milla is a tamperproof source of energy. She will be the one still standing at the end -- despite the ex-husbands, failed relationships, film hits and misses. She is strong and embraces chaos. Jovovich brought her dog to the interview. Its name is Madness."

1. Playboy: Comparisons between you and Brooke Shields are inevitable -- young models, Blue Lagoon films. Tell us how you're different from her.

Jovovich: Brooke and I have completely different images. She's always been very much America's sweetheart, and I am not. I'm an alien. I'm Russian. When I was a teen I moved to Europe, started working in music, recorded an album and went on tour with my band. By the time that was all over, I was doing The Fifth Element. The similarities between us include our strong mothers. My mom always wanted me to be an actress and that was pretty much what she trained me for since I was little, which was kind of the same with Brooke. We were both the youngest girls to be on the cover of a fashion magazine. She was 13 or 14, and I was 12. And I hope when I'm in my 30s, I'll have a TV show like she did. I'm fine with modeling my career after Brooke Shields' -- she's done great.

2. Playboy: Which Blue Lagoon was better?

Jovovich: Overall, hers was better, but I was a better actress.

3. Playboy: What's the most important: talent, ambition or a really good publicist?

Jovovich: All of them. The biggest mistake that a lot of actors and other artists make is to rely wholly on their talent. But talent without discipline means nothing. My mom attended film school in Russia, one of the most difficult film schools back in the Sixties. One of the things she always told me to make sure I stayed in line was, "Milla, the most talented kids in film school in the first year (it was a four-year course) dropped out by the fourth year. And the least talented ones who worked their butts off were at the top of the class by the end." So what is talent? It's a natural-born thing, but if it's not refined and disciplined and channeled in the right way, it turns destructive. It turns into ego, and it turns into "I'm a genius, I don't need to do anything, I can drink and be rude . . . " I know a guy who's an amazing writer and works at a car wash. You know he's never going to do anything because he has no drive. And a publicist? I have a publicist.

4. Playboy: Is the euro making your life any easier?

Jovovich: I have no clue about the euro. All I know is that England doesn't want anything to do with it, and if England doesn't want anything to do with it, neither do I. The English know they have got the strongest currency in the world. I trust them about money.

5. Playboy: Is Milla short for something?

Jovovich: It is short for Milizta. Can you imagine, Milizta Jovovich? It's hard enough as it is. I curse my parents every day. Why didn't they change my name?

6. Playboy: How important is it for a woman to have at least one French husband?

Jovovich: French men are great. They know how to treat a woman. I'd recommend them.

7. Playboy: What is the most useful way to get through a fashion shoot?

Jovovich: The best way to get through a fashion shoot is to have as few thoughts as possible. In the end, people want to make you look a certain way, and the more you fight the longer it takes to get there. I do what they ask me to do. I'm professional. Fashion shoots for me are pretty much automatic. I do my job, I'm nice and polite, and then I go home. Modeling does nothing for anybody, artistically speaking, unless you're the photographer or the stylist. The models are the lowest rung in the fashion industry. They are the least creative. There are some models who really know style and bring their own style to a shoot, but they're few and far between. Modeling is quick money, easy money and good money. It's not that big a deal.

8. Playboy: Did you enjoy being a girl?

Jovovich: Yeah, I had a great time. I think I had a pretty special childhood because there was a balance of good and bad magic. I had a lot of problems on a personal level, family things, but on the other hand I was working and understanding things. I was very creative, took lots of classes, played guitar. I was hanging out with my friends and being bad, doing all the things a teenager wants to do. Thank God I'm here to tell the story. I had a chance to have an adult lifestyle at an early age and at the same time express myself and be a kid. Now I'm 26 and my life is pretty stable. It's not like I'm 26, straight out of college and saying, "What am I going to do?" I've got a lot of plans. I have my company, I just bought a house and I'm paying attention to make other sensible investments. I like being in my mid-20s and being on top of everything and not confused and crazy.

9. Playboy: How proficient were you in disguising your age? Have you had to actually lie about it?

Jovovich: When I was 15, 16, and 17 and going out to clubs, my friends and I had fake IDs that looked nothing like us because they were from wallets we would find in rest rooms. I don't think people really care that much. As long as you're young and beautiful, they're like, "Come on in."

10. Playboy: You've cut a wide path through available guy talent. Apparently it does not take much to pique your interest, but what does it take to sustain it?

Jovovich: It's hard to say because none of my relationships have lasted. I've mostly been in relationships of the two-year to four-year type since I was 17. When guys first meet me, they're mystified by my independence. They like the fact that I'm young and pretty, have money and stability and don't need anything from them. They don't know what to do to get me. Then they start resenting the things they loved about me in the first place. It's, "You're always working," or "You have to cancel this trip," or "You didn't call." I hate the phone. I have two cell phones, but I don't know where one of them is. I check my answering machine once a week. I'm really the worst person if you're trying to call me. I'll say, "Let's just make a date right now to see each other because I don't like talking on the phone." So if you're my boyfriend you're not going to talk to me on the phone that much. Maybe once a day I'll call to ask how are you, to say I love you, bye. But I'm not into having major conversations on the phone. That pisses some people off. It's this possessiveness people have. I'm guilty of it myself, but most of the time I wish guys would give me more space. My days are filled -- with research, reading, playing guitar, making business calls, going on auditions. It seems as soon as your professional life is great, your personal life is a disaster. As soon as your personal life is wonderful, you know you haven't been working. But my boyfriend right now is amazing. We've been going out for almost a year. I've had a lot of things that have been emotionally trying, and he's stuck with me. So I don't know, maybe he's the one.

11. Playboy: How do you protect a guy from feeling used?

Jovovich: I thought guys liked feeling used. I didn't know that was something you had to protect them from. Use me, baby, abuse me. Talk to me in a year, because I have to use this new information and see how it works.

12. Playboy: Your ads for Donna Karan show you with Gary Oldman in Paris and Jeremy Irons in Vietnam. Can you explain?

Jovovich: We figured I would play an international, independent woman dating older, sophisticated men. I love them and leave them, then go to some exotic place with another one. At the end of the last shoot we did, I said the next one should be for Donna Karan maternity wear. I said, "Listen, she's going to look like a complete slut if she has a different guy on the next campaign." But they used another model anyway, so it's like the guy got a new girlfriend. I didn't know the relationship would end that way.

13. Playboy: Where do you rank shoplifting on the spectrum of thrill seeking?

Jovovich: Pretty low. Free Winona!

14. Playboy: Let's assume you've received a presidential pardon. What were your worst offenses?

Jovovich: Not bad enough for a presidential pardon, that's for sure. I don't really have any vices. Actually, I just got back from skiing, and, like an idiot, I went on the moguls and wiped out so hard I can't do anything. I'm so mad. Why did I do that? I could be skiing right now. But no, I had to take a crazy risk.

15. Playboy: Models want to become actors and actors want to become rock stars. Which of these vocations is the most wholesome?

Jovovich: The entertainment business isn't wholesome. It just isn't. Maybe the Olsen twins are wholesome, but they just hit puberty, so I don't know. You have to be competitive as an actor. It screws up your principles. Actors would be much nicer to each other if there weren't so much pressure from agents and managers. If you want a wholesome career, don't get into the entertainment business. There are too many temptations. Saying that, I don't know a business that is wholesome. Capitalism is unwholesome. It's not about loving your brother; it's about looking out for number one. That's the American lifestyle, and there's nothing wrong with it.

16. Playboy: Which career is the riskiest?

Jovovich: Modeling, because there are no laws. It's something the government has passed over. There are no child laws regarding how long you can work, or whether you're being schooled. At least with acting, you have to have a teacher on the set. In Milan there are a lot of 14-year-old girls doing shows with 15-, 16- and 17-year-old girls who are experimenting with things that are dangerous. A lot of these girls are not with their parents and they're confused. They've dropped out of school and they're just naive little oysters waiting to be scooped up. Unfortunately, if your parents aren't around, or somebody who knows better, you'll get taken advantage of. In acting and music there are people behind the artists who got them to where they're disciplined enough. Modeling is not that way. The work is boring and it can take all day, but it's not hard. It's not mentally stimulating. It's like being a fifth grader in a first grade class. After a week, it gets really boring and you want something to challenge you. To be young, out of school, with no parents, a boring job -- the only interesting part is after work when you go out to clubs and stuff. When I do a film, the work that goes into it is really difficult, so when I get home, all I want to do is sleep.

17. Playboy: Are soccer hooligans part of the fun or a necessary evil?

Jovovich: Both. My boyfriend, who's English, says part of the experience of going to a soccer game is the violence. He says the difference between American football and English soccer is that football is a family sport and soccer isn't. Only crazy people take their children to English soccer games because everyone throws things at the opposing fans. One guy ended up with a dart in his head. It's not a family sport.

18. Playboy: All the famous Ukrainians we know are figure skaters, weight lifters or gymnasts. How did you escape?

Jovovich: If my mother had been a ballerina or a figure skater, I would have been one, too. But my mother was an actress, and that inspired me when I was little. But trust me, if my mom had been a figure skater, I'd be the best figure skater in the world now.

19. Playboy: What do you consider to be the worst interior design excesses of the rich and famous?

Jovovich: I'd have to say MTV's Cribs. There's something wrong with showing people your home, especially with the money these people make and the taste they have. To bring a TV crew to your home is kind of trashy. It makes people envious of you. I know I feel that way when I watch those shows, and I hate it. I thought Mariah Carey's lingerie closet was a bit much, but there are two couches in her house that are to die for.

20. Playboy: You've described your character in Resident Evil as a hard-ass. Do men ever get to see the soft side of Milla?

Jovovich: I'm a hard-ass when it comes to my work, and I'm not scared to take risks. On a social level, I'm not hard at all. Maybe with certain men, the ones who say, "Hey!" That kills me. Anyone who says hello by pointing a finger at me I will hate for life. There's no second chance.