Sky International February 1994

babe in toyland
by Lisa Markwell

She was the ultimate childlike model, way before Kate Moss. She romped through the obligatory Hollywood starlet roles while barely in her teens, and now 17-year-old Milla Jovovich is releasing an album. Vaness Paradis, watch out.

Milla Jovovich might just be the original waif. Long before Kate Moss caused an uproar by exposing her bony chest to the world, little Milla was really something for the child-pornography campaigners to get fired up about. She appeared on countless magazine covers, but lurking behind that close-up was a child's body - Milla was just 11. The girl hadn't even reached puberty, yet spent her days being coated in make-up and told to look sophisticated. Now she says, "I thought I looked like an alien", but her look was much in demand with trendy magazines like Mademoiselle and Lei worldwide. Countless newspaper articles were written about the phenomenon of the child model. Milla has seen more action in her few years than most of us do in a lifetime. When your career starts before your periods, 17 must feel like middle age.

She's a smart cookie; those years in front of the camera have made her very self-aware. But right now she's lying under the duvet in a titchy London flat, groaning. It's 11am and she's just woken up. Forgetting she had an interview lined up, Milla has overslept and is now trying to compose herself - making a health shake, swallowing a handful of vitamin pills, hitching up her boxer shorts and tying back her greasy hair. The overall impression is of a pretty, if a little gawky, teenager. It's difficult to make out that famous bone-structure with the curtains shut.

"I was making business calls to the States till 3am," she explains croakily. Chris, her best friend/guru/PR, is wandering around in cut-off sweats. If this is business, it's very, very casual. The perfect grunge couple - "But I'm not her boyfriend, I'm gay," Chris stage-whispers - are hanging out in London to work on Milla's latest project: music. Like Tyra Banks, she's beaten Naomi Campbell to the punch on bringing out an album, but the results are far from what you'd expect of a teenage princess from LA.

Apart from her contract with Almay, modelling is over, says Jovovich, and acting is on hold for the moment, following what she admits were some bad career-choices. Her decision, at 14, to appear in Return to the Blue Lagoon shouldn't be held against her, although as she says, "I don't regret anything I've ever done in my life. The film was [she makes a farting noise], but living on an island for three months was amazing." That must have been a small amount of consolation while the critics guffawed. Since then, she's had a cameo role in the tedious Chaplin, but won't be doing such roles again because, she explains, "they don't give me a chance to do anything..."

The reception should be warmer towards Milla's debut album (out in March). When she announced her decision to put her poems, written long ago, to music, the record producers must have hyperventilated. What a great marketing opportunity! The world's youngest sex symbol on a stage in a mini-dress singing cutesy pop songs.

Milla, however, had ideas of her own, and wasn't about to abandon them. "I had a voice that could really be something, but wasn't much then. But my songs were really good; they were real and true. And they would hand me this barf - I can't describe it any other way."

So Milla decided to take matters into her own hands. To the horror of her mother (who still guides her career long-distance) she went into a board-meeting at her record company with a battered old guitar and sang her own compositions, solo. "I said, 'Guys, this is what I want to do, and if you don't want me, then we'd better look somewhere else and not waste each other's time any more.'"

Milla's description of her fight to get her music released is punctuated with lots of "blah, blah, blahs", "likes" and "sortas", but we get the point - the girl is feisty. And now the result is about to be released. It's what can only be described as folk, heavy on the Kate Bush influence, with some Ukrainian sounds thrown in (Milla is of Russian descent). This may sound grim, but the album is actually very listenable.

"It's called The Divine Comedy," she enthuses. "That's from Dante's Inferno, you know?" Thanks, Milla. Her literary prowess has been well documented. She once told a reporter that she read Dostoevsky and Balzac. The reporter then wrote: "I hate models with philosophical pretensions." In fact, Milla states, "I tried to name writers a half-intelligent person would recognise." She says she generally reads far more obscure authors.

The album cover shows a painting of Milla, stuck on a rock between figures grimacing in Hell and angels floating in Heaven. "This is by the Leonardo da Vinci of our time," says Milla, who has aspirations to be an artist herself. She shows off a small sculpture of her own, winningly entitled "Chicken Foetus". She says, "I've a knack for drawing and if I worked at it, I could become a great cartoon artist."

With anyone else this might sound like choking arrogance, but Milla has been told she's brilliant since she was a child. It's only now that she's discovering life's little unfairnesses. Such as Dazed and Confused, for example. This much-talked-about movie is the second feature by Richard Linklater, of Slacker fame. Milla was sent the script and immediately assumed she was up for the female lead. Linklater later thought she was too sophisticated for that part, and cast her instead in a minor role.

"If you blink, you'll miss me," is how Milla puts it now, with a smile. Linklater later promised to shoot an extra scene she'd written for her character - but, somehow, they never had time to do it. It has obviously left a nasty taste in Milla's mouth. "At an Academy Awards party the producer came up to me and said, 'You know, we were thinking and you should have done that part you wanted'," she says, "and they're using my face on the poster." Ironically, the posters, tagged with lines like "The Film Everyone Will Be Toking About" and "Have A Nice Daze", caused more of a storm in the US than the film itself - which looks ripe for British cult status when it's released later this year.

Nonetheless, it's still quite cool to be in the movie about the hottest subject right now: drugs. Dazed and Confused is shot through a haze of pot smoke, and although she's barely old enough to smoke cigarettes (which she does), Milla is an advocate of dope. "Yeah, I'll be the first one at the bud rallies," she chukles. That's not to say she takes any drugs - she's far too busy writing music and short stories, sketching, sculpting, and singing. She might even be hanging out with her now boyfriend, Stuart from Jamiroquai. At the mention of his name Milla goes all giggly and roots around in her bag for a picture. "We haven't even known each other very long," she sighs. "He's the sweetest." Milla's taken to wearing the groover's uniform of "slacks, a little sweater and a beany." Thsi from the girl who, aged 12, was going out wearing full make-up and designer gear.

Theirs may well turn out to be a long-distance love affair. Stuart is on tour, and Milla is popping back to LA to make her first music video, to be directed by Lisa Bonet. Chris interjects that Lisa will make Milla "less threatening to other women. They may even see Milla with a blemish!" But after all that, before making the next of her contracted six albums ("by age 46, I'll be playing Vegas"), Milla plans to fit in having children. "Oh I can't wait," she sighs. Although with everything else going on in her life right now, she just might have to.