Vogue (France) June/July 2003
Sweet Kisses from Russia
An actress built for very physical performances, discovered by Besson, a model star desired by the titans of luxury, Milla Jovovich, Ukrainian, 26 years old, remains an enigma difficult to unveil. A conversation without make-up at the Polo Lounge of the Beverly Hills Hotel.
By Lisa Eisner and Roman Alonso
ROMAN ALONSO: There are many models from the East today, while there were fewer when you started.
MJ: Paulina Porizkova was extraordinary. She was the most famous model when I started, in 1987. When I think about it, I feel like Iím 40 years old. Do you see what Iím trying to say? Iíve been working for such a long time. When I look at my friend, who is 38 years old, I say to myself that I too, I should be this age. If Iíd started working after university like a normal person, taking into account everything Iíve accomplished so far, Iíd really be 40 years old now.
RA: You were indeed 12 years old when Avedon photographed you for the Revlon campaign titled ďThe Most Unforgettable WomenĒ.
LE: The most unforgettable women? You were a child! How does one live this way at 12 years of age?
MJ: My mum brought me up very strictly. Iíve had a typical Russian education, very down-to-earth. Youíre constantly being reminded that you are your parentsí little shadow. It sounds sweeter in Russian, but my mumís nickname for me is ďmy snotty-nosed oneĒ. I was a very disciplined kid. I was never treated like a little princess, I was never told: ďOh how cute you are like this!Ē My mum criticized me more than she complimented me: thatís another Russian characteristic. The idea being, that a child should not be allowed to become completely self-assured. Itís funny, but I think that Iím more of a child now, exactly because Iím no longer afraid of being one. Iíve more freedom. Before I was always trying to seem like an adult, I matured rather early. When I review the interviews I gave when I was little, I canít get over it.
RA: Weíve forced you to skip stages.
MJ: Not at all. We were migrants and we didnít have a choice: we wanted to get out of it, and for that, weíve had to work. When I brought back from school volumes of information about university courses, my mum told me: ďStop talking about uni. Youíll be a movie star!Ē My parents were Brian de Palmaís caretakers, we lived at our friendsí house. My mum would say: ďPeople study to find a job. Youíve got a job, make the most of itĒ.
LE: Do you think that she dreamt of this kind of career for herself?
MJ: Perhaps. My mum was an actress in Russia, it was the only world she knew. I think that had she been a doctor, I would have studied medicine.
LE: Your mum does not lack firm-handedness. She must have passed it on to you, because on the screen you always incarnate energetic women. I think that men see you as an independent woman, a fighter, a person comfortable with themselves.
MJ: Really? Thank God! Iím sure that Iíll play these types of strong women again. Thatís what people want me to portray.
LE: And yourself, how would you like other people to see you?
MJ: I would have loved to play in a film about friends. About a couple, a normal story, slightly less ďenormousĒ films, with a bit less science fiction and action where Iíll be more myself.
LE: Youíve played Joan of Arc, the great French hero.
MJ: Alas, the symbol of extreme right.
LE: What were the reactions like? Itís a little bit like portraying Jesus.
MJ: You know, I think that what really mattered to me, was to go past the symbol and try to understand what a nineteen year old girl could feel when thrown into such a situation. I wanted to find the person beyond the myth and legend.
LE: Are you always writing music?
MJ: I compose on the guitar, but more professionally. Iíve given a lot of performances, but, last year my guitarist was killed in a car accident. Iíve decided to take a break. Right now Iím more preoccupied with designing. Iíve drawn up some T-shirts with Carmen Hawk, my partner.
LE: What is the name of your brand?
MJ: We do not have one yet, weíve barely started. Weíve drawn up a lot of things, hoping perhaps to work for a larger house, or to be invited by someone for a season. I have the impression that the things I love the most do not change. I think that itís true of elegance in general. If an item is stylish, it works for today, tomorrow and yesterday. We can wear the same black dress forever. If it suits you, itís the first thing to save in a fire. Nothingís harder than to find the perfect skirt, jeans or jacket. Itís to this that we want to respond: to create a classic wardrobe for every girl.
RA: I suppose that a lot of women do not have enough self confidence to accessorize their dresses.
MJ: I understand this, because it has happened to myself, where I felt incapable, I panicked. Itís a question of self-confidence. In that case I stay at my place in a sweat-suit and read. I refuse to impose my mood onto others. For example, I went to a party for Vogue Paris very dressed up, by saying to myself that everyone else will do the same. In fact, everyone wore casual, a pair of pants and a shirt. I knew that my instinct made sense and that I had to put on some pants, but evidently, I went there in an evening dress with diamonds. Everyone danced and drank, there were many people, some were smoking, and I was afraid that someone will burn my dress with their cigarette. I didnít feel comfortable. I was secluded just because of this dress. Everyone was having fun, and I was stiff and inhibited in my $1,400 dress.
RA: But itís good when we donít care what we wear. Itís just clothes!
MJ: Itís not just clothes, itís expensive and Iím Russian, I wouldnít often see things like this. You know what? Girls who neglect their clothes and who donít treat them with respect donít deserve them. No matter how rich a girl is, if she throws her silk dress on the floor and walks on top of it, ah well, I hope that someone tears her to pieces.
RA: Do you have any idols?
MJ: Jane Birkin inspires me a lot. Sheís really impressive.
RA: Have you met her?
MJ: Sheís a friend. She never seems to get out of her sweater and jeans.
LE: Hereís someone who is comfortable in their own skin.
MJ: Coming back to self-confidence, Iíd like to say that itís an effort for me to go to receptions and events, to have to show myself, smile and be sweet. Itís the hardest thing in the world and sometimes, you ask yourself where did the confidence go that was there a month ago? I remember looking at myself in the mirror and thinking ďWhoa, nothing can stop me!Ē and then afterwards, feeling completely lost, not wanting to leave my place.
RA: Everyone has been through that. Iím sure that itís happened to Jane.
MJ: The more of an artistic temperament we have, the more we risk to find ourselves completely tied up.
RA: For someone who has grown up in the middle of the entertainment business you really seem to have it together. Youíre not one of the Judy-Liza-Liz club.
MJ: I hope so. Iím still young, but who knows? Weíll talk about it again in 25 years.