léa seydoux, the chameleon
As the sexy French film Blue is the Warmest Colour is released on DVD, we look back on our interview with the film's leading light Léa Seydoux in The Lights, Camera, Action Issue, Summer 2012.
Jacket Yves Saint Laurent. Jeans Beyond Retro. Jewellery worn throughout model's own.
Upstairs in the Ladurée restaurant on the left bank in Paris, the walls are a deep blue velvet, the same colour as French actress Léa Seydoux's newly cropped and dyed hair. As she talks, deep in conversation about her latest movie named Sister directed by Ursula Meier, the matching colour has an odd chameleonic effect with the décor, which is not unlike Léa in real-life. At 26, Seydoux is one of the biggest actresses in France yet she can walk the streets of Paris as a complete unknown because she has the ability to transform on and off screen. Onscreen, she's become the go-to girl for full-lipped, sultry, Gallic sex appeal in bloom, post-adolescent yet still not a woman. Off-screen she easily blends into the throng of students walking to and from lectures around La Sorbonne University.
Her long blonde locks cut and dyed, Léa's preparing for an intense, dramatic role with revered art film director, Abdellatif Kechiche, who's known for taking first-time non-actors and turning them into stars by drawing powerful performances from them. Léa is the first known actress to work with him on the next project, Blue Is The Warmest Colour, which is about to begin shooting in Lille and requires all of the cast to live entirely immersed in their roles for three months. "He's looking for feelings, real feelings," says Léa. "He doesn't want the actors to act anymore. He gets to a point where he'll do take after take until he achieves it and it's a very particular way to work. One scene can last three days."
"I have to immerse myself in a director's culture, that's the first step towards understanding a character. Not research, but something more organic. You have to be completely involved through culture."
The granddaughter of Jérôme Seydoux, the CEO of Pathé, the French TV and cinema giant, Léa was born in the West of Paris but now lives in the area around Gare Du Nord. Between the Sri Lankan restaurants, Turkish kebab houses, Muslim butchers and Pakistani restaurants, the area is a bustling hub of mixed communities. "It's very poetic, it looks like a little New York, and you know there's something new everywhere you look," says Seydoux who claims she feels more Parisian than French, a favourite pastime being to wander the streets of the city and watch the ebb and flow.
For her forthcoming role, Seydoux was asked to read the graphic novel upon which the story is based and meet the director in a small run-down and empty bar in Belleville. The pair met, drank beers and bonded. "I have to immerse myself in the director's culture, I have to feel his culture, that's the first step towards the character. Not research, but something more organic, you have to be completely involved through culture. Sometimes you can't but I try to be that way." Diving into a role is central to the way Seydoux works as an artist, seeking complete commitment, exhaustion even to reach a place that connects with the story and its audience. An actress that has worked on 26 movies including Hollywood blockbusters Mission Impossible and Inglourious Basterds she is in a position to compare experiences and adds that in France where the director still commands ultimate power it's still possible for directors like Kechiche to work with actors in an intense way.
Following Blue Is The Warmest Colour, Seydoux will start filming Beauty And The Beast in October with Vincent Cassel, which promises to be a unique retelling of the fairytale. Careful not to give away any details, even on the style of the movie she says that she hasn't read the script yet, didn't audition and has never met Cassel but is looking forward to meeting the actor who burst onto international consciousness by his lead role in La Haine in 1995, and recently spooked audiences with his creepy performance of the punishing dance teacher in Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan.
The last item of clothing Léa Seydoux bought was a pair of black trainers, her Blackberry is never far from her hands and the book she's just started is The Great Gatsby. All very down to earth for the girl who's worked with most of France's biggest independent and nominated directors including Jean-Paul Goude who directed her in the hot pink advert for Prada Candy. Twenty years previously Goude directed the then newcomer Vanessa Paradis in an equally huge advert for Chanel and what struck Seydoux was Goude's elegance and refinement, two qualities she finds attractive. "What I like with him is that he's not rushed, he needs time, he's not just doing an ad just like that, it really comes from his imagination and it's really coming from his soul. the process is not very usual."
Seydoux's life is scheduled all the way through to 2013, possibly further but she's never found the lifestyle of moving from one persona to another confusing or haunting. "For me, it's relatively easy at the end of a shooting to move on to the next role. I'm someone who strangely, because I can be very obsessive, when I finish a role, it's one thing I love to do, finish a role and move onto the next project."
Text Sarah Hay
Photography Alasdair McLellan Styling Jane How
Hair Luke Hersheson at Julian
Make-up Lucia Pica at Art Partner
Hair colourist Amy Fish at Daniel Hersheson
Photography assistance Gareth Powell, Simon Bremner, Lex Kembery
Styling assistance Lucy Bower, Eliza Conlon
Hair assistance Jordan Garrett
Make-up assistance Siobhan Furlong
Talent Léa Seydoux at Silent Models
[The Lights, Camera, Action Issue, No. 319, Summer 2012]