The Vincent

January 1995                                                               

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Forget Eric Cantona, it's Ooh-ahh Vincent. As the latest Euro-export, movie hunk Vincent Perez (ex-girlfriends Carla Bruni and Jacqueline Bisset) crosses the Channel.

"Splitting just before this film was the best time because your thoughts are occupied. I don't want to talk about it because when you do, it makes it into a beeg mess. There are always paparazzi photographers everywhere. 'Her with the new man.' I hate this kind of press. They have 30 pages to fill with gosseeps."

Vincent Perez, 30-year-old new hyperhunk of arty Euro-cinema, is learning the hard way about celebrity. He has just split with his girlfriend, supermodel Carla Bruni, who is now living it up in the gossip-columns with her new boyfriend, a suave lawyer by the name of Arno Klarsfeld. Just as well, perhaps, that Perez is here in Spain on the set of his first English language film, Talk of Angels, in which he plays a moody brooding aristocrat's son glowering his way through the Spanish Civil War.

Perez is actually half-German and half-Spanish and was born in Switzerland. This morning I have to wait outside his trailer while Perez is chatting to his mum, a famous actress who has appeared in Pedro Almodovar's films. But it is in the babe-studded world of French cinema that he has made his name. Perez is not of the rumpled truffle-foraging school of French male cinema-star, which demands an unkempt, deliberately gone-to-seed look- on the contrary, he is groomed to within an inch of his life. Later that morning I will watch him work on a scene where he has to run a considerable distance across a lawn to greet his costar, Polly Walker, scattering a flock of pigeons as he goes. The pigeons will not scatter correctly. Then there is a problem with camera angles. Poor old Vincent has to make the 100-metre dash at least 15 times. You can't really imagine that Gerard Depardieu, say, would be up to it.

Right now though, Perez is sitting in his trailer while I'm telling him about my horror at seeing a particularly grisly bullfight on Madrid TV the night before. "I like bullfighting," Vincent says brightly. "I saw a bullfight where there is this man risking his life in front of this huge animal which is very strong and dangerous. So many toros are killed. I think it is beautiful." Er, yes, Vincent.

"The relationship with the man and the animal, the ritual. It touches our own relationship with death. You can't see it on TV and understand all the rules." Vincent is being hopelessly Spanish about all this. "For the first time the bull is free, he was the king, he was a rich animal..."

Perez, who was in the Far-Eastern epic Indochine with Catherine Deneuve, was meant to play a bullfighter in a movie but it didn't work out. Instead he ended up opposite another French sex-bomb, Isabelle Adjani, in this month's La Reine Margot. Vincent is Isabelle's lust-interest. If anyone thinks costume drama is for luvvies, then think again. This film was a slog, especially the scene in the dungeon.

"I was in a real castle, naked, with naked extras and blood all over the place," recalls Perez. "It was very difficult shooting that scene but I loved it. Maybe I am a bit masochistic. Imagine: naked, and then they throw water over you to show you were sweating and covered in blood! Then you stay like that most of the night. We had three weeks of those scenes. I caught microbes and had to have treatment for nine months. Nine months of shots! It was from the dust."

The new microbe-free Perez is currently a huge star, thanks to Indochine in the Far East. But hero-worship oriental style can be daunting. "I went to Korea," remembers Perez, "and people came running after me. You are afraid and get paranoiac but in fact you are just famous. They also asked me to do autographs." He looks surprised.

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Vincent with Carla???

Still, until recently, Perez (who has dated Jacqueline Bisset, and appeared on screen opposite French new Bardot babe Emanuelle Beart) has been unknown outside French art cinema and the gossip-columns of chic Euro-mags. He was recently voted "Sexiest French Speaker" by Paris Match magazine. There are, however, two things to prevent him being saddled with the permanent label of gossip-column Euro-stud. First, he can act. Secondly, and touchingly for someone who was born in Switzerland and goes out with European jet-set supermodels, he can't ski.

On the set of Talk of Angels, he has three language coaches, one for English, one for Spanish, and the one he is practicing with now - a coach to help him speak English with a Spanish accent. Perez, however, has his own unique solution to the problem. "For some extra tips," he grins, "I watched Andrew Sachs on Fawlty Towers."

[Written by Toby Rose]

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