January 14, 1998

STUDIO CITY, Calif. - Vincent Perez is a man without a country - or as he puts it "a citizen of the world."

The actor, who's starring in the upcoming costume drama, Swept from the Sea, may drive a four-by-four and dote on veggie-burgers swimming in ketchup, but he still speaks English with a French-German-British accent and sports an anachronistic pony-tail.

Perez, who co-starred in Queen Margot, Indochine and Cyrano de Bergerac, grew up in Switzerland, the son of a German mother and a Spanish father. He always felt like an outsider.

"I was like a plant in the wrong ground. It wasn't the right earth for me, but I think it was great because I was in touch with the nature and grew up in nature with forest and trees, fields, mountains, rivers, and it was good."

No one in his family had ever considered acting for a living. His father was in the import-export business, his mother a housewife. But Vincent was different.
"Acting was an escape for me, a way to go away from my country, from Switzerland, and I wanted to see the world, you know. I was always the clown, but very shy at the same time; a very strange mixture."

He says he's not shy anymore. "Only on certain things. Now it's normal shyness, before it was a little too much," he says.

That shyness didn't prevent him from traversing the globe, not only to make movies, but for the sheer joy of it. His passion took him to exotic shores like Vietnam and Senegal where he remembers dancing with the women in a small African village and playing the drums. "I love playing the drums," he says.

So Perez isn't your typical gotta-make-it-in-Hollywood type of guy. But while he's here, he says, he's meeting people, trying to pitch a script he co-wrote and learning more about America, which he finds much larger than expected.

"Everything was bigger - the roads, the cars, the people," he laughs.

In Swept from the Sea he plays a Ukrainian who's washed ashore in
Cornwall, England. A stranger, who's not accepted by the provincial farmers of the area, he links up with another outcast, played by Rachel Weisz.

"He's a very passionate man, playing a kind of passionate role," says Weisz of her co-star. "He wasn't frightened to unleash all of it. He's so beautiful, but he didn't stand there being still in his close-ups. He really let go of all his feelings, which I thought was bold and refreshing. I had the best working relationship I've ever had with anyone. He's extraordinary," she says.

Perez didn't always think like an actor. In fact, he started as a photographer working in that field for 2 1/2 years.

"In the meantime I was starting doing amateur theater, learning how to develop films, was a traveling photographer, the guy who was running all the time. At the same time I wanted to be an actor. I was in love with Chaplin, in love with the great actors. When I saw Taxi Driver and things like that, it was like they were talking to me, like I was part of this thing. And I slowly left photography. . ."

In 1987 he ventured for the first time to the United States in a student- exchange program at UCLA where he studied drama. At the time he didn't speak a word of English. But after two months, Perez was making himself understood.

"It was great. I worked a lot and loved it. Americans are very nice people; sometimes they stay too long in the nice-people-thing."

Perez is not married, but acknowledges, "You can be in love maybe two or three times - or maybe once."

He's in a relationship, he says. "I have somebody. It's a slow process but for the moment it has to be private."

Still, at 33, he's considering a family. "I'm thinking I should have a kid now. It's time. So, of course, everything becomes important and the person you're going to live with, it's quite a commitment, so I think it's time for me to accept this commitment. Marriage is a beautiful thing." Pausing a moment, he says, "the wedding should be five years after the child is born, so the child can remember it."

[Interviewed by Luaine Lee]


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