The Vincent

February 17, 1995                                                          


New York - Vincent Perez has a slight French accent - enough to put him in the same league as Charles Boyer, Gerard Depardieu and others who represent Gallic charm to moviegoers.

His newest French-made film is Queen Margot, a flamboyant version of Alexandre Dumas' novel about the religious wars between Catholics in Protestants in the last half of the 16th century.

"My character is La Mole. He actually existed but isn't important in history. Our past gives us a lot of story material for our movies in France. But all Frenchmen love the Westerns Hollywood makes to show off American history. The only Frenchmen most Americans even know about is Napoleon. Every Frenchman knows the Lone Ranger and Gene Autry and Roy Rogers."

Perez grins when he talks. Most of his comments are nothing more than jokes. But he is a dedicated, serious actor on screen.

"I'd like to work in Hollywood. It would be good for my reputation. But it's difficult to break through the wall. French actors have a more difficult time of it than Americans in Hollywood, mostly because of the language problem. We not only speak in French, we also think in French."

He appeared in Cyrano de Bergerac (1989) and Indochine (1991), two French films with successful runs on both sides of the Atlantic. Queen Margot is off to a good start, primarily because of its romantic appeal. La Mole was just one of Queen Margot's lovers in real life. In the movie version, he has the strongest male role.

The movie takes place when Catherine d'Medici (Virna Lisi) controlled the French throne and was fanatic about her Catholicism. She gave birth to three kings and controlled all of them with her schemes. Her daughter, Margot (Isabelle Adjani), proved to be harder to control.

Catherine arranges a marriage between Margot and Henri of Navarre (Daniel Auteuil), leader of the Protestant Huguenots, allegedly to unite Catholic and Protestant factions. Instead, she plotted the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, in which Huguenots who came to rejoice at the wedding were slaughtered. La Mole escapes and hides in Margot's bedroom. She falls in love with him.

"It's a good story because the characters are much like today's people. The romance between Margot and La Mole is exaggerated. No one knows for sure how complicated their love life was."

The movie is filled with intrigue. D'Medici uses poison to get rid of her enemies at court. Her sons are weaklings who fight among themselves. La Mole is a street person who comes to Paris for Margot's wedding. Margot picks him up while slumming through the back streets of Paris looking for a one-night stand. She is the first person he thinks of when he wants to hide from the queen mother's henchmen.

"I play this part because I'm a good friend of the director (Patrice Chereau) and his family. We often work together. I've done plays by Chekhov and Shakespeare with him, and he's let me direct plays in his theater."

Perez's credits are impressive. He not only acts on stage and on screen, but also directs stage plays and films.

"Every French actor's background is theater. It gives us a backup and helps us grow as actors. An actor only works in pieces and bits for a movie, so much of it is repetition. It's not that way on the stage. We have to be in top form because we work from the beginning of the show to the end for each performance."

[Written by Bob Polunsky]

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