INTERVIEW (Unidentified magazine)
IT'S BAD ENOUGH WAITING FOR YOUR FIRST BIG-BUDGET American film to open. To top it off, it's in English, which isn't your first language, or even your second or third. And as if that weren't enough pressure, superstitious rumors are flying that the project's cursed because the last actor who played the title role was killed during production. By all accounts, Vincent Perez, star of The Crow: City of Angels, should be a nervous wreck. But as he sits in a Parisian-style cafe, drinking wine and enjoying a smoke, the 32-year-old actor is anything abut that. You see, it's all part of a learning experience he calls life.
"Everything is about that. Painting, music, movies - everything is about a growing process. The most beautiful thing is an 80-year-old man learning something from a child who's eight years old. One day I saw that and I was so moved, I cried."
If Perez sounds wise for his years, he has reason. He may be a virtual unknown on these shores (except to those fortunate enough to see him - all of him - in last year's costume epic Queen Margot), but in other parts of the world he's a bona fide megastar. In France, where he's lived since the age of 16, he's ranked as one of the sexiest man alive (but then again, he also made People's Most Beautiful" issue). In Asia, the mention of his name makes crowds swoon. So this is a young man well-prepared for the glory of fame - and its flip side.
"In my personal life, fame brings me lots of problems, lots of problems," no doubt referring to two long-term, over-publicized relationships - first with Jacqueline Bisset and then with model Carla Bruni.
"Every morning I'm facing myself in the mirror. It doesn't change anything finding out I'm supposed to be a sex symbol. It's like a joke. My mom is always saying that to me. She's like, 'A sex symbol? You, my son? Oh, please. Look at your nose!'"
Indeed. Look at his nose. It starts at the base of a deliciously heavy brow and falls just perfectly between his intense dark eyes. Sure, it looks a little damaged, but as Perez himself notes, "Scars are important for men." He is cursed with an actor's face, though it doesn't run in the family. Raised in Switzerland by a German mother and a Spanish father, Perez, who speaks French, Spanish, Italian and German, could be a poster boy for European unity. "I'm trying to understand who I am," he explains in an accent that is impossible to place. "All I know is that I'm very, very close to Spanish culture in my head and in my feelings, but when I'm trying to organize things and be practical, I'm very German."
After studying at the Conservatoire of Dramatic Art in Paris, he landed his first film role in 1986 in Gardien de Nuit. After that, his big break came as the tongue-tied lover in Cyrano de Bergerac. Next, he moved on to play Catherine Deneuve's lover in Indochine and, most recently, Isabelle Adjani's lover in Queen Margot. Finally, in the noirish The Crow: City of Angels, Perez has a chance to play a hero, but even this story sounds more like a romance coming from his lips.
"There is action in the emotion in the film's plot which is very beautiful." Like the first Crow, City of Angels was born from James O'Barr's comic books about a dead man who returns to the living world to avenge the violence that took both his life and the life of a loved one. Perez plays Ashe, who, with the help of Sarah (Mia Kirshner), hunts down those who murdered him and his young son. "It's very different from the first one. In the first one, the story was revenge. OK? Here the revenge makes the story. It' s not just revenge, it's about pain."
The film's subject matter is eerie enough to give anyone the jitters, but the cast and crew of City of Angels had ample reason to be spooked. After actor Brandon Lee was accidentally shot and killed while making the first Crow, the project developed a cult following. Industry tales circulated about bizarre mishaps linked to those connected with the production. Wasn't Perez a little scared to follow in Lee's fatal footsteps?
"At the beginning, I was like, no, it's another movie, it's another director (Tim Pope). I love the script, it's going to be different. But every single person I was telling about the movie told me to be careful."
It wasn't until he accepted the role that the film's legacy began to sink in. Before going to Los Angeles to begin shooting, Perez was scheduled to shoot a film in Moscow. The morning he was set to leave France to start his journey, he was awoken by a strange noise. "I went to the window and I saw two crows just in front of me. Suddenly, I was like, should I be scared or not? They were around for the next two hours, and I was like, OK, I'm going to go to Moscow. When I got there, the city was covered with crows. Here you have pigeons, there they have crows. They were outside my window everyday... A lot of people who were attached to the movie have stories about crows."
But if Perez seems brave for taking a potentially cursed role, he was even braver in Queen Margot, accepting a challenge few male American actors ever have to face: frontal nudity. "In France it's quite normal to be naked," he says with a slightly devilish grin. "You just take off your clothes and do it." And what about those steamy love scenes? Not a problem. "I think it's the easiest thing to do. It's about letting go...it's about breathing together. It's very simple."
So as Perez prepares to penetrate American consciousness, don't expect him to follow in the footsteps of another Euro-hunk, Antonio Banderas. For this actor, success is about more than becoming a Hollywood player. "All that I know is that I want enough power to have freedom in my work," explains Perez, who has already made a short film of his own and is working on a second. "It's is not just about making movies, it's also about painting, it's about writing, it's about literature, it's about directing. My freedom is to control my growing process a little bit more everyday."