|FILM REVIEW MAGAZINE
Vincent Perez, with his knee-buckling dreamboat face, looks younger than his 32 years. Indeed, one of his main gripes in life is that directors always give him the young-man-in-love roles, as in the cute naval officer lusted over by Deneuve in Indochine, the object of Anne Brochet's desire in Cyrano de Bergerac, and ditto with Emmanuelle Beart in Capitaine Fracasse and Isabelle Adjani in La Reine Margot. Which is probably why the $25 million The Crow: City of Angels appealed.
"The Crow is definitely not a pretty face role. For once I don't feel that I'm playing another jeune premiere romantic! This was a definite career move for me, to get a darker role and do something mysterious. I remember when I first saw The Crow with its urban Gothic design, just two hours before meeting the director, I thought just what an extraordinary trip into oneself it was."
"This sequel is not Crow Two. It is more poetic and very close to the spirit of its comic book roots. The idea behind it is that the spirit of a crow travels to good people who are wronged and enables them to come back and make things right. I think the way we planned to make this film makes it a bit like our own Batman. After all, the Crow is the real Batman, surely?"
Although he looks like a relaxed kind of guy with his black T-shirt with 'Vive l'Afrique!' emblazoned on it and lips in no need of collagen, Perez is intense in that supremely cool Gallic manner. But Perez isn't one of those dark-eyed, mussed-up bad boys that the French cinema loves so much. Leaving his native Switzerland at 17, he turned international with Talk of Angels made in Spain. The Crow: City of Angels shot in America (where it set a new Labor Day box-office record by taking 11.3 million in its first week's gross), and recently Amy Foster, shot in the UK.
"I never wanted to do movies just for a small market. I like the American conception of entertaining people, but bearing in mind that French actors, like our wines, tend to export badly, I did not rush to America. I do not want to be in a position of being in Los Angeles and waiting for work. Hollywood isn't waiting for me, probably nobody's waiting for me, so I've been lucky. I am very pleased to be doing it my own way, and getting there when the time comes. Like everybody else, I don't know who I am or where I'm going, really!"
He taps his cigarette on the table before lighting up. He has been acting for almost half his life, has various tags like Paris Match's "Sexiest French Speaker" and a romantic track record with some of the world's most beautiful women - Jacqueline Bisset (they met on La Maison de Jade), Italian supermodel Carla Bruni and now Karine Silla, 31, the daughter of a Senegalese diplomat and mother of Gerard Depardieu's young daughter Roxane. He says he is not an actor in his private life, and he spends much of his time "searching to find out how to know what to do with myself".
"Body language is not hard either on screen or off. On screen love scenes are genuinely no harder than anything else because every movement is organized precisely. I think it is much more difficult to work out your emotions - failures and doubts, fears and your own sensibility... who you are. It took a while before the acting began to bite. I didn't want to do anything really. My parents were a bit lost with me, especially my father who is a businessman in the foundry industry. Growing up I was always in my room, always drawing, always alone. I wasn't a good student at school."
"I thought I was going to be a painter but the solitude of painting scared me off, so I decided to be a photographer. After a couple of years at photographic school, I discovered the cinema and decided I should act. I realized that the way to the cinema was via the stage so I auditioned at the National Conservatory in Geneva and they gave me a tiny scholarship and an introduction to the famed Paris Conservatory."
"After three years of working like a madman at the Conservatory, I thought merde, I am really trapped. It was all so classic, all so academy. Even the way my face was moving was very classic. It was just killing the actor in me, so I started to run away again and joined another school, the Armandiers, run by the director Patrice Chereau [who directed Perez in La Reine Margot]. I had to develop." He pauses, searching for le mot juste. "My guts? balls?"
The role in La Reine Margot, as Isabelle Adjani's lover, got him both of the latter and also lost him the pretty boy label. The soon-to-be-released Talk of Angels, in which he plays a Spanish man, who falls in love with his family's Irish governess (Polly Walker), showed Perez as an adult.
"It was absolutely the right first film for me to do in [Spanish-accented] English, plus it was the first film in which I felt I was playing a grown-up. When I watched the rushes I thought, 'My God, who is this adult?'"
Perez works again in accented English, this time Ukranian, in Beeban Kidron's adaptation of Joseph Conrad's short story Amy Foster in which he plays a Ukranian immigrant. Set on the craggy cliffs of 19th century Cornwall, the film has its similarities to Talk of Angels (based on Kate O'Brien's controversial novel Mary Lavelle) as it charts the passionate affair of shipwreck survivor Yanko (Perez) with Amy, a young servant girl played by Rachel Weisz (Stealing Beauty).
"It's quite difficult for me to find roles in English in French films, as you can imagine," he jokes. "I've been very lucky. The Crow is definitely a turning point for me."