You may not have heard of Léa Seydoux, but you are about to. She was the adorable coquette who flashed her pink knickers in the Prada Candy fragrance campaign. She’s also had some relatively minor parts in some seriously major American films, such as Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris and the latest instalment of the Mission: Impossible series. I met with her in Paris to talk about baking cakes, Tom Cruise and why, with her, what you see is what you get.
Alice Cavanagh: Was acting what you always wanted to do?
Léa Seydoux: Ah, no. When I was very young I wanted to be … to do cakes? Like, to be a…
Yeah, a baker.
That’s cool. Do you bake now?
What’s your specialty?
Crumble. I am very good at crumbles, but it’s not very difficult to make crumbles.
What kind of crumble?
Apricot crumble. Very good.
Yum! Do you only do desserts?
I don’t really try. I like to eat a lot. I’m very, how do you say, gourmand? I really like good food. Yeah, so I wanted to be a baker, but I realised it’s hard to be a baker.
You have to get up really early in the morning.
Yeah. You have to wake up very early.
- You’ve worked with great directors, like Woody Allen and Quentin Tarantino. What were you able to take from those experiences?
Um… they’re all great, really. But, you know, it wasn’t very deep work, because it was small parts. I mean, it was very nice and extremely interesting, but it wasn’t like, uh, something that really changed me, because it wasn’t long enough, you know? The process, sometimes it can be, how do you say, plus or less, you know? Plus or less intense?
More or less?
[Nods] More or less intense — it depends on the person.
Who was the most intense director you’ve ever worked with?
Woody Allen was intense, in the way that we had, like, a real connection…
Is he funny?
Yeah, he’s very funny.
So, you have Mission: Impossible coming out.
And what is your role in that?
I’m the villain.
You’re obviously a French villain…
Yes. I’m French and I kill. I am a killer.
Do you like watching action movies?
Not really. But it’s, like, the real American movie, you know? Like, the Hollywood movie.
What was Tom Cruise like?
He’s very nice. And I was very surprised by him. I knew that he was a very good actor, but I didn’t know that he was such a good actor. We can think that he’s a little strange, but he’s really human.
So, he doesn’t come across as strange?
No. You know, he has something in his eyes. He has, like, something of a child [in his eyes], and it’s very touching. I also saw him with his kid, and I think he’s a very good father. I like that.
So, what other projects do you have coming up?
Right now I’m working on an Abdellatif Kechiche movie. I don’t know if you know him … I don’t think he’s very famous internationally, but here in France he’s a very, very good director.
And what’s the film about?
A passion story, between two women.
Oh, are you doing a lesbian role?
You’re blushing! [Laughs] Is that a hard thing to do?
[Laughs] I don’t know. I don’t think so.
That would be a really interesting role to explore.
Yeah. I would love to know how I’m going to act in front of the girl … It’s really a passionate story…
Do you have to do physical scenes?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. That is going to be very strange, because it’s new. I mean, when you do a love scene with a boy, you know how to behave because that’s real life, you know? But when you’re in front of a woman, I think it’s interesting. And also I’m playing, like, how do you say, when you … I’m supposed to be ‘the man’, you know? Because she’s younger than me, and I’ve assumed my sexuality, and she’s just discovering hers.
OK. That sounds really interesting.
Yeah, very interesting.
You don’t have to try that out in real life now.
So, what about nudity? That’s plays such a big part in French cinema. Are you very comfortable with that?
No. Not at all. I don’t like to be naked, but I have to.
Why do you feel like you have to be?
You have to because sometimes it’s necessary. Sometimes it’s not, but sometimes it is. And, uh… I know some actors in France who don’t do that.
And are you uncomfortable because you’re self-conscious? Or because…
No, but I … You know why I do it? Because I think that nudity is beautiful. Sometimes it can be awful, but when it’s beautiful… Cinema is the art about reality; it’s art from reality. In French we say l’art de la réalité. You show reality, so you have to show bodies.
What is the worst part of your job?
The worst part is managing my own image.
You know, I don’t feel like… Most of the actresses are like, [puts on airy, smooth voice] “Hi, hello, OK, mm-hmm, uh-huh, yeah.” I am not like that; it’s terrible. They seem like, when they do promotion, that they are in…
[Nods] They are like a character. They act different, and I can’t really be like that. I’m always natural, I think.
I think that people like natural; I think they can relate to that more.
You think so?
Yes, as long as you don’t get too natural and end up crazy and weird, like Tom Cruise.
But I am crazy and weird also! [Laughs]