Inside London’s Spring Studios a perfect storm of assistants, publicists, make-up artists, animal handlers and world-class imagemakers is swirling. At its calm centre, cradling a snow white dove, ethereally beautiful in an Alexander McQueen kimono dress so delicate her alabaster skin flickers beneath, is Hollywood’s newest asset: recently unveiled Bond-girl-in-waiting, Léa Seydoux...
Léa’s small but perfectly formed vignettes in films for directors including Wes Anderson, Woody Allen and Quentin Tarantino, as well as her campaigns for Prada’s latest fragrance Candy, have made her one of France’s most in-demand exports. Her nuanced Palme d’Or-winning performance in the lesbian love story Blue is the Warmest Colour, which became mired in controversy surrounding director Abdellatif Kechiche’s extremely demanding techniques, including graphic sex scenes shot over 10 days, brought her world-wide acclaim. Next year, as well as Spectre, Sam Mendes’s follow-up to Skyfall opposite Daniel Craig, she will appear in cult Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Lobster, an “unconventional love story” set in a dystopian future where singletons who don’t find a mate within 45 days are transformed into wild beasts. Two weeks after the cover shoot, Léa, in an animal-print puffer jacket, jeans and trainers, is tired but elated after her first day of Bond filming at Pinewood Studios. As she defrosts from a particularly cold December evening in a cosy drawing room at London’s Covent Garden Hotel, we speak about Alexander McQueen, love, Nietzsche, children, her modern take on the Bond Girl, and how acting is akin to an “appointment with death”.
Nancy Waters: So you just wrapped the first day of filming on the new Bond film, Spectre, at Pinewood Studios. What’s it like to be the newest Bond girl?
Léa Seydoux: I am very lucky. I was a fan, like everybody. We all love James Bond, right?
NW: Daniel Craig is a great Bond.
LS: Yes… There’s something physical and at the same time something sensitive. That’s the way he is in real life as well.
NW: What kind of Bond girl is Léa Seydoux?
LS: She will be different... She’s tougher, and more sensitive as well. She’s a modern woman in that way. She takes her destiny in her own hands. She’s not passive. She’s French, but I don’t think it’s very important that she’s French. I can say she falls in love with Bond… That’s probably too much!
NW: Do you have an all-time favourite Bond girl?
LS: Eva Green. She has this mystery, but also an awkwardness that I like. She’s not a stereotype.
NW: Do you have fight scenes?
LS: Yes! It is really fun. You have to train. But it’s very amusing. You feel like a kid. The casting is very exciting. It’s very chic. It’s going to be very witty; people are smart, with that English sense of humour that we all like in Bond films. It’s a blockbuster, but the writing is very intelligent. It’s on the edge.
NW: You’ve just finished filming Lobster, by Dogtooth director Yorgos Lanthimos. Reading the notes, it’s set in a dystopian future where single people are arrested and transferred to a creepy hotel and obliged to find a mate in 45 days. If they fail, they are transformed into an animal and released into the woods. Sounds like quite a different film to Spectre.
LS: Yes! But it’s funny, because Rachel [Weisz, Craig’s wife], is in it, and Ben Whishaw and me, so there is a lot of connection to Bond. I actually met Daniel when he came on the shoot to see Rachel. I thought I was going to do Bond, but I wasn’t 100 per cent sure then. It was funny to meet him in the middle of nowhere.
NW: Do you prefer working on blockbusters or art-house films?
LS: I like both, but it’s very thrilling to work on such a big international project with very talented people. It’s the crème de la crème. It’s always nice to be surrounded by the best. I am sure the film is going to be awesome. The script is great, the costumes… It’s nice to work on a film you already know is going to be iconic. It’s a great chance. But I also like small films. I’m not attached to comfort. When I act, I don’t need a trailer… It’s nice to have, but I think you’re always homeless in front of the camera.
NW: Who is working on the Bond costumes?
LS: Her name is Jany Temime. She only works for big productions. It’s nice to have a French partner! My character is going to be very chic. Not overdressed.
NW: What is your personal connection with McQueen?
LS: I love McQueen. He was a real artist. And I love what Sarah is doing with the house now… I just bought a coat. Black, in fake fur, very soft. He was political as well.
NW: He was also a storyteller. Is that part of what drew you to acting?
LS: I fell in love with an actor, that’s why I wanted to become an actress. It was an inspiration. He was like a role model, but in the sense that I created him in my mind, and he became a reason to act. I felt he had a message. I think you feel you are somebody when you are young, then you have to try to make that person exist.
NW: So you felt acting was always your destiny?
LS: It’s a little mystic, acting. It’s not tangible. It’s about how to explain, or how to catch something. That’s what I love about it. Even big stars are always freaking out when they have to act, because it’s like an appointment with yourself. A stage director once said to me it’s like an appointment with death in a way. You’re confronting nothingness.
NW: You never know what’s going to happen.
LS: That’s what I love about it. You never know if you’re going to make it. It’s scary but very exciting. When you succeed you feel a great joy. At the end of a scene, for example, especially emotional scenes. When you can express it in your own way, it’s even better.
NW: Maybe like finding the missing word, or the perfect expression of an idea when you write.
LS: Yes. To touch the truth is very difficult. When you have it… I think sometimes cinema is even more realistic than reality. Truly great cinema. I feel I’m more intense in my films than I am in real life. Or maybe I have the possibility in my films to express myself, because in life you feel judged. In a film you’re able to express all your fears and your craziness.
NW: What draws you to the world of Prada?
LS: I feel very close in my personality to Prada. It’s a femininity that’s complex; there is contradiction. It suits modern women today. She really invented something. It’s not a stereotyped femininity. She’s very secretive, but I like that!
NW: Do you have any style icons?
LS: I think I have my own style… I’m not afraid of having my own taste. I’m not chic, I have contradiction. I loved Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, she was so chic. Extremely chic. Audrey Hepburn. Marilyn Monroe in her jeans, Grace Kelly… You couldn’t dress like Grace Kelly now though, you would look like a grandma! But it suited her so well. Now there’s a new femininity that we have invented. You can’t just be desirable. We have a few things to take care of. Jobs, kids, family…
NW: You come from a large family, right?
LS: Yes, seven, but we don’t all have the same mother and father. It’s a big family, we are very close. But at Christmas there’s two parts, one with mother, one with father. I would love to have a few children.
NW: Do you think you will stay in Paris?
LS: Yes. It’s easy in Paris to travel. It’s a good centre point. And I like to walk around the streets, the shops, the restaurants. I always go to the same Japanese ones. French food is too heavy all the time! Cheese, bread, croissants…
NW: But there is a much healthier relationship with food there.
LS: I think they are not psychotic with food. The more you are obsessed with food the more you get fat. In Paris you just eat when you’re hungry and that’s it.
NW: Do you live in the past, the present or the future?
LS: I try to be in the present, the past and the future. Otherwise I would feel already dead. When you act you really feel in the present. It saves me, in a way. It’s hard for me to think about the future. It creates a lot of anxiety.
NW: What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
LS: Become who you are. Nietzsche told me that!
NW: Do you have a current obsession?
LS: I have lots of obsessions… Having a child.
NW: Is that on the horizon? You’re seeing someone?
LS: Yes, but he is younger than me. He said yes. But I just have to find the moment. You can’t always think about your career, you have to think about your personal life. I like to see all these actresses with kids, it’s really something that has changed. It’s very much valued to be a mother.
NW: Are you interested in design?
LS: I’m an aesthete. I’m extremely sensitive to objects. This is why I am a materialist. It’s something I have inherited from my mother, and my father. My family is very into objects, they have amazing taste. Very strong taste. My home is a mix of African, romantic, vintage.
NW: And art?
LS: I love painting. I find it more real than photography. I love van Gogh.
NW: Are you a difficult person to have a relationship with?
LS: I think I am quite easy. Maybe I am sometimes in my own world. Some people might not like it. But it’s part of me. I am caring. I have defects, but I think people can live with them. When I love, I really, truly love. I think that’s the most important thing.
This story first appeared in the Spring/Summer 2015 edition of AnOther Magazine.
Hair Mark Hampton at Julian Watson Agency for Toni & Guy Hair Meet Wardrobe; Make-up Petros Petrohilos at Streeters using Chanel S 2015 and Chanel Body Excellence; Manicure Sophy Robson at Streeters; Set design Janina Pedan at The Magnet Agency; lighting director Christian Bragg; Photographic assitants Robert Willey, Jori Komulainen; Digital tech Jax Harney; Styling assitants Isabelle Sayer, Kelly-Ann Hughes; Hair assistant Sophie Anderson; Make-up assistant Riona O'Sullivan; Set design assistant Amy Stickland; Production Sylvia Farago Ltd