Belles De Jour; after Their Seductive Performances in New French Thriller Saint-Ange, Are Virginie Ledoyen and Lou Doillon Destined for Hollywood?

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), March 20, 2005 | Go to article overview
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Belles De Jour; after Their Seductive Performances in New French Thriller Saint-Ange, Are Virginie Ledoyen and Lou Doillon Destined for Hollywood?


Byline: ROSE SHEPHERD.

Amelie's Audrey Tautou may be France's best-known actress at the moment, but two young stars are snapping at her heels. Lou Doillon and Virginie Ledoyen are the stars of new French film Saint-Ange. Both are models for major French cosmetics houses (Givenchy in the case of Doillon and L'Oreal for Ledoyen), both come from broken homes and both are looking to make it big in Hollywood.

Ledoyen, of course, has already had a minor hit with The Beach, in which she starred opposite Leonardo DiCaprio, while Doillon recently featured in the BBC drama The Private Life of Samual Pepys. But their latest project should bring them to the attention of sharp-eyed studio chiefs in Tinseltown.

The story, set in 1960, tells how Anna (Ledoyen), is sent to clean the remote, abandoned St Ange orphanage in the French Alps, and finds an orphan Judith (Doillon) still living there. As she goes about her task, Anna starts to experience some very strange phenomena such as hearing the chatter and footsteps of children echoing down the long, empty hallways. Yes, we've seen its like before, but perhaps not as a vehicle for two such alluring sirens.

While their careers have run in parallel for years, Doillon and Ledoyen have come to fame by very different routes.

Doillon, 22, is the third child of British-born actress and chanteuse Jane Birkin, born of Birkin's liaison with French film director Jacques Doillon.

She made her screen debut aged five in a romantic drama, Kung-Fu Master, playing a naturally plausible role as Birkin's daughter, and had her first major part in 1998, in her father's film, Trop (peu) d'Amour.

Birkin is forever associated in the public imagination with her husband, the late French singer Serge Gainsbourg, with whom she recorded the heavy-breathing hit Je T'Aime... Moi Non Plus. While Doillon's half-sister and fellow star Charlotte Gainsbourg had to endure her parents' separation - her mother left Serge for Doillon - and her father's death, for Lou, the romanticised Birkin-Gainsbourg relationship presented a different emotional challenge.

'I was in a very awkward position,' she says. 'For my mother it was very difficult because everyone loved the couple she was with Serge... My father was hated for being the man who stole her away. When Serge died, I would see her constantly crying on TV for him, saying he was the only love of her life and doing concerts, singing his songs.

At the same time, I would be thinking, "Hey, guys, wait a second, I wouldn't be here if this hadn't happened. Where do you think I am in that story?"' To resolve the identity crisis, and to resist becoming public property the way her mother was, Doillon adopted an outrageous persona. 'When I was 12, I had piercings, a tongue stud, tattoos and dreadlocks.

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