It Was Fun Playing a Slut, but Some of My Screen Lovers Were Disgusting. Now, If Prince William Ever Wants to Act. Ludivine Sagnier Shocked the Cannes Festival with Her New Film Swimming Pool. but Can She Really Be Compared to Brigitte Bardot, Asks Celia Walden

By Walden, Celia | The Mail on Sunday (London, England), August 17, 2003 | Go to article overview

It Was Fun Playing a Slut, but Some of My Screen Lovers Were Disgusting. Now, If Prince William Ever Wants to Act. Ludivine Sagnier Shocked the Cannes Festival with Her New Film Swimming Pool. but Can She Really Be Compared to Brigitte Bardot, Asks Celia Walden


Walden, Celia, The Mail on Sunday (London, England)


Byline: CELIA WALDEN

If you don't already know of Ludivine Sagnier, the 24-year-old French star dubbed the new Brigitte Bardot, you soon will. She stars in one of this year's most controversial films, Francois Ozon's Swimming Pool. In it, she plays the obsessive, sexually bulimic Julie, who sleeps with a succession of men, irrespective of their age or appearance.

Nicknamed the 'wench-of-the-festival' by critics following the film's screening at Cannes earlier this year, Sagnier became an instant celebrity.

Today, however, she admits to finding the filming of the prolific sex scenes and the nudity disturbing.

'It made me feel very vulnerable,' she says. 'I often felt like I was the target either of the writer's or the director's fantasy, like a puppet who had no say where I went, just giving myself over to the director's will. In that way I felt a bit like a victim, like Julie.' Swimming Pool tells the story of Sarah Morton (Charlotte Rampling), a famous British mystery author who is sent away to conquer her writer's block in the beautiful Provencale home of her publisher, played by Charles Dance. Her world is turned upside down by the unexpected arrival of Dance's indolent, sexually charged daughter, Julie, whose attention-seeking causes her to bring home a different man every night. The interaction between the two women sets off an increasingly bizarre sequence of events, which ends in tragedy.

Sagnier says that the sex scenes were made all the harder by the director's choice of her partners. Because Ozon wanted to emphasise Julie's self-destructive tendencies, he insisted on the men she picks up being extremely unattractive. 'I was there at the castings, and every time I would say, "No, please not him. He's disgusting", Ozon would pick him.' The result is that Sagnier can't watch the sex scenes in the film. 'I have to hide my eyes,' she says. 'I can't even talk about the film with my parents.' Who would she have chosen as her ideal onscreen partner? Her preferred choice would fall into one of two categories: older actors such as Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, and younger ones. 'What's the name of the older prince?' she suddenly asks. 'Well, if Prince William ever wants to act, I'm available. I think he's cute.' At 5ft 4in tall, and translucently pale, Sagnier in person could not appear more different to the overtly sexual minx of the film.

Looking like a child who's been through her mother's makeup bag, her blue eyes are rimmed with slightly smudged mascara. Her clothes are more Camden Town than Left Bank. A fitted black corduroy jacket covers her now famously curvaceous figure, and is teamed with cream jeans. She wears no jewellery; instead she has a set of headphones around her neck, and on her feet she is wearing baby-blue slippers.

It is this individuality that first drew her to Ozon's attention, leading him to cast her in 2002's Water Drops on Burning Rocks. Since then, Sagnier has often been described as his muse, while Ozon himself sees her as 'touching and banal at the same time, then erotic, beautiful and ugly. All these possibilities'.

Last year, he directed Sagnier in 8 Women. For her role in the musical-style film set in the Fifties, which also starred Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert and Emmanuelle Beart, Sagnier won a string of awards and a nomination for a Cesar, the French equivalent of an Oscar.

Since Swimming Pool was nominated for the Palme d'Or in Cannes, Sagnier has been working on an American production of Peter Pan, in which she plays Tinkerbelle. Another film in which she co-stars with Kristin Scott Thomas, Small Cuts, is out next month.

But with her stunning bikini-clad form adorning posters for Swimming Pool on billboards across France, and being one of the few actresses to grace the cover of French Elle, this is obviously Sagnier's moment. And although delighted by the response to the film, Sagnier admits that she was at first reluctant to accept the role of Julie. …

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It Was Fun Playing a Slut, but Some of My Screen Lovers Were Disgusting. Now, If Prince William Ever Wants to Act. Ludivine Sagnier Shocked the Cannes Festival with Her New Film Swimming Pool. but Can She Really Be Compared to Brigitte Bardot, Asks Celia Walden
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