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     Volume 7 Issue 26 | June 27, 2008 |

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Deborah Ross

Heavens, Sophie Marceau is beautiful. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. And just for the readers out there who are slow I know who you are; don't think I don't she is this: beautiful. Amazingly, considering how far ahead of the game I usually am, I am not the first to notice. Previous interviewers have noticed, particularly the male ones (can you believe?). She has "burnished eyes" and "rose-bud lips" which, when they are not being "rose-bud", are "oyster plump". She has "thick glossed hair that tempts the fingers", is "the most distractingly sexy woman I have ever met" and one naughty little fellow was even seduced by the "smooth white curve of her skin". I do not know which curve in particular he was following as it was never specified. True, I am lucky in that I am very, very pretty indeed, but I do sometimes wonder about being this beautiful, and how my life might have panned out differently if I were. I later ask Ms Marceau if she ever imagines what it might be like to not be beautiful, and how her life might have panned out differently. "I do not think about this, non," she says. At least we now know. And at least she doesn't deny being beautiful, which many beautiful women do even if it is the most interesting thing about them.

We meet in a London hotel. I am one of several interviews that day and while she isn't unfriendly, she does seem a little ennui-laden. "And the next..." At least, I am very, very pretty, which is known to be cheering. And she? She is beautiful with "rose bud lips" that may be "oyster-plump" and has "burnished eyes" and "thick glossed hair" and all that white skin curving somewhere. (Listen, when someone's already done the work for you, you think I'm going to start all over?) She is wearing a smart black suit which isn't a label. "I don't know where it is from. I am sorry, I don't do Prada. I find it in a little store. It is a no-mark." God, she's so deliciously French. This little thing I just threw on and happen to look ravishing in? Still, not a shopper then? "I am not a shopper, non."

I say I enjoyed her latest film, Female Agents, which is an old-fashioned, derring-do war movie that pays tribute to France's real-life female resistance fighters. I tell her it was very exciting, or at least what I saw was, as I am pathetically squeamish and ducked during the scenes when the women were tortured for information. Do you, I ask, ever wonder how brave you would be in such circumstances? She says: "I can handle the pain very well. I'm tough, but after the scene of this torture I really thought: you cannot resist. And I think, actually, the body just collapse. You can not resist any longer, and physically if someone pull out your nail or your teeth..." OK, that is enough now... "or slap you or just beat you or put your head in the water..." Steady on, girl... "or preventing somebody to sleep for two, three days, your brain doesn't function correctly so you die from it and so you just say whatever they want you to say, sign whatever they want you to sign." I think she is saying she's brave, but isn't that brave. I think.

I have a feeling and it is just a feeling that she makes her stories up for each interviewer, not for the fun of it, even though that would be fun, but because her mind isn't properly fixed anywhere, is such a floaty thing, like a balloon without a string. It can drift off anywhere, anytime, which is fine and may even make her more truthful than most which of us are always the same, always? But it also means a certain lack of constancy; she never answers the same question with the same answer twice.

When, previously, an interviewer, perhaps momentarily distracted from that white curve curving somewhere, asked her when she first realised she was stunning, she said: "It was at pre-school when I was four and I always had a bunch of boys running after me in the playground every recreation break. I remember thinking: 'That's funny, all those boys running after me instead of wanting to play with other boys.'" But when I ask her the same question hell, do you think they pay me enough to think up my own questions? she says: "I was a good friend to the boys. I was toy boy." Tom boy? "Ah yes. Not toy boy?" Different thing altogether, love. "OK, so my mother, she educate me more like a boy than a girl. She never allowed me to be very girly and to be pretty and when I started to put dresses on at 12, 13 years old and be conscious about my feminineness she was like: what, what is this dress? Who do you think you are? She was really violent about that in a way. I was not allowed to think I was beautiful or pretty, never. I remember as a kid it was my brother who was handsome." So there you go. Take your pick from the above answers or, if you are one of the slow ones, get in touch and I will pick for you.

She was born in a modest Paris suburb in 1966 to a truck driver father and shop assistant mother. When I ask if she was a happy child she says: "Not at all," then retracts it. "That would not be fair to say so, actually. I was happy in some ways, yes, in the garden. I loved the garden but it was not entertaining, it was not this kind of happiness. It was more interior, more meditative." So why do you also remember yourself as not happy? "I was not connected at all to the world. For me the world was like a huge question." Is this the "balloon"? Maybe. She continues: "I am more aware of what is going on but there are still some pieces lacking because I didn't have them when I was a child. I didn't understand how the world was functioning, not at all. This is a main thing in my life. It is sometimes difficult to deal with but at the same time it gives me a lot of freshness. I am not full of references at all."

She was a teen model before winning the lead role in the smash-hit teen movie La Boum a sort of French Dirty Dancing at 14 and then, two years later, won a Cesar award for its sequel. The following year, she had moved into her own flat in Paris. She was done with school early, although it doesn't sound as if the school minded that much. "I was not bad. I don't really have memories about school. I was OK. I was not working enough. I was not a scholar." She says there were never any books at home when she was growing up and she didn't read her first book until she was in her early twenties, maybe not even until she was 25. "It was so hard for me to start. Now I really love reading but it took me a long time." What, among the first books you read, really stands out? "One of the first I was moved by was a Singer book." Isaac Bashevis? "Yes, The Slave and also his short stories. I had never read anything like it, the whole world was different. That was my favourite to start with and then I read the classics. Tolstoy, Faulkner."

If, I say, you could somehow go back to the 14-year-old Sophie and give her tips and advice, what would that advice be? She says she wouldn't want to do that. "It's the process of life that teaches you, non? It's the process of life that makes you what you are or are not. I believe in time. I like the work that time does and I believe it takes time to build something up. It doesn't happen in one day. So I could not go back and say, you'd better do this and this. I just go for it, see what is going to happen, and do the work. Not that I don't have regrets. Of course, sometimes you say something that you didn't really think about and hurt somebody. Of course you have regrets, but I worked hard..." Although being beautiful may not be the most interesting thing about her come on, she loves Singer! she can be so vague and protracted that, as she answers, clocks whirr forward and tumbleweed rolls through town. It can be quite hard to keep on in there.

Anyway, she has starred in more than 30 films, but is probably best known to non-French audiences as Princess Isabelle in Mel Gibson's Braveheart and slinky Bond girl Elektra in The World is Not Enough alongside Pierce Brosnan. I ask if she has seen Daniel Craig as Bond. She says not. I say he's gorgeous. She says. "Oh? I think he is more like a Russian spy." I say you should see him coming out of the sea in his Speedos. I'd follow that curve to the ends of the earth. She says: "Hmm, interesting," but she doesn't look that interested.

Does she like Hollywood? She says she first went over to LA when she was 14, maybe 15, "and I was accompanied by a producer and his wife; he wanted me to play a young French woman who got kidnapped and was made to join the harem of a king. So he took me he was crazy, he was Swiss and I did some tests and the studio put a carpet on my head. It was ridiculous, and I have never liked it since." Not even a teeny bit? "I love the desert but they pretend it is not a desert any more ... I like the geography but I don't like the group of people that have set up life there." (I have since heard that she is dating the Franco-American actor Christopher Lambert. Naturally, I wish them every happiness and a bolt-hole in the desert proper.)

She has two children by two different fathers. Eleven-year-old Vincent with Andrzej Zulawski, a Polish director 26 years her senior, and Juliette, five, with US film producer Jim Lemley. Her life outside film is the kids, never cooking ("is not my thing"), buying art ideally, she'd own both a Goya and a Rothko and travelling. "My best friend says to me: 'Be smart when you travel, be intelligent.' You have to take what gives you a new vision of things, what teaches you something. Everywhere you go there is something good to take. Every culture has been through such history and wars and questioning to know a lot, non?" Indeed. Yes, indeed.

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