is naturally pretty without makeup, a blithe spirit, running around the
roof of the Hotel Martinez in a kimono, unafraid of displaying her toothy
smile. "There's something wrong with my teeth," she says,
"they're not all in a row."
Casta, the face of modern France, was launched by Yves Saint Laurent. Now,
she is Marianne, a national treasure, a symbol of the French Republic,
with her effigy in city halls. A top model, or un top, as the
French say, Casta has been featured in luxury ads, such as Jean-Paul
Goude's Galeries Lafayette campaign and Victoria's Secret lingerie, and
she represents L'Oreal cosmetics.
"Les Ames Fortes" (Savage Souls), the film that closed the
Cannes International Film Festival and was released in France on the same
day, she plays Therese, an ambitious peasant girl whose motives and acts
are cloaked in enigma. "Therese wasn't a very cheerful part,"
is her first leading role. "The most difficult thing for me was to
be accepted by a team," she said. "I was afraid of not being up
to it, not being good enough. Everything new is difficult, but it was a
film, directed by Raoul Ruiz, was adapted from a novel by Jean Giono, and
set in the mountainous gloom of Haute Provence. Ruiz has his own way of
dealing with narrative: His last film, in 1999, was an impressionist
vision of Proust's world, "Le Temps Retrouve" (Time Regained).
He hasn't taken the easy way in this one either, telling the story in
galloping flashbacks, grappling with elusive characters who seem to slip
even further out of focus as the plot unfolds.
23, is spontaneous and unsophisticated. Her only previous screen
appearance was in the cartoon-like "Asterix et Obelix Contre
Cesar," but she did not flinch at playing Therese as a withered black
widow of a woman, looking back on her past, as well as the young and
savage opportunist. "I loved the idea of playing a comic-book
character, even if 'Asterix' was a movie for kids. I worked with actors
like Gerard Depardieu and Roberto Benigni, and it made me want to
act." She also starred in "La Bicyclette Bleue," a
popular television series, and had had her mind on movies for several
years. "I've turned down parts. I could have accepted to act in a
commercial film. People ask, 'Why Raoul Ruiz?' But it would have been dumb
to miss the chance."
treatment of Giono is true to the obscure mood of the novel. "Jean
Giono wrote about an ambiguous character," Casta said. "That's
the way he charted the novel, rather than planting signposts saying what
this character is all about - so you had to act the part from the
had not read Giono before. "I discovered Giono, and got more out
of the book than any screenplay. He's not easy, but I was motivated."
is half Corsican and half Norman, and was raised in Normandy; she did not
have a bookish youth. "When I was offered a chance to pose for
photos, I grabbed it because I was unhappy at school - the teachers were
worried about me. I had an older brother who worked well, and I did not. I
clammed up, I never opened a book, I thought I'd never amount to anything.
I just wasn't interesting."
was 15 when she began modeling, and shot to the top. "There's
no ideal career or way of doing things. I was very lucky, but I had to
grab the opportunity. I learned everything through travel, the school of
experience. I had a passport to the world. If the plane wasn't there, I'd
take a boat. If there was no boat, I walked. And gained more
self-confidence than if I had stayed at school."
has always loved everything to do with images. "Photographers too,
are influenced by film, so I didn't really change careers, I just
diversified. In the fashion world, I learned about the camera and
lighting, and other things actors are supposed to know, like how to move,
so I wasn't afraid of that part."
looking at herself on the screen was not always easy. "I get
nervous, like hearing my voice on the phone; I tighten my fists and
perspire. Nobody likes themselves. That's why people are so cruel to each
Therese, she is an object of curiosity. Right now, there is a rumor that
she is pregnant, which she neither denies nor confirms. She does say: "I
would love my children to study, if that's what they want. I'm Catholic,
and even if I'm not religious today, I learned the history of Jesus and
the apostles. I would never force my children, but I'd want them to
is so near childhood herself still and likens Ruiz to the grandfather she
lost years ago. "Raoul is a magic character out of 'A Thousand and
One Nights' or 'Ali Baba.' He's older, he's made lots of movies, but he's
saw "Time Regained" two years ago at Cannes. "I remember
thinking, 'That's real cinema.' And when I saw them all take a bow
together, I thought, wow, how great to be part of an ensemble."
"Les Ames Fortes," Arielle Dombasle plays Madame Numance,
Therese's mysterious benefactress. Casta says that Dombasle was protective
of her on the set, "Very generous. Arielle floats on a cloud,
while I'm earthy, clunky."
has acted with Ruiz several times, as well as with Eric Rohmer. Does Casta
see herself as part of a director's entourage? She thinks about it. "Rohmer
takes mostly young people and I'm going to be getting older. I think not.
I'd like to get out, discover new experiences. If a young director wants
me and the part is interesting, I'd be thrilled."
recently played a prostitute in Patrice Leconte's "Rue des
Plaisirs." A very different experience, she laughed. "Patrice
looks like a charming elfin creature, but he's much more serious than
are different kinds of beauty, Casta said. "Dragons and villains
wanted me to have my teeth fixed, and to lose weight. That's not the way I
see this job. Right now, I want to do more, go deeper. That's who I am
now. When I was 15, I didn't know as much; now I'm 23. And when I'm 40,
maybe none of this will interest me anymore, and I'll become a