Bérénice Marlohe may have broken out playing the femme fatale Sévérine in “Skyfall,” but with a full slate of varied work ahead, including a role in a still-untitled Terrence Malick film (Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett and Michael Fassbender costarring), the Paris-born painter and pianist has sidestepped the typecasting trap that follows most Bond girls. She may even go on to become as well known as her more famous namesake, Bérénice Bejo, the star of “The Artist.”
“A Bond girl is a very powerful, heavy, beautiful concept. It’s so strong that sometimes they might think, ‘Ah, maybe you’re not interested in doing something or maybe you cannot.’ No, baby!” she cooed in her exquisite French accent while at the Palm Springs International Film Festival. She was promoting “5 to 7,” “an unconventional love story” with a very French sensibility in which she plays a mother of two in an open marriage to a French ambassador.
“I think for 10 years I was preparing mentally [for her big break]. I had things to say because I was mature and it was the right moment,” said the 35-year-old, whose resume up to that point consisted mainly of French television shows and commercials in Asia and Europe. At one point, she was a model for Omega watches. “What is great is that my character in ‘5 to 7’ has nothing to do with a Bond girl at all,” she continued. Marlohe was speaking outside the Annenberg Theater on a perfect California afternoon, a day after the film had had its first screening at the venue.
“It’s funny, beautiful and meaningful,” she said of the film, named after the French expression “cinq à sept,” otherwise known as “cheating hours.” “I was happy they could see my ability to play things that are drastically different.”
Although she has worked with the likes of Javier Bardem and Ralph Fiennes, she was intimidated by her “5 to 7” co-star Glenn Close. “She’s exactly the kind of woman I admire. She has balls; she has charisma. That extraordinary beauty is real, not the made-up kind of beauty that you’re supposed to love, you know, Barbie or Ken,” Marlohe said. (Her other costars are not too shabby: American stage and screen great Frank Langella and the venerable French actor Lambert Wilson, who plays her husband.)
Her performance in the indie helped her land the Malick film, which also explores love triangles. “The plot is really unknown to all of us actors,” she said. “You can’t think too much, just go with your instinct, so it’s very organic and a different way of creating a movie.”
Marlohe surprised some with her decision to move to Los Angeles two years ago. “My best friend in Paris told me, ‘Oh why are you going to L.A.? They have amazing, beautiful girls who all have big boobs and they’re blonde [with] big lips.’ But this is the point, and are we talking about a [looks] contest or are we talking about acting?” she said. “Sometimes young people, they’re raised in this cult of celebrity and they just want to be famous, but this is not the point. You have to want to create something beautiful with your life, as well as tell some things through this beautiful medium.”
Up next, she will be in “Revolt,” a “Thelma and Louise”-style road trip film with a sci-fi twist. “At the end [of the movie] I had to shoot with two big, huge guns, and it was fun because it was about humanity rising for the freedom, and I love that message,” she said without a lick of irony.
Victor Levin, a former Emmy-nominated “Mad About You” writer who is making his feature film directorial debut with “5 to 7,” predicted his leading lady has a bright future ahead, and not just as a French seductress.
“I want people to think of her as more than a French actress. She’s a comedienne, she’s a dramatic actress. She could be an action hero, I’m sure,” he said.
Marlohe would like to think she’s on her way.
“I love the idea of the American Dream, that you start from nothing and you can achieve things,” she said. “I feel more free in this country.”