An intimate group of New Yorkers felt a little extra heat Thursday night when French actor Vincent Cassel was the guest of honor at a dinner at Savoy. Cassel was in town to promote the upcoming U.S. release of his César-winning films “Mesrine: Killer Instinct” and “Mesrine: Public Enemy No. 1,” which together follow the life of famous French gangster Jacques Mesrine who was brutally gunned down by the police in 1979.

This story first appeared in the August 9, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The movies were shot successively over 33 weeks and the normally trim Cassel gained 45 pounds to embody Mesrine in his later years. “[It was] lots of pasta, potatoes, ice cream sundaes, 3,000-calorie milk shakes,” recalled the actor. “It was fun for the first 10 days…I will never do it again. After 40, it’s not good to mess with the body like that,” he said, adding with a self-mocking smile, “But it was for the art.”

The once-again slim Cassel, an avid surfer who owns a home in Brazil with his wife Monica Bellucci (the couple has two children), clearly had his appetite back, digging into a meal of soft shell crab and duck while discussing his upcoming film, Darren Aronofsky’s “The Black Swan,” out later this year. After stepping out for a quick cigarette (“Doesn’t anyone smoke anymore?”), he left just before dessert, citing a serious case of jet lag.

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