FALLING INTO PLACE
Byline: William Middleton
PARIS — One of the mysteries of the film “Four Weddings and a Funeral” for some people was why Hugh Grant went for the American babe when he had an English stunner chasing him. Andie MacDowell came off as a flighty sex fiend, while Kristin Scott Thomas was the elegant, vulnerable beauty, and some viewers wondered why Grant ended up with MacDowell.
“I couldn’t quite understand it myself,” says Kristin Scott Thomas with a laugh.
Born and raised in England, the actress has spent most of her adult life in France. “I was in drama school in London, and I was very unhappy so I just left one day,” she explains. “I came to visit friends for two weeks and just stayed. I’ve been here for 14 years now.”
Studying acting in Paris, she met a young French doctor, now her husband, with whom she has two young children.
“He was studying medicine and taking theater classes at night for fun — or really more for flirting,” she says.
Her first break came when she tried out for a small part in “Under the Cherry Moon” — a movie starring Prince, as he was then known — and was given the lead. She followed that by playing mostly angst-ridden English aristocrats in a string of films and television work, including “A Handful of Dust,” Roman Polanski’s “Bitter Moon” (also opposite Hugh Grant) and finally as Fiona in “Four Weddings.”
“Fiona was the epitome of all these characters I’d been playing,” Scott Thomas explains. “It was terribly sad, that part, but as soon as I read it, I knew I wanted to play it.”
Even during the filming of “Four Weddings,” there was a feeling this small movie might become an international hit. “Everyone on the set knew that something was happening,” she remembers. “It was like the film was on wings.”
Scott Thomas’s latest film, “An Unforgettable Summer,” opens in New York on Friday. And according to the actress, hers is a role she had practically no choice about taking. After being hounded by the director, Lucian Pintilie, and intrigued by the script, she agreed to a meeting in Paris. “The director, this kind of grumpy old man, said, ‘This afternoon, you’re going to see my last film, and you’re going to want to do my next film as well.’ I thought, ‘Who the hell does he think he is?’ Then I went down to the screening. It was this fantastic film called ‘The Oak’ and it was just mind-boggling. I came back upstairs and said, ‘OK, you’re right. I’ll do your film.”‘
“An Unforgettable Summer” is a small picture about a couple forced from the comfort of a Romanian city into the hardship of a military post in the countryside — a hardship made all too real by weeks of filming at a bleakly beautiful location on the banks of the Danube. Scott Thomas learned Romanian in six weeks and speaks it in the film along with English, and her irritatingly impeccable French.
After the success of her last film, Hollywood should be the next logical stop, but the actress is satisfied with her life in Paris. “It’s not America or bust. I really would like to work there, but I kind of wait for things to fall on my head. Fortunately,” she says with the mix of confidence and vulnerability that made her Fiona so seductive, “a lot of things do tend to fall on your head.”