A DATE WITH DESTINEE
Byline: Peter Braunstein
NEW YORK — The Mayflower Hotel on Central Park West defies categorization: Too sleazy to be upscale, but not sleazy enough to be sexy, it turns out to be an apt venue for a conversation with French actress Emmanuelle Beart. Like the Mayflower, Beart seems between identities, ensconced in an existential holding-pattern. Bleary-eyed from jet lag, not prone to levity even under normal circumstances and utterly ravishing in any state, she is languorously promoting her new film, “Les Destinees,” which opened last Friday. American audiences may remember Beart from her role opposite Tom Cruise in the first “Mission:Impossible,” but that’s an experience she longs to forget. “This lack of imagination in American film,” she says, shaking her head and letting out one of many sighs that lap at her soliloquies with the dull regularity of receding tides. “I’m too spoiled to accept American films. I’ve worked with the best French directors. I need intimacy.” After “Mission: Impossible,” Beart stood her best chance of gaining a foothold in the American film world, but the roles she was being offered didn’t do anything for her. “It was always the same story,” she says with a wince. “It was always, ‘Here, play the sexy spy from Denmark.’ I got the feeling I should just go home.”
Cannily avoiding the “Danish sexy spy” career trap, Beart feels that she dodged a bullet. As Penelope Cruz is discovering right now, European actresses (Britons notwithstanding) always have trouble making it in America. Deneuve failed. Adjani failed. Beart attributes it to the language. “With Penelope, speaking English is a problem, and I feel the same thing.” Yet Beart speaks English quite well. “It doesn’t matter that I speak English well.” She’s getting annoyed again. “The language never gets into your guts, so it stops you from getting deep inside of yourself and, as a result, you can’t immerse yourself in the character. Even if you’re fluent, it’s not you.”
As if she hasn’t sufficiently subverted the entire premise of the interview, Beart — moving from one French actress trope to another — goes on to reveal that she’s not really a “movie person” at all. “I have a problem with movies,” she says, staring off into space. “When I’m at a movie, and then go out into the street, I feel like the person I’ve seen on the screen. Sometimes for days. That’s why I’d rather read a book, or if I have five minutes I’ll go into nature. I need earth and trees. I’m like an animal. I need to feel, to smell.”
She shrugs fatalistically, bored with what she just revealed about herself. Ultimately, Beart’s exercise in self-deconstruction is leading to its only natural endpoint: the admission that she might not even be an actress. “I believe in situations, not in parts,” she adds. “Maybe that’s because I’m a player in life. I’m more an actress in life than on the screen.”
But, then, that’s Emmanuelle Beart for you. Actress. Animal. Player. Favors situations, not roles. Just don’t look for her in a “Mission: Impossible” sequel anytime soon.