French cinema has provided some truly impressive actresses from Catherine Deneuve to Juliette Binoche but few have proven quite as talented as Mélanie Laurent. Not only has this icy blonde recorded a debut album (En T’Attendant) with singer and ex-boyfriend Damien Rice, she’s in cinemas this week in her first leading role opposite Ewan McGregor in the comedy-drama Beginners. With a clutch of French films, a part in Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds in 2009, and directing experience (De Moins En Moins in 2008) under her belt, she is now the face of Dior’s fragrance, Hypnotic Poison. Stylist met her, feeling like a huge underachiever…
You filmed Beginners with Ewan McGregor. Is he a total charmer?
Yep, you said the right word [laughs].
Did you hang out together?
We had a burger on the road. Actually, I had two burgers and he was like, “Oh my God, you’re the first actress I’ve seen do that.” But that was about all of the spare time we had.
Your star is rising. Can you walk the streets without paparazzi following you?
Yes. I had my first paparazzi experience three weeks ago – they just took pictures of me at the airport, doing nothing.
Did you find it exciting?
No, it was weird. In France you don’t really see paparazzi as we’re protected [by laws]. For paparazzi to take photos you really have to be doing cocaine in the middle of thestreet… which I won’t be doing.
" I had to learn English fast because I lied and said I was perfectly fluent. I watched Gossip Girl on repeat."
Why did you choose acting?
I met [actor] Gérard Depardieu on the set of Asterix & Obelix when I was 14 because the father of my best friend at the time was working there as a technician. Gérard asked me, “Do you want to make movies?” and I said, “Why not?” I did my first movie with him, so he kind of chose all this for me.
You then starred in Inglourious Basterds but didn’t speak English at the time. Was that difficult?
Yes, I had to learn fast because I lied to Quentin and said I was perfectly fluent. I watched Gossip Girl on repeat [laughs]. That’s the best way to learn.
Which roles would you like next?
I seem to get the serious roles but comedy would be fun. I also want to direct more. I don’t like being called just an actress because people stop referring to you as a human being. They say, “You’re an actress, you’re not real, you don’t have feelings.”
What are your career rules?
Gérard Depardieu told me three things: firstly, forget acting school. Second, don’t try to learn your text and what it’s meant to be – you do it. Thirdly, he said never be afraid to be ridiculous, which was great because if you’re afraid of that you won’t do anything.
Interview: Natalie Lukatis. Photography: Corbis/REX Features