Milla Jovovich Up For Challenge Of New Movie 'Stone'

PHILADELPHIA, PA -- Think Milla Jovovich, the hard-hitting heroine of "Resident Evil" fame, is just another model who decided to become an actress? Think again.

In "Stone," Jovovich portrays a wife who tries to seduce a prison administrator into releasing her husband on parole.

Jovovich, whose family left Ukraine when she was 5, was an actress first, starting at the age of 9. She took lessons - her mother was also an actress - and got her first role at 11.

When she needed new head shots, the photographer put "a bunch of makeup on me," as she recalls it, and sent the photos to the owner of a modeling agency, whom he knew.

When people saw the photos, Jovovich said, they were taken aback by how mature the young Milla looked, but she says she was merely pretending to be her mom dressing up for a night out.

"That, however, was my weird little doorway into the modeling world," she said last month at the Toronto International Film Festival. "The modeling really took off in a big way and there was a lot of controversy and brouhaha about my age and what I was exuding in pictures."

The controversy was exacerbated in 1988, when Jovovich got her first movie role - in Zalman King's "Two Moon Junction," one of the director's numerous soft-core sex dramas so popular on cable.

She was 12 at the time. Jovovich, however, not only wasn't involved in any of the adult stuff, she wasn't even aware of the type of film it was.

"I didn't read the script [child actors normally only get their parts to learn] and my mom and I were still very much fresh off the boat, so I don't think she ever read the whole script," she said. "Definitely my mom was kind of shocked halfway through when she walked in on set and there were some hot and steamy scenes going on - 'Milla, don't come in!' she said."

In the 20 years since, Jovovich has been busy building up a resume as more than just a pretty Revlon face.

"Stone," opening Friday, may be her most challenging role to date. Playing opposite two acting powerhouses, Jovovich holds her own on screen with Robert De Niro (Jack, the prison administrator), while trying to seduce him into letting her husband Stone (Edward Norton) out on parole.

Speaking with Jovovich about her character, Lucetta, was like sitting in on an episode of "Inside the Actor's Studio."

"When I was preparing for this character," she said, "what attracted me to her was the sense of joy she had, this wonderful feeling of comfort and this raw ability to just be free to do what she wants to do and have no regrets.

And I think that's what makes her very attractive for Stone and for Jack. It's this freedom that she has that neither one of them really do.

"And she's really innocent. Yes, she does manipulate, but at the same time that's what she knows. It doesn't come from a malicious place, it comes from you do what you do to survive.

"In a way I was very inspired by tigers and wolves. Lucetta's a predator. But you don't blame the wolf or the tiger for eating the rabbit or the gazelle, you're just stunned by the beauty of what's happening. Lucetta's like this wild animal that lives very much in the moment.

"She's very tactile. She's a teacher's assistant. She loves to work with kids, to play. She's a kid herself in a lot of ways. She's not the most intelligent girl you'll ever meet and I think that's where the need for manipulation happens, because she can't fall back on her education.

I don't think she's college-educated or a big reader, so she falls back on her sexuality and I think there are a lot of women who feel like they can control their existence when they feel like a man needs them, that they have this importance through their sexuality. Without it, I don't think Lucetta would know what to do. That's where she feels in control.

"Lucetta's choices are difficult. She's not somebody I would want to be friends with, and that was also what attracted me to the character, the fact that she did strike a chord of fear in me when I read the script. I was nervous about playing this kind of part but it was also compelling because I felt it was a challenge to make her sympathetic and to also learn to like her."

As for her sex scene with De Niro, a great actor not known for such scenes, Jovovich said, "Intimacy in film is always challenging and for me it was very difficult. It's hard for me to be intimate with people I don't know very well."

Jovovich added that working with director John Curran ("The Painted Veil") on material so open to interpretation was also appealing.

"The thing that's neat about this movie," she said, "is that it leaves a lot of questions and it doesn't tie everything up neatly in a little package for people to take home with them. We're not spoon-feeding people information. People take what they want from it and that's what they're going to talk about and debate - and what you think may be different from what I think.

"The film is about people who live very contradictory existences and they're going through shifts in their mentalities and trying to climb out of their repressive lives. One of the themes of the movie is this feeling of living day to day, day after day in a way that you feel you're supposed to be but not really how you feel. At some point, if you continue living like this, the proverbial house will burn down - as it does figuratively and literally in the movie."

Next up for Jovovich is the drama "Dirty Girl," which also played at the Toronto film fest, the thriller "Faces in the Crowd," and the drama "Bringing Up Bobby," written and directed by actress Famke Janssen.

She's currently shooting a new version of "The Three Musketeers," directed by her husband Paul W.S. Anderson (of the "Resident Evil" series).

"I'm just as gung-ho to work with a first-time director as I am to work with people who've made lots of movies," Jovovich said. "The first thing for me is the character. Is it something that attracts me, repels me, makes me feel nervous, is it just fun, or something that I've never done before?"

"Character is always very exciting because that's where I'm going to come in and create something and live through something in this process and learn something for myself. Second to that is the overall script and where does my character fit in. Everything else comes after. If the character's amazing and the script is compelling, I would do it with anybody," she paused, then laughed, "as long as I'm convinced that they know what they're doing."

Source: Phildelphia Daily News