Meet Vincent Cassel, France's 'scary' film star

AFP - [email protected]
Meet Vincent Cassel, France's 'scary' film star
Vincent Cassel, with Liaison co-star Eva Green at the launch of the AppleTV+ series . (Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP)

French actor Vincent Cassel is set to dominate big and small screens this year, appearing in two blockbuster French films and a new spy thriller on Apple TV.


Liaison pairs Cassel with another major French export, Eva Green, as former lovers forced to work together to stop a series of major cyber-attacks.

The 56-year-old star of Black Swan and La Haine is not coy about why he chose to work with the tech giant.

"It's very simple. There are not many opportunities for a French actor to get an international audience," he told AFP.


"The power of a company like Apple is that they can press a button and 150 million people know about it. It isn't negligible," he added with a grin.

Cassel is already a big name internationally, of course, thanks largely to two landmark French films where he deployed his scary energy to the hilt - 1995's gritty urban tale La Haine and 2002's infamous rape drama Irreversible.

They catapulted him to Hollywood, where he has starred in the 2014 remake of Beauty and the Beast, and had celebrated supporting roles in Black Swan, Jason Bourne and Ocean's Twelve - as well as a major part in the third season of Westworld.

But 2023 is special, with his face all over French billboards as part of two homegrown blockbusters: The Three Musketeers (as Athos) and Asterix and Obelix: The Middle Kingdom (in which he plays Julius Caesar).

"When we choose to do this for a living, it can all stop from one day to the next, but then suddenly two days later - and this has happened to me - you can find yourself in China, in Korea or Hollywood. Everything is possible," he said.


Cassel said he was over the moon to have an extended partnership with Green, his co-star in both Liaison and The Three Musketeers.

"Eva is a really unique actress with a very instinctive side," he said. "I had the impression of her as a female version of the type of actor I can be. So we immediately had this electricity between us."

More is in the pipeline - not least the intriguing prospect of Cassel playing a version of David Cronenberg in the Canadian director's semi-autobiographical film The Shrouds.

He is also due to star in a biopic of famed French aviator and author of The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

Cassel likes to keep things moving forward.

"I don't have a rearview mirror really," he said. "I'm incapable of comprehending what I've done and it doesn't really interest me.


"In any case, I have more and more trouble staying in front of a screen so I'm not a big consumer of cinema or series. More and more I realise that I'm concentrating on what matters most to me - my mental health, my physical health, my family, my children, my wife, my friends - and possibly the upcoming projects because they are the most interesting."

He makes little distinction between film and TV, not least because the budgets are no longer distinguishable.

"It was around $8-10million per episode (for 'Liaison')," he said. "I can assure you I've done films that were $1million for the whole thing.

"Cinema will be obliged to renew itself and find the means to continue to exist.

"But it won't be replaced by TV because the cinematic experience is different - it's an experience we share, while often with TV we're alone with our screen as we are so often these days, obsessed with these little things that make us lower our heads."

Four must-watch Vincent Cassel movies

La Haine: Cassel was nominated for two Césars - for best young actor and best actor - in this gritty and uncompromising cult tale of a single day and night in the lives of three friends from a poor immigrant neighbourhood in the suburbs of Paris. 

L'Instinct de mort / L'Ennemi public no 1: He finally won a César in 2009 - along with several other awards - for his role in this two-part biopic of notorious French criminal Jacques Mesrine, who was declared France's public enemy number one in the 1970s.

Black Swan: Cassel played brutal choreographer Thomas Leroy in Darren Aronofsky's not-for-the-faint-hearted psychological chiller about an ambitious ballerina's descent into madness. Star Natalie Portman won a deserved Oscar for her role.

Ocean's Twelve: Proving he can do lighter fare, Cassel joined Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's franchise for its second film, as a rival high-end thief. It's not the best instalment of the original trilogy but it has its moments, and Cassel is an impressive addition. He returned in Ocean's Thirteen.


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