The Wylde Interview: Olga Kurylenko
OLGA KURYLENKO BLAZES A SENSUOUS TRAIL ACROSS CINEMA SCREENS WITH BREATHTAKING REGULARITY. CROPPING UP WITH CHAMELEONIC EASE IN THRILLERS, SCI-FI, ROMANCE AND COMEDY, THIS FORMER MODEL’S STAYING POWER PROVES HER STUNNING LOOKS ARE ONLY A SMALL PART OF THE STORY. INTERVIEW BY DAVID NEWTON
PHOTOGRAPHY BY PÜLMANNS
STYLING BY MIRANDA ALMOND
I caught my first glimpse of Olga Kurylenko 10 years ago, as her car screeched to a halt beside Daniel Craig’s fleeing James Bond in Quantum of Solace. Tanned, feline, glowering, she commanded: “GET IN!” and a million male – and female – hearts began to accelerate. Cast perfectly to counter Gemma Arterton’s breathy ingénue in the same film, French-Ukranian Olga exuded damaged sensuality and was, for this writer, the movie’s high point.
Fast forward a decade and there’s no doubting Kurylenko has effortlessly sidestepped the Bond-Girl Curse (whereby little is subsequently heard of the franchise’s actresses), as a glance at her CV will testify. Working with such legendary auteurs as Terrence Malick, Terry Gilliam and Roland Joffé and opposite such industry heavyweights as Craig, Cruise and Crowe, Olga has disproved another industry myth: that (former) models can’t act.
This self-confessed workaholic has just added a comedic flipside to her turn in Quantum, with her latest role in Rowan Atkinson’s Bond-spoof Johnny English Strikes Again. Wylde managed to persuade her to slow down long enough for a quick shoot and chat…
Wylde: Thank you for doing the shoot; did you enjoy it?
Olga Kurylenko: I had so much fun. I loved it… a lot! It was very condensed fun; to give it your all for a couple of hours. Jump around, dress up, do make-up…
You started out as a model, didn’t you?
I did, yes.
How long were you a model for?
I started when I was 16 and I think I did just over 10 years’ modelling. I started in Russia – that was ’95 – and then I wanted to take it to a different level because in those days they just didn’t have the international fashion magazines. Elle didn’t exist, Marie Claire didn’t exist. So I moved to Paris to continue modelling. I did my first film in 2004 [The Ring Finger] and after that I modelled for another year and a half, because by the time it came out, I didn’t know how people were going to react or if it would take off. But once it did take off, I didn’t need to model any more.
Had you always wanted to become an actress?
Oh yes, I did it as a hobby as a kid when I was in school, and then once I moved to Paris, cinema culture was more available than it was in my country, so I kept going to the movies and I decided that’s what I definitely wanted to do. I took classes in Paris, so my very first acting classes were in French. I lived in Paris for 13 years, so I started my career in French cinema.
Do you think that the French are more accepting of beautiful women as “good” actresses (I’m thinking Deneuve, Adjani, Ardant etc)? I feel that it’s the non-pretty “character” actresses in the UK that are taken more seriously…
I think it’s the opposite, in France. Hollywood has no problem with beautiful women; all the actresses seem very beautiful. In France, actresses can be beautiful, but they look more like normal people. They’re not an “ideal” beauty; they’re just very “real”. And if you’re too beautiful, they do have a problem with that. In the beginning everyone knew I was a model, so in France I did have a bit of difficulty. I did get some answers, like: “You can’t do this – you’re too beautiful. We need a normal person.” And I was like: “I am a normal person!” In America they wouldn’t really say that, because it’s normal to be beautiful. In the UK, I think it might be between the two, I guess. It’s Europe but it’s also like America.
The exploitation/abuse of women in the acting world is a massively sensitive issue right now; do you think it’s still a problem, or has it got better than a few years ago?
I’ll be honest… Personally, I never really had a big problem with it.
Why is that?
They wouldn’t dare with me! To be honest, it wouldn’t work, no way. And if there was a hint of it, I’d just laugh in the person’s face; that’s how I deal with it.
Are you a little bit scary, then?
I’m not scary; I’m just very relaxed. And because they see that I’m not afraid… it’s very hard to intimidate me. You can tell me whatever you want… I know what I want. Unless force is going to be used, nothing’s gonna work. Obviously, when force is used, it is criminal. But you cannot talk me into doing something.
What would you say to a 19-year-old-girl who is trying to break into the movies?
I would say: “Do everything on your own, like I did.” Nobody helped me. I didn’t ask anyone for their help. I didn’t have any influential friends; in every country I went, I didn’t know anybody. And whatever offers came, I often said: “No.” And here I am. I don’t know if it’s strength of character or what… I would say to the girl: “Don’t go and do just anything that anyone asks you to do. Whatever they promise… it’s all a lie.” Because whatever people say, they’re not gonna do it; it’s just a trick. It’s pretty common sense, though. I don’t know how anybody could believe that they’re gonna get anything that way. I guess some people do get what they want, but they’re going to have to live with themselves and look at themselves in the mirror in the morning. Maybe they can do it… I can’t.
And what advice would you give your 15-year-old self?
I was way too shy. It took me a long time to get everything that I got. I’m not a person who woke up famous overnight…everything was worked for. I guess I didn’t know how to use my power. I was absolutely unaware of it… up until yesterday [laughs]! It literally came to me so late in life. I was naïve, but not the sort of naïve that I spoke about before. I always had my head on my shoulders, but at the same time I was very green, like a little girl. I see girls today and they’re so grown-up. At 15 I was a child. Actually, at 20 I was a child! Nowadays women are so clever at 20, in that feminine way. But I don’t regret anything. I like my past and how I did it. I did it in my own time. But I probably started being a woman about a year ago!
What would people be surprised to learn about you? Any secret talents? DIY?
Not so much that, but I love order… so I spend my time organising things! I guess I have OCD, but in a good way. I can’t stand disorder… I’m obsessed!
I’m thrilled you live in London… What do you like doing here?
Now that I have a child, I go to the Science Museum and Natural History Museum a lot.
How old’s your child?
He’s three. He’s into planets and dinosaurs, so those two museums are perfect. I mainly go to child-friendly places now…parks and playgrounds.
Do you go out at night?
I go to events; I haven’t been out in a while! Events are my going-out. I combine an evening out with a bit of work. I bump into friends and people I know from the industry. I sit at the table with people I know; it’s usually very pleasant.
Would you ever direct a movie?
I don’t think so, I don’t have that desire; I’m more into writing and producing, that’s what I find more exciting. I’d write and then find a director who would direct it. I have a couple of projects outlined right now. I guess that’s something that people don’t know about me: I’ve been writing things for a couple of years. But I just haven’t had the time to do it. I think: “Oh I’ll do it later, when there’s an empty space”, and then there isn’t an empty space, and I don’t do it…
You are constantly busy aren’t you? I checked you out on IMDb and you have about five or six things coming up. Are you a workaholic?
I am a workaholic! My friends tell me: “Olga, you need to rest! You have a problem… you cannot take a holiday!” I think they’re right; until I was told that and heard their voices, I didn’t realise it.
Out of your extensive back catalogue of work, is there a role you’ve played that particularly stands out for you?
The very first one, The Ring Finger , is still one of my favourites. It’s a French indie film and it’s really close to my heart because it’s my very first role. It was very brave of the director to put the whole film onto my shoulders and trust me, and it led to other parts. I very much like my role in [Miami mob-themed TV Series] Magic City. We only did two seasons and then it got cancelled, which was a shame. It was just so fresh and alive and funny. My character was a bit clumsy and funny… I think it suits me more to play funny characters. There’s a couple of comedies coming out soon: Johnny English and The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. I like playing roles that are very “real”.
There’s a recent role I like… I haven’t seen the movie yet because I only finished it in the summer. I don’t know what it’s going to be called because it was The Room but there’s already a movie with that name. I think it’s a combination of the script, the role, and the experience on the set, because the atmosphere and environment that you shoot in really reflects – or it really does for me – on my work. The freedom the director [Christian Volckman] gave us on that film and the way he communicated, the way he was with us, was so good that I feel that I was fulfilling myself as an actor. I was inspired. Sometimes you know how you want to do it, but they won’t let you. On sets, if the atmosphere is not right, it’s very difficult to do what you want to do.
You have covered so many genres of film, from thriller to sci-fi, romance to comedy. Is there a movie genre you haven’t really explored yet?
I guess I haven’t done a superhero movie!
Super-Olga! It’s got a ring to it and, let’s face it, this beautiful, high-flying workaholic must be in possesssion of a superpower or two.
Photography: Pülmanns @ Blood & Co
Styling: Miranda Almond @ One Represents
Hair: Earl Simms @ Caren, using
Kerluxe Multi-Tasking 360º Styling Cream
Make-up: Gina Kane @ Caren, using Kevyn Aucoin
Props: Olivia Gregory @ One Represents
Digital operator: Jakub Gessler
Photographers’ assistant: Pierre Lequeux
Stylist’s assistant: Holly Gorst