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Vincent Cassel Talks Mesrine, Black Swan, Soderbergh and Cronenberg's Next

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood August 9, 2010 at 8:01AM

The winner of three César Awards including best actor for Vincent Cassel in the title role, Jean-Francois Richet's gangster biopic Mesrine: Killer Instinct, Part One played the Toronto Film festival two years ago. At the time, doomed distrib Senator was set to release the film as well as Part Two, Public Enemy Number 1. Now Music Box is finally releasing the two French hits, adapted by Richet and A Prophet writer Abdel Raouf Dafri from Jacques Mesrine's autobiography, stateside on August 27 and September 3, respectively. (UPDATE: Anthony Lane writes a lovely review.)
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Thompson on Hollywood

The winner of three César Awards including best actor for Vincent Cassel in the title role, Jean-Francois Richet's gangster biopic Mesrine: Killer Instinct, Part One played the Toronto Film festival two years ago. At the time, doomed distrib Senator was set to release the film as well as Part Two, Public Enemy Number 1. Now Music Box is finally releasing the two French hits, adapted by Richet and A Prophet writer Abdel Raouf Dafri from Jacques Mesrine's autobiography, stateside on August 27 and September 3, respectively. (UPDATE: Anthony Lane writes a lovely review.)

The film's canvas is sprawling: it spans several decades of madness and mayhem (ending with Mesrine's death in 1979) and also stars Cécile de France, Gérard Depardieu, Roy Dupuis, Ludivine Sagnier and Mathieu Amalric. Cassel, who has made a career of playing violent bad guys in action, is riveting. You've seen him in such intense French films as La Haine, Brotherhood of the Wolf and Irreversible (in which he co-starred with wife Monica Belluci), as well as Steven Soderbergh's Oceans 12 and 13 and David Cronenberg's Eastern Promises. He's also starring in Cronenberg's upcoming Dangerous Method, a drama about Sigmund Freud and other scientists of the mind, and opens the Venice Film Festival with Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan, in which he stars as a ballet master much like Georges Balanchine, who uses his sexual power to manipulate his dancers.

Son of French star Jean-Pierre Cassel, the actor talks candidly about Mesrine and a thriving career that spans France and Hollywood.

Cassel Part One: Playing real-life French gangster Mesrine.


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Part Two: Finding his own identity by going against the nouvelle vague and his father; working with Soderbergh; his love affair with America.


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Part Three: Realizing he was French, playing a control-freak ballet master in Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan, his dance training, playing in David Cronenberg's Dangerous Method opposite Viggo Mortensen, Michael Fassbender and Keira Knightley.


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Part Four: comparing American independent directors Aronofsky, Soderbergh and Cronenberg; producing a film directed by Costa Gavras's son.


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This article is related to: Directors, Festivals, Genres, Headliners, Video, David Cronenberg, Steven Soderbergh, Darren Aronofsky, Independents, Biopics, Viggo Mortensen, Interviews


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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.