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.
Part Two: Finding his own identity by going against the nouvelle vague and his father; working with Soderbergh; his love affair with America.
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.
Part Four: comparing American independent directors Aronofsky, Soderbergh and Cronenberg; producing a film directed by Costa Gavras's son.