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JOVOVICH, MILLA; JOAN OF ARC

ACTRESS OF A MILLA ROLES
Milla Jovovich herself didn't put much stock in the legend of Joan. "It was a story I never believed in. It's very strange to play her because I just never took it seriously. There's not a person there. It's just an icon. It's a phrase, it's an adjective. Everything except a human being." Until director Luc Besson came along . . .

Playing the character of Joan is a remarkable milestone in Milla Jovovich's chameleon-like career. "I played a hooker in Spike Lee's movie after [The Fifth Element's] Leeloo, and now I'm playing Joan. That's what I'm working for. I want to be able to have the freedom to do anything," says the actress.

"You never know what she's going to do next"

Jovovich had several discussions with director Luc Besson to decide just how this 15th century figure should be brought to life on a modern screen. "Luc and I talked about what we wanted for the character- this unexpectedness, this energy .You never know what she's going to do next. She's alive." A very different view of the 'adjective' . . .

Preparing for the role by studying books on the character, the young actress specifically focused on the trial. "I was always reading the trial. When I read her trial, somehow I read it with new eyes every time. New things were added to the character all the time."

The battle scenes helped Jovovich understand Joan as a teenage girl thrust into extraordinary circumstances. "It's one thing to read the trial and know what she's saying, and it's another thing to live through it," says Jovovich.

"It was very frightening"

"There's just no way that you can come into the middle of a battle and leave like you came. She changes when she comes out, and I did too. I've never been through anything like that. It was very frightening.

"You don't understand Jean until you see that, until you experience the terror of men killing each other all around you. Then you see what this young girl really felt like." But Jovovich acknowledges that Joan had a magical, even divine quality that separated her from the fray. "Every moment was special with her. Joan was constantly in a state of grace. She was always with God."

Jovovich has nothing but kind words for the cast and crew that surrounded her. "The atmosphere was amazing. The actors were super. It's really much easier to make a great movie when you're surrounded by talented people. They don't let you be bad. I knew these guys were so good that I was always trying to be better.

"own stunts"

"Whether it was costumes, special effects, stunt, decor- everybody was really into making this film the best. You felt it. It was really a work of art." Jovovich did most of her own stunts in the film. In a particularly harrowing scene, Joan climbs a ladder and is shot by an arrow, and she falls 25 meters backwards to the soldiers and ground below. "I did that myself," says the actress. "It was so much better because Luc was filming me, and we have a very special connection when we work together. I looked straight into his eyes as I was falling. That kind of shot you wouldn't be able to get if I was scared to do it."

"She watched the rehearsal twice and she said, 'OK, I'm going to do it,'" says stunt coordinator Phillipe Guegan of the scene. " And she did it herself, perfectly, no apprehension. She was absolutely into it. Each time we had a fight to do, she would go into it."

Of her relationship with her director, the actress says, "I'm an artist, and so I really understand Luc as an artist, and I want to do everything I can to make it as easy and as full for him as possible."

Jovovich hopes audiences come out of the film with an affection and a deeper understanding of Joan. "I really want people to love her. I want people to relate to her- " even though, by Jovovich 's own admission, Joan was a product of her tumultuous time, compelled to act as she watched her impoverished people starve and die in the midst of the Hundred Years' War.

"a little girl who went through a lot"

What would Jovovich do if she ever met Joan face to face? "I think if I met her I'd probably just give her a big hug. She's a little girl who went through a lot."

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