Evocative filmmaker Brian De Palma, the stylish director of the sexy thriller Body Double and the blockbuster action film Mission: Impossible, brings his uniquely edgy and sinuous Femme Fatale to the silver screen. Cool precision and venomous beauty entwine in the striking figure of Laure Ash (Rebecca Romijn), a woman who can only be expected to do the unexpected. A master of manipulation and guile, Laure plays a crucial role in a sultry jewel theft and then abruptly leaves her life of crime – and her bloodthirsty cohorts – behind her. In a surreal transformation, Laure refashions herself in the guise of a respectable married woman with a high-profile political life and soon captures the attention of Nicolas (Antonia Banderas), a soulful ex-paparazzo mesmerized by the elusive and enthralling adventuress. Attracted to the enigmatic Laure but serving an agenda of his own, Nicolas shatters her carefully crafted world with one shutter click of his seditious camera. Suddenly exposed to the world and vulnerable to her enemies, Laure is determined to use her considerable assets – and Nicolas' voyeuristic instincts – to reinvent her identity and once again escape her past. But as she ensnares Nicolas in her calculated seduction, Laure finds her quest for revenge complicated by their mutual attraction. Now that Nicolas has revealed Laure to the public, can he uncover who she really is before the inescapable threads of fate thrust them on a collision course between life, death, love and regret? Or will Laure’s nightmarish schemes destroy her only chance for redemption?
After the key role of the dangerously sexy Laure had been cast, the filmmakers then needed the perfect gentleman as her scandalous partner in crime. Antonio Banderas, a leading international actor currently starring in both Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever and Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams, accepted the challenge of playing photographer Nicolas Bardo.
"Who is Nicolas?" muses Banderas. "He's a fantasy, a professional voyeur, a projection of Laure's spirit and hopes and fears. Through her eyes, we see him as a dangerous individual dressed in black, always hounding her, trying to reveal her for what she really is." De Palma was thrilled that Banderas agreed to take on the role. "The role of Nicolas is difficult because the character's depth must be conveyed equally through his actions as well as the subtext of those actions," explains De Palma. "Antonio is able to express, without words, a layered nuance and meaning to his actions in the same way that Nicolas' camera captures more than solitary images."
A significant theme of Femme Fatale provokes the question of whether all things are subject to fate and human beings are powerless to change them. But people still have roles to play in fate’s story... For key supporting characters, a critical cornerstone was the role of the cuckolded Ambassador Watts. Says producer Marina Gefter, "We needed someone who had allure and authority in important encounters with Laure. From the beginning, Brian wanted Peter Coyote to play the American Ambassador."
Coyote, for his part, enjoyed playing the artless politico. "Watts isn't tremendously sophisticated and has a deplorable lack of savoir-faire. Because of his naïveté, he immediately falls for Laure's flattery and quickly succumbs to her will."
Laure's shadowy life of deceit also spawned vengeful co-conspirators who will not forget, nor forgive her lies. "We needed two sinister villains whose hunger for revenge propel much of the plot through their pursuit of Laure," relays Gefter, "and Eriq Ebouaney and Edouard Montoute are wonderful actors to portray this vicious villainy. We were also fortunate to cast Gregg Henry, an old friend of Brian's, in a small part as Mr. Shiff, the Security Chief to the Ambassador."
Rounding out the cast in her feature film debut is international modeling sensation Rie Rasmussen as a beautiful bejeweled woman with a crucial role to play in the sizzling heist.
Location and Filming - Paris
Femme Fatale, shot entirely in Paris and the surrounding areas, required the American-born director to investigate the hidden landscapes and concealed corners within the City of Lights to uncover the most interesting and appropriate locations to film.
"The image many Americans have of Paris is Gene Kelly and Frenchmen wearing berets," says De Palma with a laugh. "The first thing I realized is that the city looked more like New York than I had imagined, it's very cosmopolitan. I spent much of my time in Belleville observing the Arab, Spanish and Chinese communities, which I thought would make an intriguing location for our budding artist, Nicolas. I took countless photos during the month of scouting, and from those, chose where I would film."
"Femme Fatale has a uniquely Parisian flavor," Gefter agrees, who has lived in France for the past seven years. "I greatly appreciated Brian's adventurous spirit with the locations. He would take his scooter out at dawn every day to find places American filmmakers had never before shot, some of which even we had never seen!"
Contemporary Film Noir
Film noir, typified by its dark tone and gritty characterization, matches De Palma's thematic objectives of creating a look and feel that are as intrinsically important to Femme Fatale as the action itself. "Cinema is based on the visual. It's a voyeuristic art that spies on people who are spying on those around them," De Palma imparts. "For this film, we used a certain aesthetic bias unique to film noir, but my filmmaking is founded on having a very mobile camera, which is a direct contradiction to that style—except for Preminger and Orson Welles. Femme Fatale uses too much camera movement to be termed a classic film noir, but we do incorporate many noirish qualities in a contemporary way."
Director of Photography Thierry Arbogast fused De Palma's progressive visual style with the deliberate static approach of film noir. "I've always especially liked the form of De Palma’s films, his concept of playing on our visual memory," says Arbogast. "His use of recurring images and dabbing in different levels of reality can also be found in Femme Fatale. What was interesting to me about filming Femme is that we chose a very stylized frontal lighting that's reminiscent of films from the Forties, which embellishes the actors and creates a play of shadows on their faces, highlighting every emotion.
"Another aspect of Brian's style is that he likes to film his actors in a relatively wide shot in order to allow the audience to look from one to the other as desired," discloses Arbogast. "Preparing scenes, Brian is absolutely systematic and sophisticated, yet with space for improvisation. He works like a craftsman and approaches complex sequence shots like a mathematical problem, while never losing sight of the style or aesthetic."
Working On Set / De Palma’s Direction
De Palma's meticulous preparation paid off on-set with the actors. "Rebecca arrived three weeks before production was to begin," Gefter says, "and Brian worked extensively with her to prepare for the first day of filming." De Palma couldn’t have been happier to work with Romijn. "I was fortunate to work with an actress who knows all about lighting and is treated well by it. Her modeling experience has taught her how to stand in the light and she’s so photogenic that even when she’s not in the best position in relationship to the light, it always finds her." "While I learned a lot from my modeling background, it's a two-dimensional activity where you show the camera lens only what you want it to see and hide as much as you show," Romijn discloses. "Part of what I learned from Brian is that I had to completely let go and live in the moment." "Rebecca threw herself into the work 100% and delivered a lot, like the incredible strip tease she perfected for a pivotal, climactic seduction," praises De Palma.
Antonio Banderas also benefited from the scrupulous preparation De Palma and his crew exercise in their filmmaking. "Brian has a very strong relationship with the actors. He's always there and available," Banderas asserts. "I never felt like I was on my own, I always felt I was in the hands of someone who had a total vision of the film. From the moment I took on his concept of this character, I became fully available for him to paint his canvas, using me as the brush, no more, no less."
Romijn likewise put herself in De Palma's able hands. "A good deal of the film is already in Brian's head. Some of the scenes were extremely complicated and he had already made countless mental notes before filming. However, on several scenes he told Antonio and I to 'go ahead and show me,' which was also great because it allowed us freedom in our acting and a chance to see what felt most comfortable for us. I found this to be incredibly generous."
Original article: Femme Fatale Press Kit