The Serpent - interview with Olga Kurylenko

The Serpent - interview with Olga Kurylenko

Model behaviour

Olga Kurylenko talks to Miles Fielder about swapping the catwalk for celluloid

The most striking thing about the slick French thriller The Serpent is Olga Kurylenko, the beautiful 27-year-old Ukrainian model-turned-actress who plays the film’s femme fatale-cum-crime victim, Sofia. Kurylenko’s character only makes it as far as the end of the first act, but her role in this twisted tale of blackmail and revenge is pivotal, and while the centrepiece of it is an erotically charged drugged-fuelled bondage photoshoot sequence, there’s more to Sofia than meets the eye.

‘I liked the character,’ Kurylenko says. ‘She’s an illegal in France. She’s trapped and used by the film’s bad guy to destroy men’s lives. She is a victim. She’s not a mean person. She’s just an unlucky girl.’

Kurylenko’s fortunes are proving to be much better than Sofia’s. Having recently played vampire lover to Elijah Wood in one of the segments of the short film anthology Paris je t’aime, she’ll next be seen acting opposite Dougray Scott in the British-made, eastern European-set espionage thriller Hitman, and after that in the politicised science fiction drama Tyranny.

Born in Berdyansk, a small peninsula town on the coast of the Azov Sea in southwest Ukraine, Kurylenko grew up with aspirations to act. At the invitation of a modelling agency she moved to Paris in 1997, and there, having learned to speak French in six months, presented herself to an acting agency. For a time she was offered various non-roles (mostly models), but she held out for more challenging parts and was finally rewarded with one in 2005 when she made The Ring Finger (pictured), a surreal, steamy drama which played well on the film festival circuit and led to Kurylenko being offered more substantial film roles.

‘It was my first movie,’ says Kurylenko, ‘so it will always be special. Also, it’s the biggest part I’ve had – I’m in every scene, I had to work for eight weeks straight. I learned that the most important thing in acting is concentration. With modelling you provide an image that is fake; with acting you have to provide an image that’s real. It was really intense. But I was very happy, because it was what I was looking for. I was waiting for a real character to play, and The Ring Finger really spoke to me. So that’s how it all started.’

Kurylenko is serious about continuing her acting career. She wants to work with Pedro Almodovar, and with that in mind is adding Spanish to her list of languages (four and counting). Top of her wish list, however, is a filmmaker who knows how to do surreal and steamy. ‘I’d love to work with David Lynch,’ Kurylenko says. ‘I’m such a big fan. He’s a genius.’

The Serpent, Filmhouse, Edinburgh from Fri 14 Sep.

The Serpent (Le Serpent)

  • 3 stars
  • 2006
  • France
  • 1h 59min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Éric Barbier
  • Written by: Éric Barbier, Ted Lewis (novel), Trân-Minh Nam
  • Cast: Yvan Attal

A dark tale of blackmail, guilt and vengeance based on Ted Lewis' novel, 'Plender'. Opportunistic thug Plender (Cornillac) has a near-failsafe money making system, but when he catches up with an old schoolmate made good (Attal) the scale of his operation suddenly expands - as does the extent of the damage done.

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