By Donna Freydkin, USA TODAY
NEW YORK — Most folks would get starstruck around Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.
Not Mélanie Laurent, Pitt’s French co-star in the war flick Inglourious Basterds.
Being on the red carpet at the film’s premiere with the couple was “completely crazy,” concedes the slightly standoffish actress. “But you don’t feel like, ‘Oh my God.’ Everybody is crazy, hysterical, but it’s not real. You just have fun. They are so cool. They always say to me, ‘Hi, you look great.’ “
She’s also doing pretty great. In Basterds, Laurent, 26, plays one of the film’s pivotal roles. She’s the young Jewish girl Shosanna, who witnesses the massacre of her family by Nazis and flees to Paris, where she runs a cinema and develops her own revenge plan.
“I’m very close to her,” Laurent says of her character. “You need to be strong to do that job, to have an actor’s life. And you need to be fragile. I’m a little bit French and rebel sometimes, a little bit like Shosanna, and I’m Jewish.”
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Basterds might be the first time domestic viewers see Laurent, but she’s an established actress and director in her native France. She directed 2008′s De moins en moins, which was an official selection at the Cannes Film Festival, and in 2006, Laurent won the most promising actress César, France’s version of the Oscar, for her film Je vais bien, ne t’en fais pas (Don’t Worry, I’m Fine). And she’s been acting since 1999′s Un pont entre deux rives (The Bridge), where she starred opposite Gérard Depardieu.
So the hoopla surrounding a starring turn in a splashy war drama, directed by Quentin Tarantino and co-starring Pitt, leaves her a little flummoxed. She says she has no intention of making Hollywood movies just to be famous, or generate quick cash.
“It’s not that I do not care. I have amazing parts in France. The dream was just to make a movie with Tarantino,” she says.
The experience, Laurent says, was “so beautiful. Shosanna was a great part and very important. I was stressed out for the first meeting, and Quentin told me he was more stressed out than me. He’s been looking for his Shosanna for eight years. She’s so typically Tarantino’s heroine. She’s strong and fragile at the same time. She wants to kill Hitler. She’s my favorite woman in the world.”
Back home in Paris, Laurent is a workaholic. “Holiday? Is like, what? I’m a hyperactive girl, so it may be boring for me to be on the beach doing nothing. I just need to find a place for three weeks and work but sleep in the morning, maybe write a little bit, have a glass of red wine,” the single actress says. “That’s my perfect holiday. But it’s not in my plan right now.”
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She’s recording and producing a rock music CD. Plus, she plans to complete another screenplay in September but doesn’t reveal the title. In the future, “I want to direct again. The perfect life would to be have an amazing part every year and to spend all my free time to just write,” she says.
Surely, she has down time for something fun? “I’m dreaming of a day off, with my friend, shopping for my apartment. I just need to have time to buy little details. Oh, and my cat is here. Do you remember me, baby? He doesn’t want to talk to me again.”