By Nigel M Smith | Indiewire May 3, 2013 at 4:30PM
French beauty Josephine de La Baume makes for one hell of a fiery blood sucker in the indie vampire tale "Kiss of the Damned," written and directed by Xan Cassevetes, daughter to John and Gena Rowlands. A feverish vampire story strictly aimed at the adult set (think more "True Blood" and less "Twilight"), "Kiss of the Damned" stars Milo Ventimiglia as a human screenwriter who falls for a beautiful vampire named Djuna (Baume). While initially trying to resist her feelings for Paolo, Djuna eventually gives into their passion and leads him into the dark world of vampires. Their love is tested when Djuna's sister Mimi (Roxane Mesquida) comes to visit to stir up trouble.
The role of Djuna marks La Baume's most high profile one yet following supporting parts in "The Princess of Montpensier" and "One Day." Her popularity will surely only continue to rise once audiences catch her in Ron Howard's anticipated Formula One drama "Rush," out in theaters during the heat of awards season on September 20.
Indiewire called up La Baume to discuss the fun in playing a vampire, shooting the film's provocative sex scenes, and working for Howard. "Kiss of the Damned" is currently available on VOD and opens in select theaters today.
The film's a blast. Did you have as much fun making it as I had watching it?
It was very fun but it was a lot of work so it was very intense. It was definitely fun outside of work; we were all living together in Connecticut and we were all getting along, and also, playing a vampire is very fun. But it was definitely an intense involvement because Xan, the way she directs and the way she wants actors to perform is similar to a '60s or '70s way of acting. Because it’s a vampire movie, it's almost like Russian theater. The loneliness of Djuna is extremely deep. So I guess it was fun but you’re always carrying deep feelings rather than a sentiment of light.
Has playing a vampire always been a dream of yours? I'd imagine it's on every actor's checklist.
As a kid I was sort of into vampires, which wasn’t really original. First they’re obsessed with dinosaurs, then they move on to vampires. I watched this really obscure German show dubbed in French about a vampire when I was little, and one of my favorite movies was Polanski’s vampire movie. I did have the fascination with the aesthetic, classical music; it’s almost like an enhancement of humans in a way. They’re more elegant, more central, and I think that’s the freedom you have when you make a vampire movie. The love stories are impossible, but they’re so romantic and passionate. You have space to expand more than you would in a movie about day-to-day life.
Did you have trouble leaving the world after the shoot?
I think when you play the part, it stays with you for a while after the movie. I think it just fades away little by little. Your heart weeps a little bit when you have to say goodbye to a crew you spend two months with, but when it comes to the part, when you live so close to someone for two months, it kind of fades away and then you see her again on screen later on.
What, if anything, did you take away from playing Djuna?
I think that with her, she is a fantasy character based very much on human experiences. Also she’s an animal, so I tried to find the animal that she was. But, she’s based on me and my experiences so of course I felt close to her. A lot of actors say that they like a part because they can forget themselves and enter someone else’s world. I think that when I play a part, I meet myself more, parts that I just didn’t know. I can’t really imagine separating myself from the part. But the thing that was challenging was imagining someone who has been on the earth for 250 years and she’s falling in love for the first time like a teenager -- the conflict between her being innocent and this wisdom because she’s been around for so long. That was really challenging because she couldn’t be just that nice innocent girl. But everybody feels a different age when it comes to different things, especially when you fall in love and especially for the first time. You always feel like a teenager when you fall in love again.
The scene where you covert Milo's character isn't so much explicit as extremely sexual. There's a lot of moaning and writhing going on. How was approaching a scene like that?
It was difficult in all honesty. I’m not prude, and I don’t come from a country where actresses are very prude, but in the same case when you do something over and over again 15 times, it gets a little frustrating between the two actors. So when it did, Xan took us, sat us down and talked to us, and tried to recreate a link between us. So Xan was very good at that. Very much a friend, very much a director, but also sometimes a mother. She knew how to switch and who to be depending on the situation, and in that case she became a mother and sat us down and said “look, here’s what I need from this scene and I’m counting on you.” And so I think we did it because we wanted to live up to her expectations, and yes it was a difficult scene. We all have a bit of an animal inside of us, so to kind of release all that anger and rage as an animal, because she’s turning into one, is almost quite like relieving in life. You just have to brave enough to go to that zone, but once you’re there it’s kind of exhilarating.
How was working with Ron Howard on "Rush" following this?
Well it was really exciting. I was a big fan of Ron Howard of course, so it was fantastic to meet him. And I think that’s the joy of working with a director who’s also an actor, because all of his advice is so helpful and is exactly what you need to hear. What’s so special about him is that every detail matters. The way you’re going to grab that drink or the way you’re going to turn around and use that space, every detail is important. I think it’s a very perfectionist and inspiring way of working. Very different from Xan.