Paper May 1997

by Mickey Boardman

Beautiful Chameleon Milla Jovovich

The Fifth Element will be remembered as an important film. Directed by Luc Besson (La Femme Nikita, The Specialist), it stars block-buster action star Bruce Willis, celebrated sicko Gary Oldman, and the beautiful Milla Jovovich. It's a roster Cecil B. DeMille would be proud of. With a garganutan budget and monumental special effects, it's a good old-fashioned futuristic adventure/thriller/disaster epic with a carrot-topped Jovovich running around in what looks like an Ace bandage. It will also be remembered as the film that launched the acting career of the 21-year-old model/singer. As one of her retinue of publicists told me, "Milla will walk away from Cannes this month the next Sharon Stone."

When Jovovich (pronounced Yo-vuh-vich) first appeared on our cover three years ago, it was in celebration of her debut album, The Divine Comedy (SBK/EMI). Since then it has steadily sold 150 copies a week, making it a sort of junior version of Pink Floyd's The Dark Side Of The Moon, perhaps to the cult hit single "The Gentleman Who Fell," which Milla wrote about her then-boyfriend, Ethan Browne, son of Jackson. (Yes, she writes all of her own songs, many of them based on the countless books she devours during her hours on the set.) The friendly, easygoing Jovovich is now back in the recording studio, this time with her sex-god boyfriend, photographer Mario Sorrenti (who documented his Obsession with Kate Moss for Calvin Klein). The notion of making an album with a photographer might sound ridiculous, but thus far everything Jovovich has done has been magic. The Divine Comedy is in heavy rotation in the record collections of such random freaks as Winona Ryder and Claudia Schiffer. (At a recent Maverick Records party, Ryder was seen staring at Jovovich and then whispering in Gwyneth Paltrow's ear. It turns out Winona was saying how much she loves Milla.) How does Jovovich know her new album, which pairs her stripped-down folk sound with solid beats, is good? "My mother hates it!" she laughs. (Acting seems to run in the Jovovich family; her Ukranian mother studied at the most prestigious acting school in Russia.)

The fact that she's even making a second album, not to mention one that industry insiders have already pegged as one to watch, is a feat of scheduling and endurance. The little girl from Kiev (she moved to L.A. when she was five and began modeling to pay the bills) has been captured by the most sought-after photographers on the planet, including David LaChapelle, Paolo Roversi, Steven Klein, Stephane Sedoui, Mario Testino, Tiziano Magni, Juergen Teller, and Nathaniel Goldberg, who says, "Milla is something else." She's in the history books for her Mademoiselle cover, shot by Richard Avedon when she was jus 11 years old, making her the youngest model to appear on the cover of an American fashion magazine. (When the magazine found out how old she was, they refused to run the photo. But Avedon was so taken with her that he said they had to print it, or he'd never shoot for them again.)

Jovovich is currently appearing in and has recently shot campaigns for Banana Republic, Louis Vuitton and Hugo Boss, and has done catwalk for Todd Oldham, Clavin Klein, Betsey Johnson, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Istante, Ghost and Miu Miu. Though she was booked to walk in John Galliano's recent collection in Paris, she couldn't make it because of scheduling conflicts. In a scene straight from Unzipped, Galliano, the Elmer Fudd of Parisian haute couture, asked Jovovich, "Can you walk like a man?" "Can I walk like a man? That's my forte," she coolly replied. When she later saw a tape of the show, she was glad she hadn't appeared because, she realized, he would have put her in pants instead of one of the ethereal gowns she loves so much. In fact, she's trying to avoid the boyish trap, especially after an incident at Sonia Rykel's spring/summer show last October. She was approached backstage by the Norma Desmond of the catwalk, Miss Kristen McMenamy, who said, "Ya know, I wasn't sure about you until that W story -- that one where you look like a boy? But now I think you're all right." Turning to leave, she added the coup de grace: "I'm convinced."

Jovovich has nothing but praise for her creative collaborators -- and quite a list of boldfaced names it is. Of Besson, she says, "I can never find enough words to express what Luc has done for me," perhaps referring to the courage he had casting a model/pop star (not to mention star of Return To The Blue Lagoon). Besson himself has been overheard calling Jovovich "the most talented person I've ever worked with." But she's still unsure of her acting abilities. "I'm not the best actress yet. I need to work with people who know what they are doing. You just need know what you want and I'll give it to you"; though she says -- without a trace of snottiness -- that she "doesn't have time for acting classes." She's also in no hurry: "I'm still an artist. I'm never gonna do a shit movie, because I've got my modeling to support me."

And so it goes. Our little catch-up with Jovovich has beenm quite a roller-coaster ride. Look for The Fifth Element early this month and her new album around Christmas. Who knows what her next chameleonlike surprise will be, but I promise you we'll all be gagging over the little Yugoslavian/Ukranian girl whose latest career change will break all the rules, win new legions of obsessed fans worldwide and shatter stereoypes left and right.