Vogue (Russia) May 2000
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by Vladimir Paperny, Photographed by Warwick Saint
She is one of the most successful models. She is a talented actress. She's an interesting singer. She's a promising photographer. She is the Joan of Arc of the edge of the millenium. Having met Milla in Los Angeles, Vladimir Paperny explains that, morover, she is a very honest, very modest, and not very sure of herself girl.
A girl whose career began before menstruation. A sexual mirage of society, of a madness for ephemeralness. Successful as Madonna but half her age. A modern witch, thank God they don't burn them at the stake anymore. That's a collection of the cliches and facts of Milla's life, wandering from article to article, interview to interview. Born in Kiev in 1975. Daughter of movie-actress Galina Loginova and Yugoslavian doctor Bogie Jovovich. The family emigrated to America in 1981. At 11 years old Milla became a successful model, at 15 earned her first million. At 18 she released the album The Divine Comedy. At 21 she was Luc Besson's Fifth Element. At 22 she married Besson. At 23 she divorced him at the same time she starred in the role of Joan of Arc in his movie. In her youth she experimented with narcotics. When she's giving an interview she changes quickly, uttering swear words. She idolizes her mother, but often clashes with her.
At 7:00 AM Milla's agent calls and informs me that the interview will begin at 11:00 AM in the hotel Chateau Marmon. The same hotel in whose pool the romance between Milla and Luc began.
I sit in the vestibule and look at the carved oak ceiling and heavy metal chandelier. A tall, beautiful girl appears, looking like a model.
Within 15 minutes in walks a girl, absolutely not looking like a model, and she says in Russian: "Hello."
It's Milla. Without make-up. Dressed in a lilac t-shirt, grey skirt, and slippers on her bare feet. The typical girl next door. Mama Galya, who lives 100 meters from Milla, is horrified, having seen how her daughter comes looking to an interview. Milla acts out her mother's accent: "Milla, do your make-up before you go, do it now, do it now!" "Mama, how will I seem painted up at 11:00 AM? Like I'm abnormal?"
The majority of women in Moscow, I've noticed, never leave the house without make-up. "That's what I'm trying to get away from," says Milla. "You can't fool anyone that way. If you have bad skin, it will look like bad skin smeared with make-up."
Milla asks the waiter to bring her some Parliament cigarettes, or if worse comes to worse, Marlboro Lights. "You know," says Milla, exhaling smoke, "in Russian families there is such an insulting manner of talking to one another, trying to cause pain. 'Idiot! Ass!' When you hear it you really feel that you are an ass. In America that is considered unhealthy. I had a boyfriend. When our relationship developed, I often began to talk to him sarcastically, 'Aha, you're absolutely right.' I got that from my mom. With us it continues endlessly: She's sarcastic with me, and I'm even more sarcastic with her; it's a vicious circle. But my boyfriend says, 'You're behaving dishonestly. You show that you don't respect me or my feelings. Drop that tone.' And only then did it come to me that I hide behind this sarcasm. Now I fight with this, and even when Mom tries to talk to me that way I tell her 'Stop,' and she stops."
At the time Galina was fiercely opposed to her daughters first marriage. Galya says about that: "She wasn't even 17. She got married, I wasn't there. [Her] Grandmother was home. She found some white dress of mine, a garland of dried flowers that hung on the wall, and some of my white shoes; she put all these into a suitcase and left. I come back, 'Where's Milla?' My mother says: 'I don't know. She was rummaging in the dresser for something.' A missing person. That night a call came in from her so-called husband. 'I have to say something important. Please sit down. Milla and I were married.' I say 'Call Milla.' She comes. I ask, 'When are you coming home?' She answered in a frightened voice, 'Tomorrow.' It was kindergarten. She sat right down on the sofa and sobbed, 'I love him.' And he, in the corner, 'I love her.' I said, 'If you really love each other, give yourselves 6 months. We'll get an annulment now, and there will have to be an engagement, a wedding, so that everything will be proper, like people should.' We sent her to Europe to rest, and she stayed there for 2 years."
And her husband? She forgot about him. Interesting, what does Milla think of this? "If my daughter's boyfriend appeared, before I'd pour mud all over him I would try to get to know him better, talk to him, to understand, just what she liked in him. And if I tried everything possible and saw that nothing would help, then I'd let myself say to her, 'I don't like him. For this and this reason.' And in this situation, mom began with the end."
Galya considers the whole marriage as simply an attempt to rebel against her mother. "She still looks up to me. She wants to be on the same level with me. I am prepared to accept that. It is she who is not yet sure of herself. If you're sure of yourself, there's no reason to assert yourself."
I read aloud to Milla some of her lyrics from the disc Divine Comedy: Another stone placed in the wall/Can't we see over the wall?/What if we decide to break down these walls?/I've been building a wall these many years, I feel safe inside. "Enough, stop it!" screams Milla. "I can't hear this. Sheer melodrama! I was 15 when I wrote that. I often try to hide my feelings, I'm not always sure of myself."
Milla, if anyone has a basis, for being sure of themselves, it's you. You have money, fame, beauty, talent, what else do you need? "I want to create serious things. I haven't yet been satisfied with anything I've done. If an angel came down from heaven and said, 'Milla, we decided that you must choose one from all of your professions,' would you be able to choose? With one condition: Let the angel give me 20 times the talent I have. If I could play the guitar like Jimi Hendrix, if I could act in movies like Meryl Streep. Great, I'll talk to the angel. Please! Talk to him. I am into so many things, so that I can't rise to a serious level in any one area. If I was a great actress, I wouldn't need music. If I were a great musician, I'd give up acting."
When Milla appeared on the Jay Leno show, before her they showed a number with trained birds. "How did you like the birds?" asked Jay. "Very nice," answered Milla. "I felt like wringing their necks." When US magazine asked her, wasn't she afraid of getting her arms and head cut off in Joan of Arc, she answered, "A little maiming is sometimes nice."
Are you fixated on the idea of death? "I never thought about it, but apparently, yes. Not exactly. I'm fixated not on death, but time. I have read One Hundred Years of Solitude, probably, 36 times. I'm fascinated by the idea of the flow of time."
At this moment her mobile phone rings. It's Milla's father, Bogie Jovovich, a doctor, released from an American prison this year, where he spent 5 years for an illegal operation with medical insurance. All of the Yugoslavian part of her family knows prison well. Bogie's father fled the Tito regime and received political asylum in Ukraine, then was kidnapped by Yugoslavian GB in London in 1979 and sent to prison until Tito's death. Bogie's sister spent a few years in a concentration camp as the daughter of a political refugee.
It's not hard to guess what compelled proud Montenegrin Bogie to break the law: shock from the loss of social status. An elitist family, where the husband was foreign, but the wife a movie-actress, changed into an emigrant family.
"Dad, hi. How are you?" Milla says into the phone in Russian. Yesterday Bogie's father died in Kiev, Milla's grandfather Bogdan Jovovich, a writer and philosopher. Bogie is fretting. He has no passport, so he can't leave the US. He feels himself to blame. "He was so old," comforts Milla in Russian, "If we could all have such a life." She switches to English, "Dad, stop blaming yourself. He loved you, he loved me, he understood everything. We lived so far from him. You called him. Remember, how much you did when he came. I know that you had difficult situations when you were young, but it was never apparent in your relations with him over the phone." The conversation ends with a mix of Russian and English, in which so many immigrant children speak. "Listen, Daddy, I'm doing an interview in the Chateau Marmon. I'll call you back. I love you."
"My dad," says Milla, "He's such a good person."
She begins to smoke yet another cigarette. Why was the movie Joan of Arc not successful in America? "I don't know. There are strong parts in it, but even for me there is something lacking. Generally speaking I don't want to discuss deficiencies of movies, nevertheless I have to support it. But it goes without saying it's in my role, so that's honesty. It's not important to me if a film earns or not, to me what I got from the role is important."
Like in Fifth Element, Joan of Arc was a great adventure film for teenagers, only with an otherworldly mysticism. Everything was done conscientiously, convincing on the screen with severed legs and heads. The problem was that the writers did not agree on who Joan of Arc was: holy or crazy? Milla would sooner play her as holy. The director and scriptwriter would rather depict her as mad.
What do you mean by honesty? "When for 9 months in a row you are trying to get into a person, who was so far from all our petty, empty affairs, then it's hard to go down to our low level. I don't want to say that before I was a liar, but if at some moment I needed to lie, I didn't have a problem with it. Now I am possessed by honesty, both with myself and others. Honesty is absolutely necessary for creative works."
Isn't that the American puritan in you talking? "Religion is only the fist step. Jesus said that to lie is bad. But it can go further. If I tell you an untruth, I bring total chaos. I demolish all frequencies, I will send you bad energy, it doesn't blend in."
A funny mix of Castaneda and recording engineering jargon. "It's very easy to fool me," continues Milla, "because I don't have any intuition. My mother, quite the reverse, has tremendous intuition; she sees through everything. But sometimes I don't catch important signals. Not long ago I met my idol, John Fruscainte from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. He's a tremendous musician, the next Jimi Hendrix; he writes stunning songs. It turns out I had met him earlier, but didn't pay attention; nothing suggested, 'It's him.'"
Do you want your children to repeat your path, for success to come to them at 11? "No," Milla answers firmly. "We were immigrants, we had to survive, to fight for our existence. I hope that my children don't have to live through that. And then, I don't want them to live in a big city, but in nature. I want the first thing that they struggle with in life to be real, real difficulties, real dangers. It's cold, putting on a coat. It's getting dark. You'll have time to get home before dark. People living in New York and Los Angeles have lost their connection with real life, with nature, they feel invincible, almost immortal."
For Russia you are 'Our Man in Havana.' What do you want to tell our Russian readers? Milla is confused. "But what did my mother say to them?" Nothing. You can also not say anything. It's not obligatory. "I'm so embarrassed. I don't know what to tell Russian people. What a shame!" She thinks of something, "No, I know. Teach English. Here there are not enough talented Russian directors, musicians, and writers."
Leaving Chateau Marmon, I hear metal screech. Milla, leaving the garage in her huge black Cadillac-jeep, hit the bumper of the neighboring Mustang.