Josephine de La Baume On French Fashion, Playing a Vampire and Her Surprising Collection

French actress and singer Josephine de La Baume was cast as conflicted vampire Djuna in Kiss of the Damned after a producer spotted her photo in a magazine. "He was like, 'Hey, it's great! She's French and she already looks like a vampire!'" says de La Baume. After viewing her audition tapes, director Xan Casavetes (daughter of the legendary Greek actor-director John Cassavetes and actress Gena Rowlands) met up with de La Baume in Paris and the two became fast friends. "She made me read and then we smoked two packs of cigarettes and drank two bottles of wine. I got her drunk and then she gave me the part!" de La Baume jokes.

De La Baume's visual appeal, of course, is undeniable—she is a striking beauty who never shies away from bold fashion statements. When she isn't filming (the star will next appear in Ron Howard's upcoming project Rush) or hanging out with husband Mark Ronson, de La Baume sings in the band Singtank, whose first album In Wonder was met with critical acclaim.

Today, de La Baume looks chic and at ease in high-waisted white Balmain trousers, a Fendi leather vest layered over a gray shirt and a bejeweled ring by Jade Jagger. "It's like the ring you dreamt of when you were five years old," she says of her bauble. "It makes you feel like you have superpowers." Read on for de La Baume's thoughts on French style and her recent experience playing the undead.

Lucky: Were you at all worried about doing a vampire movie, since so many of them have come out recently?

Josephine de La Baume: I wasn't too worried because when I auditioned, I met with Xan (Casavetes) who had watched every possible European movie and American movie. I think this movie is a bit of an homage to the horror movies of the '60s and the '70s, Italian horror movies. I knew she was going to make something more in that genre than a popcorn movie. Not that it doesn't have a popcorn element to it—I think every vampire movie should!

How would you describe the relationship of your character and her sister (Roxane Mesquida) in the film? Is one the "good sister" and the other evil?

I think they are very complementary. They are not that different. I think they both envy what the other one has. In the case of Djuna, I think even though she is supposed to be the 'good one' and Mimi is the 'bad one,' I think  that Mimi is jealous that Djuna got to experience love. She envies Djuna's innocence, but at the same time, Djuna envies the freedom that Mimi has because she is very much jailed by her condition, fighting the animal that is inside her that rises every time she's hungry. They are really a mirror of each other.

Were the sex scenes difficult for you? As an actress, can you tell us if they ever get easier to film?

I think Xan was great with it because it's never easy, even if you're dating the costar! Even then, you have to be a bit of an exhibitionist about it. I think what's also difficult is to do it over and over again. There's a chain in the sex scene—I was bruised. But Djuna essentially turns into an animal when she is aroused—so performance-wise, I wasn't even thinking of it as a sex scene. I wasn't shy.

The film's wardrobe is great. What inspired the costumes?

I think that we did it a lot together, me and Xan. Djuna's been around for a long time, so she wears a Victorian jacket with shoes from 2000 with a '70s skirt. That was the idea—that she's been around for 250 years, and that she's kept things that meant something to her, that she's mixing them together. In the movie, you see a lot of clothes from different time periods crashing together.

Did you want to keep anything from your on-set wardrobe?

I managed to keep one thing. I mean, I wanted to keep everything—it was like my dream wardrobe. That's the beauty of making a movie with a woman: she wants you to look good and she gets as excited as you do about clothes. The producer was like, "The whole budget cannot go to the wardrobe!" but she kept shopping and shopping and shopping. I got to keep one dress that's very gothic and Victorian. I love it.

Do you collect anything fashion-wise, like vintage jewelry or anything like that?

I've always liked Victorian jackets. Some of the clothes in the movie are mine! The jacket I'm wearing during the party scene is mine. I've always liked mixing an old element in with modern clothes, and we just made that idea much more extravagant for this movie. I don't have a collection, but I have a thing with jackets. I really like jackets. Whether it's an '80s motorbike jacket, or a Victorian jacket. I could wear the same jeans every day for months, but the jacket would be the thing that would change a lot.

Did you have to wear any crazy makeup in the movie? There didn't seem to be a lot of special effects...

Only when Djuna turns into a vampire—then I had to put in special contact lenses. There were about three people holding my hands because I could't figure out the contacts—it was like being in a loony bin! Otherwise, it's just fake blood —old school and keeping it real.

You've said before that you aren't ashamed of being really into fashion, though there seems to be a stigma about that in general. Is that still true?

I personally have no shame in saying I am extremely interested in fashion. I am not as interested in trends. I won't go on Style.com unless I'm looking for stuff to wear to an event, or there's a designer I am interested in. I like clothing that tells a story, and that's why it was so much fun to dress Djuna with Xan, because there is a story to be told through her clothes. I'm very interested in fashion in that sense—the fashion of now and yesterday. There is a weird snobbery about it, but music and cinema and fashion are all starting to work so much together that it is impossible to ignore it now. I respect a designer just as much as I respect a director, a writer, a singer. When you see an Alexander McQueen fashion show, you are taken on a journey. It's surreal.

Since you are on the cutting edge of fashion, are there any brands you are especially into right now that we might not know about yet?

Swash—it's a Japanese company. He's an illustrator so, everything is printed. I just bought some leggings from him. They're printed with different animals and shapes. They look like haunted forests or something! I thought the last Paco Rabanne collection was amazing. They have a new designer and they brought back the Françoise Hardy one-piece in knitted metal. Elegant but quite badass.

Do you think it's true that French women are the most stylish?

It's just a different fashion. I think London, New York, Paris, Milan, any big city has its own fashion. I don't know why they make such a big thing of Paris. I think maybe it comes from French New Wave films portraying the French girl  as very feminine. I think French women are quite nonchalant, so they look like they aren't paying attention, but they probably are. That's why people think it's so easy for them to look good. English girls are more eccentric—they have crazy hair and piercings, so it looks like they've taken time to do it.

Did you have any crazy fashion phases of your own?

I think it always had to do with the music I was listening to. Back when I dressed really hip-hop I was listening to hip-hop. When I wore Doc Martens, I was listening to Nirvana day and night. Later on, I started wearing more leather jackets because I was listening to rock. Now, with my band, I think I dress more like I should be in a band, which means lots of prints!

What are the three wardrobe staples you rely on?

I like high-waisted pants like the ones I am wearing today. I am have them in black, too. They are Balmain. Also, a leather jacket from Saint Laurent and Charlotte Olympia shoes. Basically everything I am wearing right now!

Kiss of the Damned hits theaters on Friday, May 3.

Photo: Fairchild Archive

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Alexander McQueen Fall 2013


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Watch the trailer for Kiss of the Damned below: