To find his Brigitte Bardot, Joann Sfar, director of Serge Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life, knew he needed a woman who not only looked the part, but was also able to radiate the same effervescent energy possessed by one of cinema’s most alluring icons. If there was any modern-day actor capable of portraying such a ravishing—and quintessentially French—woman, it was 33-year-old model-turned-actor Laetitia Casta.
“I was surprised when he asked me to play Brigitte because she’s such an icon,” Casta says. “It was such a big deal!” Although she’s renowned for her modeling—whether as the face of Dior or the body of Victoria’s Secret—she’s approached her craft as an actor, and it shows. As Bardot, a role that earned her a César Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress earlier this year, she throbs with sex appeal. “What’s interesting to me is to be a muse,” she says. “Whether it’s for a photographer or a director, when you do that, it’s no longer about you.” For Casta, becoming Bardot was a process. “It was like building something little by little—the hair, the eyes, the mouth —and then starting to move like her and to feel like her,” she says. “But I did it with the energy of a 5-year-old kid who goes into a cake shop and eats everything.” That she’s retained her looks through her transformation from ingénue to mother of three is remarkable, and she’s happy to share her secret. “You need experience to know who you are,” she says. “That’s what makes you feel beautiful. I feel much better now than when I was 20 because I’m more myself.”