Cruise and Clint... rising star is picked by the best
Alix Bénézech stars in two of this year’s big-budget film releases – Mission: Impossible – Fallout (ie. Mission Impossible 6 with Tom Cruise) and Clint Eastwood’s The 15:17 to Paris – and has revelled in working with stars at the top of the trade.
A young actress (she is 26) tipped as one of France’s rising cinema stars, she said: “They were my first experiences working on big budget movies shot by big directors, so it was new but also very professional.”
Mission Impossible is out this month in France. She filmed it last year with Cruise in Paris. “I had such fun. I play a Parisian policewoman, and it’s possibly the only time a French actress has played a goodie in the saga.
“Filming with Tom Cruise was fantastic. He’s really nice, generous and down-to-earth, very funny.
“I love working in a professional atmosphere with relaxing moments when you make jokes and stuff.
“Tom is humble and connected to everyone. He really does do all the stunts. I was impressed. It’s dangerous, he almost dies [He broke his ankle on one stunt]. He’s a real life hero!”
Straight after Mission Impossible, she was cast in Clint Eastwood’s film on the terror attack on the Amsterdam- Paris Thalys train. It was an eye-opener on how different directors work.
“The work was precise, very technical. Clint is sweet, very gentle, he works calmly and takes his time, he puts people at ease. “He never says, ‘Action!’ he says ‘Go ahead’ and instead of ‘Cut!’ says ‘Stop’ and that changes everything.
“He trusts the actors. But although the pace felt slow, he doesn’t do many shots and we finished at 4pm every day.”
Alix talks with a laugh in her voice; eager to describe her experiences – she is clearly on a roll and headed for stardom.
She does not think there is any difference between French and American directors, saying every director is different in their approach, and she appreciates just how hard they work.
“I co-directed a short film three years ago and it was really hard.”
She has no desire to do it again, at least not soon.
However, she does think working in English changes things for her.
“I feel more free working in English, because I don’t always understand all the subtleties so I’m not in my head, I’m just in the moment.
“Working on French sets is different, because it’s my mother tongue, I suppose. But I like doing new things, and challenges, which also means I enjoy working in other languages.”
No one has ever asked her to diet or exercise. “I did it myself. I decided to do Crossfit, an intense cardio programme, which I started by myself. At the beginning it was hard. I was likeOMG why? But now I enjoy it.
“And the March after I started it, I got Mission Impossible. So I felt really well prepared.”
Alix finished schooling with a literature degree and trained at Strasbourg National Theatre before winning the Paris theatre lead in 2010 for Phantom of the Opera.
Several short films followed and she made her name in the hit hospital drama Nina where she plays a nurse.
Now she is considering moving to LA, but has a TV series to finish in France first. “All the casting directors and auditions are there, so I need to make the move. I’m reading a lot of scripts, because I need to do something as good as Mission Impossible. It can’t be better because it’s such a great film, but at least that good...”
Not that she intends to abandon France. “My heart is in cinema and my roots in theatre. I’d like to continue working in France as well as in the States. And I’d love to make a feature in German.” [She’s bilingual having been brought up in Alsace and the south of France.]
“I already shot one film in German and would love to film more.”
Her English is good but she says she has only picked it up recently.
“I was so bad two years ago; I had an audition and almost got it because the part required sign language, which I used to use with my best friend in school, but I couldn’t speak English so I didn’t get it. After that I worked every day, reading lots of books and watching lots of films of course.”
Her favourite actresses are Meryl Streep and Margot Robbie, and her No1 role is Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind.
“I’d love to do a really romantic role with a dramatic destiny, a real love story like that, something historic. I love the book and I love the film. I see myself in this character!”
The Harvey Weinstein scandal and ‘Me Too’ movement has dominated cinema for months, but the film Alix co-directed, Que Justice Soit Nôtre, was about that very subject.
“Everyone told me not to, they said it would damage my career.
“Speaking up felt dangerous. I’ve never had problems with directors I worked with but I did have a horrible experience with a fake director at the beginning, so it has happened to me. In fact, I think I’ve never spoken about it before.”
Sadly, she says she thinks all women experience sexual harassment in some form. “I refused to let him have any power over me. But it was really hard. It’s still there, and it’s good we’re talking about it now. We can work better without rubbish like that. “This kind of abuse of power just isn’t necessary.”
And then she laughs again. “It’s been such fun talking to you! I love doing interviews!”