“I don’t have any preconceived ideas of myself. I just take things as they come.” – Léa Seydoux
One of France’s greatest contemporary actors, Léa Seydoux is a chameleon of the silver screen, adapting to a great variety of roles with ease and aplomb. Heavily connected to the country’s film industry, the Seydoux family is widely known in France, with her grandfather Jérôme Seydoux being the chairman of major film production and distribution company Pathé, and her granduncle, Nicolas Seydoux, the chairman of Gaumont Film Company. Despite this, however, Léa Seydoux felt little support from her family during her career ascendancy.
“My grandfather Jérôme has never felt the slightest interest in my career. [My family] have never lifted a finger to help me. Nor have I asked for anything, ever,” Léa Seydoux made clear in a 2013 interview. Through these industry connections, however, Seydoux did manage to become acquainted with some of the 20th century’s most prominent artists, including photographer Nan Goldin, musicians Lou Reed and Mick Jagger and footwear designer Christian Louboutin.
Though despite a lack of support from her own family, Léa Seydoux has shown her quality as one of the greatest working actors, starring in both blockbuster epics and small independent dramas. The list of her ten greatest films includes auteur projects, experimental films and big-budget action films. We start at number ten with the least critically acclaimed of Daniel Craig’s James Bond outings, in 2015s Spectre directed by Sam Mendes, the same mind behind 2012s Bond hit Skyfall. Seydoux brings the film’s best character in Madeleine Swann, a psychiatrist working at a private medical clinic in the Austrian Alps who also happens to be Bond’s love interest. Smart, seductive and sympathetic, she represents one of the best Bond girls of recent years.
Her Bond performance came after Brad Bird’s surprising action-thriller Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, however, where, despite not appearing in the film for too long before her untimely demise, makes a strong impact during her time on screen. Playing assassin Sabine Moreau in the fourth instalment of the Mission Impossible series which saw surprisingly favourable returns, both in critical acclaim and in box office profits.
More recently, Seydoux has enjoyed success in the independent film market, appearing in a lead role in Xavier Dolan’s It’s Only the End of the World, playing the younger sister of a terminally ill writer who returns home to tell his family that he is dying. A heartbreaking film based on the play by Jean-Luc Lagarce, Seydoux forms the heart of an impressive ensemble cast that together create a stylised drama of family dysfunction. The film joins Ursula Meier’s Sister which places seventh on the list of Léa Seydoux’s 10 best films, an independent drama following a boy who supports his sister (Seydoux) by stealing from wealthy guests at a ski resort. Leading the film ahead of her younger co-star Kacey Mottet Klein, Seydoux delivers a truly authentic performance to help create a strong narrative that explores the complications of familial relationships.
Onto the auteurs, and the sixth film in the list of Seydoux’s best films, Quentin Tarantino’s 2009 war thriller Inglourious Basterds. Following a plan to assassinate Nazi leaders by a group of Jewish U.S soldiers in France during World War II, Léa Seydoux plays the daughter of a man attempting to hide a Jewish family. It may only be a small role, though Léa Seydoux finds herself involved in the film’s fantastically intense opening sequence, which may also be the very best scene of Tarantino’s career. Just two years later, Seydoux would work with the auteur Woody Allen on his 2011 film Midnight in Paris, working alongside comedy actor Owen Wilson where she would play Gabrielle, an antique dealer and fellow admirer of the ‘Lost Generation’, the central focus of the film. Her role in the film is integral to the plot, walking away with Wilson in the film’s final shot as they share their love for Paris during a stroll in the rain.
Wes Anderson’s eighth film also proved to be a major release for Léa Seydoux, coming in at number four on her list of her greatest ever films. She joined an eclectic ensemble cast of Ralph Fiennes, Jude Law, Bill Murray and Saoirse Ronan on the set of The Grand Budapest Hotel where she would play a small part as one of the maids at the grand Schloss Lutz estate. Though just like many of Anderson’s films, Léa Seydoux helps to create a captivating whole by simply being part of the vibrant film. Whilst Wes Anderson may be a well established Hollywood name, Jessica Hausner is an auteur just beginning to see success, with her 2009 film Lourdes being an underrated masterpiece. Number three in the list of Léa Seydoux’s 10 best films, Lourdes follows a wheelchair-bound woman who manages to walk during a life-changing pilgrimage to the French town. Seydoux plays Maria, the woman’s helper and does so with a powerfully subtle performance, eliciting sympathy as one of the film’s strongest characters.
Take a look at the full list of Léa Seydoux’s 10 best films, below.
Léa Seydoux’s 10 best films:
- Spectre (Sam Mendes, 2015)
- Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (Brad Bird, 2011)
- It’s Only the End of the World (Xavier Dolan, 2016)
- Sister (Ursula Meier, 2012)
- Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino, 2009)
- Midnight in Paris (Woody Allen, 2011)
- The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson, 2014)
- Lourdes (Jessica Hausner, 2009)
- The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2015)
- Blue Is the Warmest Colour (Abdellatif Kechiche, 2013)
The penultimate film on Seydoux’s top ten is Yorgos Lanthimos’ contemporary comedy classic, The Lobster, set in a dystopian future where single people are taken to The Hotel, where they are obliged to find a romantic partner in 45 days. Seydoux plays the bizarre leader of feral singletons hiding in the forest, evading the capture of those still looking for love, and manages to perfectly sell the outrageous part by fully committing her performance to the role.
Number one on our list of Léa Seydoux’s greatest films is her career-changing performance in Abdellatif Kechiche’s Blue Is the Warmest Colour, where she plays Emma, a young woman who falls in love with Adèle Exarchopoulos’s lead character and helps her transform into an adult. It’s a truly powerful film with two excellent performances at its core.