As devoted as Ludivine Sagnier is to her two children, she hates having them on set with her.
The 31-year-old French actress and star of films like Swimming Pool and Peter Pan says that while the arrival of Bonnie, 5, and Ly Lan (two next month) has helped her become more balanced and allowed her to push further as an actress, their visits to where "Mummy works" are kept short.
"They get bored and I don't really like having them around because I want to be the only child on set."
Not that she had too many opportunities to explore her inner-child on the set of her latest film Love Crime (M). She plays Isabelle, a young executive whose bright future is in danger of being snuffed out by her boss Christine's (Kristin Scott Thomas) own career-advancing ambitions. But when the domination turns into humiliation, Isabelle sets out her own blueprint for revenge.
Currently enjoying a "moment of quietness" in snowy Paris after a hectic recent schedule, Sagnier admits that while she jumped at the chance to work with veteran director Alain Corneau and "play a duet" with Scott-Thomas, creating the character of Isabelle was a challenge.
"I'm so not like her. I'm kind of an extrovert - I let go emotions when needed and I'm surrounded by love and friendship. The whole difficulty for me with Isabelle was to get this inner bubble that she lives in and find the fragility inside of me.
"Her whole evolution in the movie is silent and she doesn't share it with anyone. Technically I just tried to shut up on set and go inside of me and find her demons in the silence.
"Alain Corneau gave me a very good trick. He gave the music that he used for the film before we started to shoot. It's a tune of free jazz and I used to listen to it all the time because its very contemplative music puts you in a certain kind of mood. It helped me to endure the loneliness of the character."
A decade ago Sagnier would have brought the character home with her, but today's domestic life has changed all that.
"I remember what happened after a particularly draining scene with Kristin. As soon as I got home, my children were asking for stories and saying, 'Mummy, Mummy, I need you'. It is refreshing to have that reality because it helps you to put your feet on the ground no matter what you've been through."
That included the death of director Corneau just days after the film's release in France in August.
"There did seem to be something pushing him forward. He wanted things to go very fast on set and I didn't know why. I actually didn't figure out what it was until I found out he was sick."
Sagnier says Love Crime is a fitting tribute to the 67-year-old director. "It was a movie that he loved very much. He had this idea of the perfect crime and it took him 10 years to find. He worked on this movie just like a child would work on a model airplane made out of matchsticks - very meticulous and precise. It felt like he was a captain and we were warriors at war and I like that. And I think for this particular genre it was useful."
Consistently working as an actress since the age of 17, Sagnier says she has been privileged to have "faced" the biggest actresses in France, including Charlotte Rampling, Fanny Ardant, Isabelle Huppert and Catherine Deneuve.
"One of my first experiences was 8 Women (in 2002). Being alongside actresses like Fanny, Isabelle and Catherine was worth two years of theatre courses because it was such of source of inspiration for me and understanding what an actress should be like. Since then I've always managed to take the best of them and let them share with me their experience and knowledge."
That forms part of the advice she would give any aspiring actress, with "watching a maximum amount of film so you know what has been done earlier so you can anticipate the future" also high on the agenda.
"Knowing the classics is very important but then so is cultivating your own personality. You should never try to look like someone else."
Asked whose career she would most like to emulate, Sagnier plumps for Deneuve.
"I just finished a musical with her and I love how free she is. She's a grandmother, very active and a free spirit, very independent and has a lot of humour regarding her choices of characters.
"She's on screen all the time but has a house in the countryside and enjoys her family. That's a model for me - drawing a great filmography and still enjoying life as much as possible."
As well as recently playing Diane Kruger's misfit sister in Lily Sometimes, Sagnier's latest career move is her first exclusively English- language film since her silent turn as Tinkerbell in Peter Pan; The Devil's Double. Described as a chilling vision of the House of Saddam Hussein, the action drama The Devil's Double is based on a true story and has a Kiwi connection in the form of New Zealand director Lee Tamahori.
"I couldn't really believe it was him offering me the job," says Sagnier. "I'm a fan of Once Were Warriors - in France it is a cult movie, everyone has seen it. But at first I didn't want to meet him because I thought it was a typical big Hollywood production where they ask to see 100 actresses in LA, 100 in London, 100 in New York and 100 in Paris, and at the end of the day choose Julia Roberts or Salma Hayek. I also didn't understand why he wanted me to play an Iraqi prostitute. I'm as blonde as an Icelandic person.
"But Lee convinced me to play the part, and the quality of this script was so evident I just had to jump at the story. I can't wait. We're going to see the movie at Sundance next month. I know it is going to be very exciting."
Sagnier says she has been trying to persuade Tamahori to let her come to New Zealand.
"He has a farm and animals and he talks about his country with pride so I really want to go there."
Given her elfin features and diminutive stature (160cm), Sagnier may also just be ideal for a job on a certain Peter Jackson movie.
"Would I consider a role in The Hobbit? I would wear a beard to be a hobbit."
Love Crime is now screening.
WIN * WIN* WIN Go has five double passes to Love Crime to give away. To enter the draw, email email@example.com with "Love Crime" in the subject line, and your name, address and daytime phone number, before 5pm on Sunday. Winners will be notified.
- The Press