Nymphomaniac star Stacy Martin talks sex, nudity and porn doubles

Newcomer Stacy Martin has gone from modelling to being Lars von Trier's new muse. Charlotte Cripps meets her

The unknown actress Stacy Martin, 22, is Danish film director Lars von Trier's latest muse. The former model with Premier Model Management, who was too short for the runway and looks like Jane Birkin, stars in his new movie, Nymphomaniac, which follows the erotic life of a woman from birth to the age of 50.

The provocative film in two parts, which features real sex scenes with porn doubles in softcore and hardcore versions, will premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May.

Starring alongside Shia LaBeouf as his girlfriend, Martin is the younger version of Joe aged 15 to 31, a nymphomaniac, played later in life by Charlotte Gainsbourg – so its handy Martin looks like Gainsbourg's mother Birkin.

"What scared me wasn't the nakedness but it was interacting naked. Shia was very professional but we didn't actually do anything sexual," says Martin meekly, who is sitting in a café in London's Covent Garden. "That was left to the porn doubles. It's a totally different industry. The porn stars finish the job off for you. I never thought I'd meet my porn double," she laughs.

Martin remembers when she met von Trier in Copenhagen last year. She had always admired his films including Dogville starring Nicole Kidman, Melancholia starring Kirsten Dunst and Antichrist, starring Willem Dafoe and Gainsbourg.

"I'd only had three hours sleep because I was so nervous. I decided to stay awake on the plane so my eyes weren't puffy. Suddenly he was there in front of me, I was speechless. We just stood there starring at each other for a very long time," she says.

Von Trier and Martin talked a lot about what she could bring to the table as far as the character was concerned. "We were clear this film wasn't about nakedness, but that it was part of the story. So I was comfortable with it. Lars wanted to celebrate the female desire and show we have flaws, we are human beings and not perfect," she says. "There was a lot of pressure on me as the vehicle of his vision. He said to me, 'Just take it day by day, scene by scene. It will all come together.' There is an element of trust. I had to keep remembering that he chose me, or else I wouldn't be there if I wasn't capable. Sometimes I was rubbish and he allowed me to get that out of the way."

But it was challenging for Martin, who had no acting experience, to be thrust in front of the camera as LaBeouf's assertive girlfriend, with more naked scenes than most actresses have in a lifetime. It was filmed over 55 days in and around Cologne. The first part of the film is about Joe's younger life, the second part is when Gainsbourg takes over. The two parts of the film do not follow on from one another but are interwined.

"As the younger Joe, she is aware she is a sex addict but not to the point that it is a disease. At 15, she's just discovering men and friendships in the 1960s," says Martin. "It is a very interesting relationship she has with her boyfriend.

Martin, who is "itching" for her next role, joined an A-list cast including Uma Thurman, who plays one of her lover's wives, Christian Slater who plays her father, and Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgard, as an older bachelor, who listens to the nymphomaniac's life story told through Gainsbourg.

"In one scene I wear disgusting tight red high-waisted spandex pants which were absolutely vile with a zip and slutty tights and a tiny top like a handkerchief for a night out on the pull," she says in horror. "I looked in the mirror and kept telling myself, 'You can do this'. But the film is about a lot more than sex. There is a lot of humour which I hope people will understand. It is a story – it's not a porn movie."

The half-French Martin, who goes out with Daniel Blumberg, the singer of indie band Yuck, grew up in Paris. She lived in Japan from the age of seven to 13 with her dad, Rene, a hair stylist and her mum Annette – then she returned to Paris until she moved to London aged 18 hoping to make it as an actress. Modelling was just a side job to fund her life in London – she saved up to do private acting classes, studied the Meisner technique of acting at the Actors' Temple, and studied Media and Cultural Studies at the London College of Communications.

She had two auditions in London and one audition in Copenhagen for von Trier's film. "When a few weeks later I heard I got the part, it was like, 'OK, don't freak out'."

She says von Trier is "extremely quiet" on set and "gives a lot of freedom". "He doesn't give you tons of instructions, just lets you improvise. He will sit and see what you come up with. To work in that way is fabulous." A lot of the film was shot on a handheld camera. "Whatever happens, he gives a lot of power to the actors he works with. You are not like a puppet. He moulds the work rather than makes it concrete."

She says she never sat down with her older self, played by Gainsbourg to discuss the character but the two performances were allowed to merge naturally. "I haven't seen Charlotte's scenes but I've heard we match pretty well. Originally Lars didn't want to cast me so the fact I look like her mother Jane Birkin was not the reason why I got the part. I got it because I did a good screen test," she says.

Peter Aalbaek Jensen, von Trier's producing partner, claimed the director "wanted to see the sexual arousement of a girl" on screen. Skarsgard told The Hollywood Reporter the film is "sexually explicit but, believe me, it will be a very bad wanking movie". LaBeouf said: "I know he's a very dangerous director; I know we are trying to do something different."

The film goes back and forth over the years looking at Joe's life and her background – often scenes were filmed spontaneously. Martin says: "What was challenging to play was her determination. I'm the kind of person who will make sure everybody is OK. She is the opposite – she is very focused on what she wants and very mathematical. It was also challenging because it was my first film and it was with Lars and other big actors and I thought, 'This is a big shoe to step into'. But I just had to jump in there."

She is already excited about attending the premiere in a few months, but also wary. "I'm quite nervous about my parents seeing the film. My mum is naturally feeling quite protective. It's quite embarrassing for me to see myself have sex. I might be hiding my eyes."

Arts and Entertainment
Kathy (Sally Lindsay) in Ordinary Lies
tvReview: The seemingly dull Kathy proves her life is anything but a snoozefest
Arts and Entertainment

Listen to his collaboration with Naughty Boy

music
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig in a scene from ‘Spectre’, released in the UK on 23 October

film
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap

film
Arts and Entertainment

Poldark review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Katie Brayben is nominated for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Carole King in Beautiful

film
Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
film
News
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
tv
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

    War with Isis

    Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
    Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

    A spring in your step?

    Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

    Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
    Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

    Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

    For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
    Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

    Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

    As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
    The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

    UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

    Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

    Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
    10 best compact cameras

    A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

    If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
    Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
    How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
    11 best bedside tables

    11 best bedside tables

    It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
    Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

    Italy vs England player ratings

    Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?