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
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette

film
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him

music
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event

film
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the first-look Fifty Shades of Grey movie still

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
    Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
    Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

    Feather dust-up

    A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
    5 best waterproof cameras

    Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

    Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
    Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

    Louis van Gaal interview

    Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
    Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

    Will Gore: Outside Edge

    The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz