British starlets such as Keira Knightley and Emma Watson have risen to the high ranks of Hollywood thanks in part to their beauty, but a leading producer has claimed that when it comes to sex actresses from this side of the Channel are too inhibited compared with the French. Producers sought a smouldering actress to play Dominic Cooper's love interest in The Devil's Double, the recently released film about Saddam Hussein's savage son, Uday.
British actresses were considered for the role, a seductive Arab mistress, but the French actress, Ludivine Sagnier was chosen instead. Paul Breuls, The Devil's Double producer, said: "The role is very demanding sexually and it's difficult to find actresses who are willing to take that leap into the sexual unknown, especially in the States or in England."
The performance by Sagnier, who appeared topless in the François Ozon 2003 thriller film, Swimming Pool, lead The Independent's interviewer, John Walsh, to commend the actress for her "weapons-grade smouldering". But Michael Winner, who has directed British sirens including Joan Collins and Hayley Mills and Hollywood sex symbols Lauren Bacall and Faye Dunaway, defended homegrown actresses.
He said: "I've come across some actresses who are inhibited but I don't think British ones are particularly coy. Look at Women in Love or Vanessa Redgrave."
Mr Winner said he had no difficulty persuading starlets to disrobe. "Quite the contrary, I've had to persuade them to keep their clothes on. I had Stephanie Beacham do love scenes with Marlon Brando (The Nightcomers, 1971) and she acquitted herself very well."
Ludivine Sagnier, The Devil’s Double
'She plays Sarrab ... in a succession of sequinned frocks, diaphanous nighties, false eyelashes and lots of weapons-grade smouldering...'
John Walsh, The Independent
'She is astonishingly beautiful, but she is about as interesting as a crème brûlée where too much refrigeration has killed [the] flavour'
David Thomson, The New Biographical Dictionary of Film