Léa Seydoux is a sphinx of an actress. Her characters always seems to have a secret, even when they don’t. It’s a quality that will make her an ideal Bond Girl in SPECTRE, the next 007 installment.
Today, after a month or so of rumors, director Sam Mendes confirmed her involvement when he introduced Seydoux to the media and announced that she would be playing a character named Madeleine Swann. Madeleine Swann: either they cast the perfect actress in the role, or they named the character only after she’d agreed to become the most elegant of Bond Girls. Has anyone who ever lived looked more like a Madeleine Swann?
But there might be some real meaning behind the name. It could be a nod to Marcel Proust’s “Swann’s Way,” which features themes of involuntary memory that evoke SPECTRE‘s logline, “A cryptic message from Bond’s past…” Perhaps Seydoux is destined to be more than just eye candy, which makes a ton of sense considering her resume.
If you don’t immediately recognize Seydoux, don’t feel too bad. As strikingly beautiful as the 29-year-old French actress is—a young Julie Christie, perhaps?—she’s also a chameleon of sorts who can slip in and out of all sorts of characters. Christoph Waltz, who was also announced today as the next Bond villain, certainly knows who she is—she was one of the farmer’s pretty daughters in the harrowing opening scene of Inglourious Basterds. But she’s best known for playing sexy, confident women who are typically three steps ahead of the guy—or the girl.
Here are seven other films that led her to 007:
La Belle Personne (2008)
Playing a grieving transfer student who engages in a lustful affair with her new music teacher practically made the term “ingenue” part of her professional title.
Robin Hood (2010)
In her first English-language movie, Seydoux played a French princess who has an affair with the married king of England (Oscar Isaac).
Midnight in Paris (2011)
In a small role as a record-playing Parisian antique dealer, it was impossible not to be entranced by Seydoux’s je ne sais quoi. Woody Allen told Vogue, “Although she only had a few very brief moments in Midnight in Paris, everyone fell in love with her and kept asking me at every screening, ‘Who’s that girl, who’s that girl?'”
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011)
Seydoux was practically auditioning for a Bond Girl role in the fourth Mission film, playing an assassin named Sabine Moreau who has a taste for diamonds.
Farewell, My Queen (2012)
Seydoux played a servant who reads to Marie Antoinette (Diane Kruger), oblivious that their time before the revolution is dwindling. Director Benoit Jacquot added a lesbian element to their relationship and life in the royal court. “[Léa] brought this carnal dimension,” he told IndieWire. “She has incontrovertible sex appeal.”
Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013)
If Farewell, My Queen was tantalizing with sapphic sex, Blue was explicit. Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos played a young lesbian couple whose exploits were lasciviously documented by director Abdellatif Kechiche. The film won praise, but many just couldn’t stop talking about the seven-minute sex scene. After the film was awarded at Cannes, both actresses expressed some regrets and accused Kechiche of treating them like “prostitutes” during those heated scenes. “I’m still very happy with this film,” she told the London Evening Standard after things calmed down. “He’s a very honest director and I love his cinema. I really like him as a director. The way he treats us? So what!”
Grand Central (2013)
Seydoux’s other 2013 Cannes film didn’t generate the same buzz as Blue. In it, she played another bewitching (married) beauty who engages in—wait for it—an illicit affair with a co-worker.
In the broad spectrum of Bond Girls over the decades, Seydoux brings to the table a resume and set of acting skills that most resembles her fellow Frenchwoman Eva Green in Casino Royale. It will be most interesting to see if Madeleine ultimately ends up being friend or foe. In a way, she’s better suited to joust with and be a real threat to Bond than just be another pretty 007 accessory. Watch out, James. You, too, Moneypenny.