a stranger in paradise
French actor Olivier Martinez brings his je ne sais quoi to American shores.

Finding an actor attractive enough to credibly tempt Diane Lane's suburban mom to betray a loving husband played by Richard Gere was likely one of the bigger challenges facing director Adrian Lyne as he prepared to make next month's Unfaithful. But Lyne, who's demonstrated that he knows a thing or two about filming illicit desire (his body of work includes Indecent Proposal, Fatal Attraction, and Lolita), discovered just what he needed in Olivier Martinez. The almond eyed 36-year-old's innate intensity seems to inspire the right kind of breathlessness: He's been called, among other things, "the French Brad Pitt." That his only prior English-language credit was the art-house hit Before Night Full (he costarred with Javier Bardem, who's been called, it must be noted, "the Spanish Brad Pitt") is so much the better. What's more intriguing, than a handsome stranger?

For his part, Martinez welcomes the chance to be the new boy on the Hollywood block. A self-described "real Parisian," he planned to follow in his father's footsteps by going into boxing, followed by a more stable career as a mechanic. But after a few years, he gave it up. On a whim, Martinez, then 24, auditioned for the Conservatoire National Supérieur d"Art Dramatique. He was accepted. "It was a kind of miracle," Martinez says. "By chance I had this opportunity and I took it and my life changed." For his first film he was nominated for a César; he won for his second. So why did Martinez, who's now living in Los Angeles, switch to our sunny shores?. "The thing like most in my work is to start over again, to be always the beginner, " he explains. "In French, I was totally under control. In English" he pauses, searching for the words- "I don't control anything." - LAUREN WATERMAN:

Vogue April 2002