It is hard to feel sorry for Sasha Luss, the Russian supermodel-turned-actress who, in only her second movie role, has landed the lead in Anna from Leon: The Professional and The Fifth Element director Luc Besson.
But having always had her mind set on being an actor and star – she’s been on the stage since she was eight years old – she must have pinched herself when Besson sent her the script for his latest movie Anna and asked her to play the modern femme fatale.
That was until last year when Besson became embroiled in sexual assault accusations. Besson however, denied the claims and a French court dismissed the case for lack of evidence earlier this year.
A serious matter indeed that also delayed and potentially threatened the release altogether of Anna. Following the dismissal, the movie has gone on general release though has not been pushed widely in the States and is slated to be shown in cinemas in the UAE on 27th June.
Anna, which also stars Oscar-winner Helen Mirren and Cillian Murphy charts the unlikely rise of Anna Poliatova from sharply dressed model to sharpshooting international assassin who works alone and has to stay one step ahead of international authorities.
As Luss breathes a sigh of relief that the movie is seeing the light of day, and notes in interviews that Besson has been nothing but a gentleman towards her, it becomes clear that the 27-year-old has relied on more than just sheer luck and her model looks to get her this far.
Born in Magadan, Luss moved to Moscow at a young age and showed little interest in modelling but was instead an avid writer and dancer. Despite an ankle injury that ended her dancing career before it began, she never gave up on writing and performing even when her modelling career took off.
As well as resolutely holding on to her dreams Luss, has shown that if you want to succeed you have to seek a strong mentor. That person came for her in the form of Susan Batson, the acting coach to the stars and whom Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman have publicly thanked in award acceptance speeches.
A veteran of the industry, Batson favours a method acting approach and requires actors, whether they are starting out or have legions of adoring fans, to leave their egos at the door as she coaxes them to get to the ‘purest truth’ in themselves and access vulnerable places in their psyche.
“I am looking for ‘the stuff’ in an actor, and to help him or her locate that stuff in their core,” Batson has said in a previous interview. “And then to work out how to bring that stuff to a role, to turn it into art, because emotion without art is not acting. This is not only to learn but also to help an actor sustain the performance, to find the core again and again.”
So how does a 27-year-old supermodel access the part of herself that is ready to dispatch a room full of assailants?
Portraying a cold-hearted killer can be a major challenge.
“Not every actor has killed, but they have killed a cockroach or a fly or have said in their head I could really kill you.’ They know the sensation,” Batson is quoted as saying.
“Once the actor is willing to confess that they know, they can blend the truth that they understand, weave it into the imagination and hand it over to the character.”
While it is unlikely this bloodthirsty first lead role outing will win her many plaudits, Luss has her eyes on a much bigger prize. When asked by Besson where she sees herself in five years, she said: “In five years, I’m going to have an Oscar.”
Maybe that is another secret to success? Aim high.
Also starring: Helen Mirren, Luke Evans, Cillian Murphy and Alexander Petrov