Acclaimed writer-director Brian De Palma has long been highly regarded for his filmmaking finesse and ability to stimulate and surprise audiences. In addition to his blockbuster action film Mission: Impossible, De Palma's diverse catalogue of film credits include the thrillers Dressed to Kill, Sisters, Blow Out and Snake Eyes; the acclaimed police dramas Scarface, The Untouchables and Carlito's Way; and the shocking story of Carrie, which garnered two Academy Award™ nominations (Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress) and created a worldwide phenomenon founded on De Palma's provocative filmmaking and inventive cinematic style.
Femme Fatale returns De Palma to his favored genre with a film that explores revenge and reinvention, flavored with an undercurrent of moral ambiguity and titillating corruption. A contemporary film noir about an alluring seductress suddenly exposed to the world - and her enemies - by a voyeuristic photographer who becomes ensnared in her surreal quest for revenge, Femme Fatale draws stars Rebecca Romijn-Stamos and Antonio Banderas together in De Palma's licentiously complex narrative.
"My goal as a writer is to build up the plot's intrigue, and as a director, to film the story in such a way as to make it impossible for the audience to anticipate what will happen next," says De Palma.
The key to De Palma's criminally twisted story and distinctly noirish atmosphere is the film's manipulative, delectably wicked femme fatale. "I enormously enjoyed creating the character of Laure, our beginning point and backbone of the film," De Palma explains. "I wanted a heroine who would be funny, sexy and deliciously cruel, one who would arouse strong feelings in the audience. I intentionally drew upon the classic 'femme fatale' archetype common in films from the Forties and Fifties and adapted it to a modern day story. "
The precedent for beautifully shrewd, duplicitous predators has been set by extraordinary leading ladies such as Mary Astor as the gloriously untrustworthy Brigid O'Shaughnessy in John Huston's classic The Maltese Falcon, Barbara Stanwyck with her famously fetishized ankle bracelet in Billy Wilder's seethingly sexy Double Indemnity and Rita Hayworth embodying the mysterious temptress Elsa Bannister in Orson Welles' The Lady from Shanghai. Modern noir films have starred sultry women such as Kathleen Turner in Lawrence Kasdan's Body Heat, Linda Fiorentino in The Last Seduction and Kim Basinger in L. A. Confidential, for which she won an Academy Award™.
Producer Tarak Ben Ammar knew that, in the tradition of these notorious protagonists and the legendary women who have played them, the role of Laure was the pivotal component of De Palma's script and it was crucial to cast the right actress. "While casting for Femme Fatale, I met John McTiernan who had just directed Rebecca Romijn-Stamos in Rollerball. John thought she was incredibly talented and would be great for the role, so I called Brian and we agreed that Rebecca should do a test audition in Paris. After Rebecca's audition, the entire crew, from the director of photography to the sound engineer, were all swept off our feet. "
Producer Marina Gefter concurs. "The role of Laure is a formidable challenge, demanding that the actress portray two very different women, as well as assume several other identities throughout the film. Rebecca's very beautiful, very Hitchcockian and she'll be a complete surprise to audiences. "
Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, who made the successful leap from international model to dynamic actress with starring roles in X-Men and Rollerball, completely immersed herself in the role of Laure.
"Laure uses her beauty and sexuality like powerful weapons to obtain what she wants," Romijn-Stamos observes. "She's a born actress, using her talent for split second improvisation to get her out of any jam. She knows very well who she is - she has to be extremely strong and focused to take on all the different identities she appropriates. I identified with this core part of Laure and was able to bring this aspect of the character into focus because I too have a very strong sense of who I am. "
De Palma explains the attraction of his iniquitous femme: "Laure's a born manipulator and her ability to change style and identity only heightens her fascinating aura. She captivates us as we try in vain to determine her true intentions. We fall under the spell of her charm and eroticism and willingly offer ourselves to her scorpion sting. "
Those lured into the black widow's web of intrigue inevitably find that their fate is in the hands of the femme and her machinations, an exercise of puppetry that propels the story to add texture and depth to the screenplay.
"The screenplay is so rich that every day on set we were finding new layers to explore," reveals Romijn-Stamos. "I would periodically reread the script from cover to cover to fully grasp its different levels. Several elements changed once we began shooting, ideas we played around with, new ideas from Brian, ideas borne from collaboration. It was a fantastic experience to play a character that constantly evolves and changes. "
After the key role of the dangerously sexy Laure had been cast, the filmmakers then needed the perfect gentleman as her scandalous partner in crime. Antonio Banderas, a leading international actor currently starring in both Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever and Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams, accepted the challenge of playing photographer Nicolas Bardo.
"Who is Nicolas?" muses Banderas. "He's a fantasy, a professional voyeur, a projection of Laure's spirit and hopes and fears. Through her eyes, we see him as a dangerous individual dressed in black, always hounding her, trying to reveal her for what she really is. "
De Palma was thrilled that Banderas agreed to take on the role. "The role of Nicolas is difficult because the character's depth must be conveyed equally through his actions as well as the subtext of those actions," explains De Palma. "Antonio is able to express, without words, a layered nuance and meaning to his actions in the same way that Nicolas' camera captures more than solitary images. "
A significant theme of Femme Fatale provokes the question of whether all things are subject to fate and human beings are powerless to change them. But people still have roles to play in fate's story. ..
For key supporting characters, a critical cornerstone was the role of the cuckolded Ambassador Watts. Says producer Marina Gefter, "We needed someone who had allure and authority in important encounters with Laure. From the beginning, Brian wanted Peter Coyote to play the American Ambassador. "
Coyote, for his part, enjoyed playing the artless politico. "Watts isn't tremendously sophisticated and has a deplorable lack of savoir-faire. Because of his naïveté, he immediately falls for Laure's flattery and quickly succumbs to her will. "
Laure's shadowy life of deceit also spawned vengeful co-conspirators who will not forget, nor forgive her lies. "We needed two sinister villains whose hunger for revenge propel much of the plot through their pursuit of Laure," relays Gefter, "and Eriq Ebouaney and Edouard Montoute are wonderful actors to portray this vicious villainy. We were also fortunate to cast Gregg Henry, an old friend of Brian's, in a small part as Mr. Shiff, the Security Chief to the Ambassador. "
Rounding out the cast in her feature film debut is international modeling sensation Rie Rasmussen as a beautiful bejeweled woman with a crucial role to play in the sizzling heist.