Redoubtable star Stacy Martin: 'I find the word 'muse' very belittling' (2024)

The Anglo-French actor Stacy Martin is an unlikely – and reluctant – participant in the #MeToo wars currently convulsing the film industry: although not exactly for her new film, Redoubtable. It is a frothy biopic about Jean-Luc Godard and his second wife, Anne Wiazemsky, the star of his 1967 film La Chinoise who was just 19 when she met the 37-year-old Godard. Instead, the focus has become Lars von Trier, the director who gave Martin her first professional acting role, as sex addict Joe, in the explicit four-hour epic Nymphomaniac.

Von Trier had a reputation for years for making actors suffer for their art, especially female actors. But when I ask Martin, 27, about him, she describes their working relationship as “amazing”. “He has his flaws, but I don’t know anyone who loves women more than he does,” she says. “I didn’t know how a film set worked and he had patience with me.” If anything, she says, it was Von Trier who agonised over the explicit scenes in Nymphomaniac. “Sometimes he’d freak out and we’d have to take 10 minutes. He’d be like: ‘I can’t make you do this.’ I was like: ‘I don’t mind.’”

Redoubtable star Stacy Martin: 'I find the word 'muse' very belittling' (1)

The allegations against Von Trier stem from a Facebook post by Björk alleging she had been harassed by an unnamed Danish director.The man was widely identified as Von Trier, and Björk followed up with another Facebook post with more allegations of harassment, denied by Von Trier. In November, Danish authorities launched an investigation into claims of sexual abuse at his Zentropa studio. Former employees talked of a culture of bullying and intimidation – one woman claimed she was sacked for refusing to skinny dip with the director.

I want to talk about Von Trier and Björk, I say to Martin. “Did Björk name him?” she replies warily.

Not outright, but she has only starred in one feature film and identified her abuser as Danish. Does Martin stand by her support of him? “Yes, I still stand by that. I don’t know what happened and I can’t pretend that I do. And I can’t take a position on something that hasn’t officially been discussed. It’s not my place. I worked with Lars and I had an amazing experience. I still speak to Lars. And as much as he is a man with a lot of anxieties and problems, I’ve not seen this side of him. And I hope that’s not a side that he has. He’s very complex, yes. I just don’t see him being that sort of person. Until I’m proven wrong.”

She pauses. It’s obvious she’s finding the conversation difficult: “The behaviour that Björk talked about is atrocious and it should never happen. An actor should never be put in that position.” She says she was shocked when she first heard Björk’s claims. “You can say he’s difficult to work with, you can say he’s depressed, you can say he’s got a problem with alcohol. But I never thought that would be something that would be used to describe him.”

With waifishly delicate features that give the impression of vulnerability, Martin has – predictably – her own experience of film industry sleaze. “There are a lot of arrogant men in the entertainment industry. You know there is abuse of power”

She has never met Harvey Weinstein, though she’d had the Harvey conversation with her agent: “About what to do if you get a meeting with Harvey. It’s crazy and terrifying, but every young actress had that conversation with their agent. And you meet producers who are not Harvey. I’ve definitely had inappropriate comments. I’ve had a producer tell me: ‘I’m thinking about you constantly.’ He didn’t say: ‘I’m thinking about you for this project.’ He said: ‘I’m thinking of you constantly.’ It’s definitely inappropriate. You can’t say that to an actor.”

Redoubtable star Stacy Martin: 'I find the word 'muse' very belittling' (2)

Born in Paris, Martin’s father is French and her mother English. She moved to London at 18 to study media and culture at university, while modelling part-time. Acting classes were a hobby. She didn’t even have an agent when Von Trier cast her in Nymphomaniac not long after graduating. “I never thought I’d get the part,” she says. “I loved acting classes, but it was very low key. Never a job job.”

Even now, she suffers from a twinge or two of impostor syndrome: “The first day on shoot is like the first day at school. I have this weird thing like are they going to find me out, that I’m not a real actress. It’s totally irrational and it’s definitely not productive.”

I ask her about sex scenes. Martin is a total pro. For Nymphomaniac, she had a separate contract for nudity and there was a spreadsheet detailing every sexual act in the film to avoid uncertainty over who was doing what. Martin wore a prosthetic vagin* for some scenes, and a p*rn double performed the actual sex scenes. These days, she says, she mostly finds herself battling for more male nudity in scripts. “Usually it’s the women doing full-frontal. What about the men? If you want to show a love scene, there needs to be balance. You’re not showing masturbating, you’re showing two people making love.”

I suspect Martin can be rather steely. I get a taste of her froideur when I bring up the controversial open letter signed by Catherine Deneuve and other high-profile French women attacking #MeToo for going too far. I put it to Martin that the letter pretty much confirmed the feeling that French women are a bit, well, less feminist. “I don’t think that French women are less feminist. If you look at Simone de Beauvoir, she was French and she wrote one of the founding texts of feminism,” Martin says curtly. Being half-French, half-English she says she is constantly seeing the differences between the two mentalities. “It’s a lot easier to say no in French than it is in English. I find it so satisfying to say no to a French person. Whether it’s for noodles or for a job.” Her English side is more apologetic. “I find myself saying sorry to someone even if they’ve pushed me in the street.”

When Nymphomaniac came out, Martin was frustrated by journalists treating her like a Ming vase. “People talked about the film like something really difficult had happened to me. Instead of an actress deciding to make a film. That was annoying. I wouldn’t have said yes if I wasn’t happy with it. I felt like I had to tell people that it was my decision.”

The sex scenes in Redoubtable, on the other hand, are tongue-in-cheek, played for laughs. Godard goes down on Anne Wiazemsky, but comes up for air to bang on about revolutionary politics. Redoubtable pokes fun at the New Wave enfant terrible: in his late 30s, balding and terrified of becoming old and irrelevant. But it plays his relationship with Wiazemsky, as a comedy. In reality, Godard was jealous, possessive, even cruel at times. His age and experience put all the power in his corner. But Martin points out that Wiazemsky remembered the relationship affectionately; the film is based on her memoir. “We have to let her have her relationship. They loved each other. That’s something we can’t judge: someone’s love for someone else. You have to respect that.”

Redoubtable star Stacy Martin: 'I find the word 'muse' very belittling' (3)

If there’s one takeaway from Redoubtable it is that the job description of muse is long and not particularly tempting: cook, cleaner, mother, cheerleader, lover, cat-to-kick, therapist. When she worked with Von Trier, a few interviewers called Martin his “new muse”, but she’s unimpressed. “I find the word ‘muse’ very belittling,” Martin says. “It’s been far too romanticised. If you look at Picasso and Freud, they had muses and were in relationships with the women. Look at Frida Kahlo. She couldn’t sustain a relationship like that and make her own work. I want to be Stacy Martin, not blah blah’s muse.”

Redoubtable is released on 11 May

Redoubtable star Stacy Martin: 'I find the word 'muse' very belittling' (2024)


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