Milla Jovovich: more than meet’s the camera’s eye
Milla Jovovich burst onto the modeling scene in the United States in 1986 at the tender age of 11, when she became the youngest model to appear on the cover of a major U.S. fashion magazine, Mademoiselle. It was almost not to be when the publishers discovered her age, and only the persistence of photographer Richard Avedon, who threatened never to work for the magazine again, secured her the cover. He was later to call Milla one of the “most unforgettable women in the world.” At that time, she was commanding $3,500 for a day’s work, and soon became known as the “Slavic Brooke Shields.”
Appearing in innumerable modeling campaigns, which have included L’Oreal, Armani clothes and fragrances, Prada, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Christian Dior and Chanel, she remains one the world’s most recognizable and sought-after models. Indeed, she is considered Prada’s “muse” when it comes to inspiring the designs of their world-beating fashions, including the current Prada obsession with a classical Russian style of dress. However, she has managed to keep her feet firmly planted on the ground, having, as she says, “learned there’s no payoff to acting supercool and smart and having nothing real on the inside. ... For a long time now, I’ve learned to enjoy life and be more open and generous.” Moving into the business side of things these days, she and longtime friend Carmen Hawk recently began their own fashion label, Jovovich-Hawk.
Milla was born in 1975 in Kiev, Ukraine. Her father is Yugoslavian doctor Borgi Jovovich. Milla says the male side of her family is rebellious, and this includes her father, who spent time in prison over confusion regarding medical insurance payouts. Perhaps her experience with such strong personalities has made it possible to survive the rigors of the fashion and entertainment worlds.
She spent her early childhood in both Kiev and London, where her father was studying medicine. After this, the family moved to Sacramento, Calif., defecting from the East on a visit to her father in London. The family later moved to Los Angeles. Another formative experience was growing up in America and being labeled a Russian at the height of the cold war – and in Ronald Reagan’s state of residence, at that.
Milla cites her mother, Galina Loginova, a film and stage actress, as one of the most important influences in her life. Galina’s experience in Shakespeare productions was a formative influence on Milla’s love for the performing arts. “She really gave me inspiration in the beginning. She educated me and nurtured such a great feeling and appreciation for art, music and literature. She really tried to give me that curiosity. She was the first person who opened my mind to so many different things.” It was also her mother who kept a watchful eye on her as her modeling career began to take off and her life became more and more manic. In fact, Milla’s modeling career became so successful so quickly, including a high-profile appearance on the cover of English magazine The Face in 1988, that she was a millionaire by the time she was 15.
Wanting from an early age to follow in her mother’s footsteps, at age 10 she starred in a (still unreleased) horror film. Her first feature film role, “Night Train to Kathmandu,” was shot in 1988 and was followed by “The Return to the Blue Lagoon,” shot in Australia and completed at age 14. This was followed by cameo and minor roles in “Kuffs,” “Two Moon Junction,” “Chaplin” and “Dazed and Confused.”
More substantial roles have followed, including “No Good Deed” (2002), co-starring Samuel L. Jackson and directed by Bob Rafelson (“The Postman Always Rings Twice”); “Resident Evil” (2002); “Dummy” (2001); “You Stupid Man” (2001); “Zoolander,” Ben Stiller’s hilarious take on the world of high fashion (2001); “The Claim” (2000); “The Million Dollar Hotel” (2000), where she reportedly began spending all her spare time on location in a seedy South Central L.A. hotel, enjoying the company of the local residents; “The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc” (1999); “He Got Game” (1998), directed by Spike Lee and starring Denzel Washington; and, perhaps most famously, “The Fifth Element” (1997). Currently, she is in Hong Kong and Shanghai, training in martial arts for the filming of “Ultraviolet,” a modern-day zombie flick.
It is through her career in the entertainment field that she has become close to the men in her life. Milla married Shaun Andrews (co-star from “Dazed and Confused”) at age 16, after eloping with him as a way of legally “getting a bank card.” Her mother, furious, had the marriage annulled within the week and sent her away to Europe, where she ended up spending two years in London and recording her first album, “The Divine Comedy.”
Her debut album is a blend of acoustic and pop melodies, reminiscent of Enya at the height of her popularity. This is in contrast to her more recent music, which has taken a turn toward the world of rock. The lyrics touch upon the surreal and abstract, dealing with the topics of human relationships, and also examining the ethereal beings that walk amongst us, and reminding us all to make the most of our lives. The music could be described as folk-pop, with a Californian edge to it, while the vocals are clear and bright.
Milla went on her first major tour after this album was released, opening for Crash Test Dummies. In the late ’90s Milla fronted the band Plastic Has Memory, and she still occasionally finds time to perform live at clubs in New York and Los Angeles, and recently at the Fashion Rocks charity event at London’s Royal Albert Hall. She is writing songs for a new album.
“Music is at the top of the heap,” she says. “It’s the most honest thing I do.”
Milla has been writing songs since age 11, when she began learning guitar and piano. Her high-paying modeling assignments allow her the luxury of picking and choosing from film offers, and even a little time for a music career, which she prefers to her modeling career, thinking it is important to be creative. Her latest appearance as a singer is on the new Crystal method album, “Legion of Boom,” for which she contributed vocals.
Her second marriage was to Luc Besson, the French-born director of the science-fiction hit “The Fifth Element,” in which Milla plays Lee-Loo, the scantily clad “supreme being” sent to protect the earth from evil. They divorced after 16 months, following the filming of their second movie together, with work commitments leading to the amicable split after spending so much time on the move pursuing their careers. She is now engaged to Paul W.S. Anderson, director of “Resident Evil.”
With all this work going on, it’s hard to imagine when she finds the time to relax. Milla has a general aversion to drugs, seeing them as being destructive of life and creativity in the long run. However, she famously liked pot in her earlier years, once appearing on the cover of the dope-smokers’ bible, “High Times,” brandishing a huge joint.
Not content to cram three careers into one fast-paced life, she also somehow finds enough spare time to study physics and to promote her favorite charities: preserving wilderness areas and saving endangered animals.
doesn’t look like Milla Jovovich will slow down any time soon.
The quotes used in this article are from Arena UK, July 2002; New Zealand
Woman’s Weekly - February 14, 2000; Marie Claire (Australia) - December
2000 ; and the Toronto Sun, May 7, 1997.
Brett Mahar is an undergraduate at the University of New South Wales (Australia), majoring in Film and Political Science.