The Vincent

May 2000                                                                   


Vincent Perez is already a sex symbol in Europe. Now the steamy actor is turning it on for Kim Basinger.

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Like most Parisian maitre d's, the one at L'Avenue - Paris' latest must-be-seen-in spot takes great pleasure in turning away sneaker-wearing Americans when they arrive sans reservations. Only after he's told that Vincent Perez will be joining me (the news causes a nearby waitress to drop her tray holding two empty champagne glasses and an ashtray) does the attitude vanish and a table open up.

For Americans who aren't familiar with the 35-year old Swiss-born actor, it's a little like showing up at New York's hotter-than-hot Pastis and saying you're meeting Brad Pitt.

Later, while seated by the window, Perez smiles politely for a group of girls pressing their faces up against the glass to take a closer look, then blushes. "Maybe we shouldn't have come here," he says, covering the side of his face with his hand.

But the reaction to Perez's smoldering good looks would most likely be the same at any venue in Paris. He has been one of Europe's leading matinee idols for the last 15 years. His performance as Catherine Deneuve's lover in 1993's Oscar-winning Indochine still has women - and a lot of men - quivering. This month, he's Kim Basinger's leading man in I Dreamed of Africa, a saga of a European couple's life in Kenya. It's a role that's certain to bolster his sex appeal stateside.

"Right now, I think the only way for a European actor to make it is to have an international career," he says. "The film business here in France is overintellectualized. That's the way people have to prove themselves here. I'm not interested in that."

Still, he's not about to pack it all up and move to Hollywood. That would be too much for his family to bear. Perez lives with his wife, Karine Sylla, their baby daughter, Iman, and Silla's six-year-old daughter, Roxane, from her relationship with Gerard Depardieu.

The irony of having familial ties to the legend of French cinema isn't lost on the younger actor. After all, it was his role opposite Depardieu in 1990's Cyrano de Bergerac that truly made Perez a superstar. "I love Gerard," he says. "When we get together, we have a steak, a few glasses of wine and some laughs. We have the kids to talk about - not cinema."

Buttoning his coat up high and slipping on his dark sunglasses to leave the restaurant, Perez insists he's able to maintain some anonymity. "I have a way of becoming transparent when I'm on the street," he says.

As he crosses the avenue Montaigne, head down, window-shoppers stop and point.

[Written by Daniel Peres ]


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