Olivier Martinez: A Fresh Distraction

French star Olivier Martinez is out to seduce American moviegoers as successfully as he does Diane Lane in Adrian Lyne's Unfaithful.

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In France, Olivier Martinez can't walk down the street without being mobbed by fans. The Horseman on the Roof, in which he starred with ex-girlfriend Juliette Binoche in 1995, became one of the biggest films in French history. But most Americans have never seen Horseman, or for that matter Martinez's other hits, The Chambermaid on the Titanic and Un, Deux, Trois, Soliel. A certain segment of the U.S. moviegoing population may remember Martinez's performance in 2000's arty Before Night Falls, but in all probability it'll be Adrian Lyne's new film, Unfaithful, that will serve as his introduction to Americans. In it, he plays the seductive young French book dealer who leads a loving wife (Diane Lane) astray from her husband (Richard Gere).

Sitting at SarahBeth's Café on the Upper East Side of New York City, Martinez, who lives in L.A. with longtime girlfriend Mira Sorvino, is trying to explain the difference between Americans and Europeans. He's been speaking English for only a few years, but he makes himself excessively clear. "I don't care if my president smokes cigars, I don't care what he does with that cigar, either," he says. "Here, you forget about the real things that should be on your mind and instead worry where your president stuck his cigar. But in France, we don't care. We don't care if our president is having an affair. It is none of our business. We expect him to do his job. And men like that, who want power, they are lustful, no? We would expect no less."

The 36-year-old Martinez is so good-looking, relaxed and self-effacing that he can pretty much get away with saying things like this. He comes from a working-class family and arrived at acting indirectly. "I was no good at school," he says with a shrug, "so I quit." He did some boxing, which was his father's profession, and flirted with this or that line of work until a friend asked him to come along on an audition. Once he tried acting, he fell for it immediately.

"I am basically lazy," he says. "So the idea of acting was appealing. You get to read all day in your trailer when they don't need you! I love that."

If Unfaithful does well, it could be a major break for Martinez. He knew this when Lyne first called him for the role, but Martinez says the pressure didn't get to him because he didn't really think anything would come of the meeting. "I went in, talked to him--we talked about Melville and Jack London--and I really liked him, but I thought that would be it."

He was very excited, however, about the possibility of working with Diane Lane. "I already loved her from The Outsiders. I saw that film a million times."

When he learned he had won the role, Martinez spent a lot of time thinking about the seduction scenes between his and Lane's character. "The act of love is very different for men and women," he says. "For women, everything must be right. Men are not so picky. Women can have pleasure that lasts longer. Am I explaining myself?"

"I'm getting the picture," I tell him.

"But men, they lust differently. And I thought a lot about this when shooting Unfaithful. Because Diane's character is married, there is danger for her. And maybe that makes it more erotic, no? But my character is out for a good time. He sees this beautiful woman...Do you think a marriage can survive after an affair?"

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