The Breakout Star of Titane Is Vuitton’s Newest Muse

Photo: James D. Kelly. Courtesy of  Louis Vuitton

Agathe Rousselle knows how to electrify an audience. The 33-year-old star of Titane made waves on the festival circuit thanks to her breakout performance in Julia Ducournau’s genre-bending body horror. With her film debut topping 2021’s “best of” lists—and taking home the Cannes Film Festival’s coveted Palme d’Or back in July—Rousselle is experiencing her moment in the spotlight and learning what it’s like to present a thought-provoking project to the world. “Once it’s out there, you have to relinquish control because the movie doesn’t belong to you anymore,” she shared on the phone from Paris. “It’s a bit like setting something free; I’m relieved to see that it’s taken on a life of its own, and now it belongs to the eyes of the viewers.” 

Originally from France, Rousselle always knew she’d pursue art, but her choice of medium changed frequently. Performing on screen was always the end goal, but she worked as a photographer, casting director, and model before landing her big break. “I’ve wanted to perform my entire life; There’s video footage of me at five putting on shows for my parents,” she says. “I had a dozen different lives in my twenties, but acting was always in the back of my mind. I was modeling, doing short films, and appearing in music videos. If there was a chance to be in front of the camera, I would take it because I wanted to learn everything.” 

Rousselle’s tenacity eventually led her to Ducournau, who, fresh from the success of her provocative debut feature Raw, was ready to bring another daring story to the big screen. Most actors begin their careers with minor roles, but Rousselle’s performance anchors Titane. As Alexia, a woman driven to obsession and murder by her attraction to automobiles, she’s at the center of the action. Stepping into Ducournau’s world and portraying a one-of-a-kind character would have been a challenge for seasoned performers, but first-timer Rousselle threw herself into the role. “Since this was my first feature, every day was new and exciting,” she says. “The entire process was extremely intense, but I’d been warned by [Julia], so I knew what I was getting into.” 

Ducournau proved an ideal collaborator. “She teaches you how to push your boundaries to an extent you would have never thought possible,” says Rousselle. “It was demanding but also incredibly enriching. I learned so much from these experiences.” To get into the part, Rousselle took dance lessons, worked with a movement coach, and overcame her squeamishness to brush up on horror movies, including Ducournau’s debut. “Normally, I can’t watch them, but I had to do my homework,” says Rousselle. “Raw, of course, wasn’t as terrifying as I thought it would be. A couple of scenes were difficult to watch, but once I did, I had a better idea of what I was getting myself into.”

The fearlessness Rousselle is able to display on screen may have something to do with her comfort in front of the camera, something honed during her time as a model. “In a way I know the fashion industry better than I do the film industry,” says Rousselle, who found time during Paris Fashion Week to pop up in the front row of shows like Louis Vuitton and Saint Laurent. Her familiarity with fashion also informed her experience of the collections. “I’ve walked in shows and attended before, but this season was my first time in the front row,” she says. “Fashion week is this sexy, glamorous circus where there’s a show within each show. Everyone is watching everyone else, but that’s what makes it entertaining.” 

During Vuitton’s spring 2022 show at the Louvre last Tuesday Rousselle spotted the look she’d eventually wear to Titane’s London premiere on Saturday. When model Miriam Sanchez came down the runway in a transparent black gown detailed with lace embroidery and crystals, Rousselle was captivated. “The dress was so dreamy I took out my phone and took a picture of it,” she says. “I hoped that I could maybe wear it one day, but when you see a dress like that you think, ‘well they’re never going to let me wear this; it’s far too precious.’”

The piece was informed by the 19th century and classic designers like Paul Poiret and Erté. Still, creative director Nicolas Ghesquière and team felt that modern beauty Rousselle was the right person to bring the fantastical look into the real world. “Having someone like him in my corner feels great,” says Rousselle, who was the first person to wear the collection on the red carpet. “Doing events and promotions can be so intense, you need to have a shield and a support system. To have a person who is rooting for you, wants you to succeed, and wants you to look good is important, so I’m incredibly grateful.” 

Naturally, Rousselle wore her fresh-from-the-runway Vuitton look with swagger, contrasting the piece’s frilly details with a rock ’n’ roll beauty moment involving a platinum spiked coif and deep purple lipstick. Some might call her take on fashion “punk,” but Rousselle prefers not to label things. “I just wear what I like,” she says. “People always refer to me as a punk, but I think it’s just because I do as I please. Ultimately, I’m just having fun with clothes [and] it was nice to take this fantasy into reality.” 

Having charmed both critics and the fashion crowd, Rousselle is ready for whatever comes next—especially if it’s completely left of field. “My only hope is that whatever I get to do next is different. I just don’t want to become trapped in a specific role; it would be great to try a thriller or something experimental,” she says, citing filmmakers like David Fincher and Richard Curtis as favorites. “After this, I’d be so happy to do a comedy—working with Will Ferrell is one of my dreams!” 

Below, Rousselle shares an intimate look at her getting ready process for the BFI London Film Festival

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