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Pascale Bussieres on the edge of stardom.

Pascale Bussieres is one of Quebec's leading actors, famous as the "queen of the miniseries' in la belle province. X Change could well be her ticket to U.S. stardom. Bussieres plays Madeleine, a left-leaning journalist who warns her readers about the dangerous mind-transfer technology. "I think X Change asks some good questions about how far technology will go," Bussieres says. "The film works on many levels. It's an action film with philosophical underpinnings. I personally like the questioning that goes on about the nature of identity."

Bussieres says she particularly enjoyed working with Moyle, known as an actor's director. "Allan is a space muffin. He's pretty much a wild animal absolutely enthusiastic, a person who always goes for the new idea. He's very energetic, kind, generous with everybody. And X Change was a hard shoot. There were a lot of action stunts and special effects. Allan was like a kid having fun. He's totally weird, but in a good and exciting way. We rehearsed quite a bit and tried some unusual exercises, which he thought would help us with our characters. Allan invited us to experiment with the concept of an identity peeking out from behind another identity -- an envelope with something else inside. We worked a lot on this very abstract concept, trying to make it real."

Bussieres' most memorable experience on the set of X Change was "one weird moment when I was shooting with Stephen Baldwin, a scene where he gets his finger cut off by an invisible cord. He had a fake finger that came off, but I wasn't expecting the effect. Nobody told me about it. During the first take, I saw Stephen's finger fall off and I screamed. It was so realistic. But this was just one of Allan's tricks so that I would register complete surprise, although I don't know if that particular take is in the film." Bussieres remembers that X Change was a very physical film, with several fight scenes. "I'm not used to the action genre, but I had a good trainer and I learned fast."

Bussieres, born in Montreal in 1968, made her acting debut in 1983 in Sonatine for Quebec director Micheline Lanctot. Lanctot won a Genie for the film and Bussieres was nominated for Best Actress. She stayed in school, taking a hiatus from acting, until she reappeared in Jacques Leduc's La Vie fantome in 1992. She won the award for Best Actress at the Montreal World Film Festival for that film, a fantasy of a man (Ron Lea) who loves his wife and mistress and manages to live parallel lives with both. Critics said that Bussieres was "incredible" as the emotionally troubled young mistress who finally accepts her second-place status.

But it was her starring role in Blanche in 1993, a television miniseries directed by Charles Biname, that gave Bussieres her etoile status in Quebec. The sequel to the immensely popular Les Filles de Caleb, Blanche rocketed Bussieres into a career of non-stop work in Quebec and France. In 1995, she travelled to Toronto to star in Patricia Rozema's lesbian romance When Night Is Falling, which was a hit at the 1996 Berlin Film Festival. That year she also appeared in two Jack Higgins HBO action thrillers -- Thunder Point and Windsor Protocol -- both featuring her Xchange co-star Kyle MacLachlan and directed by George Mihalka. Steve Ujlaki, a New York City-based executive with HBO saw Bussieres in Thunder Point and was so impressed that he kept her in mind for a future project, which led to her starring role in Xchange.

In 1997, Bussieres turned up as the unattainable love interest Juliana in cult director Guy Maddin's dreamlike Twilight of the Ice Nymphs, a romantic fantasy set on the imaginary island of Mandragora, where the sun never sets. "Guy Maddin reminds me of Allan Moyle," Bussieres observes. "He's got a total poetic energy and he creates an amazing ambience on the set. Everyone wanted to work for him for free. Guy is fascinating, a shy and brilliant man. I remember having some great times with Shelley Duvall and Frank Gorshin. All the sets were made out of papier mache, created in a Winnipeg studio in the middle of winter. Everything was like a kid's show, but the plot was sophisticated and Shakespearean, very lyrical. Guy even brought over real ostriches and filled the studio with them for scenes set in Duvall's ostrich farm. He created a magic realism in the studio. Just being in Winnipeg in the wintertime shooting that kind of movie was very strange. We also shot our interviews for the documentary Guy Maddin: Waiting for Twilight in the studio while Ice Nymphs was in production."

Following Twilight, Bussieres appeared in Platinum (1997), a television drama about the music business directed by Bruce McDonald, two more films for Biname, Le Coeur au poing (1997) and La Beaute de Pandora (2000), and the lead in Denis Villeneuve's first feature, Un 32 aout sur terre (1998). She was part of the ensemble cast in Jeremy Podeswa's The Five Senses (1999) and played the suicidal mother in Lea Pool's Emporte-moi (1999). In August of last year, she travelled to France and Denmark to work with director Catherine Corsini in La Repetition, a psychological drama co-starring Emmanuelle Beart (Mission Impossible). It's the story of two lifelong friends, a movie star and a dentist, played by Bussieres. La Repetition isn't so much a thriller, though, as a study of identity diffusion and power struggles in a relationship, Bussieres says.

With more films set for release in the United States and Europe, Pascale Bussieres is well on her way to becoming as big a star internationally as she is in her native Quebec.
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Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Chartrand, Harvey
Publication:Take One
Date:Mar 22, 2001
Words:953
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