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The stakes were too high for Milla to stay married to Luc.

SCREEN beauty Milla Jovovich went through months being chased, tied up, tortured and finally burnt at the stake.

And her tormentor-in-chief was her own husband.

So it comes as no surprise that the 24-year-old actress walked out on her marriage to French director Luc Besson after filming was completed on The Messenger: The Story Of Joan Of Arc.

After all, there's only so much

torment a wife can handle. Milla admits she only took on the tortured role of the French martyr in Besson's intense, sometimes dangerous, movie because her husband asked her to.

Dubbed the French Steven Spielberg, he encouraged her to perform most of her own stunts in the big-budget feature film, including a scene where she falls 25 metres from a ladder into the arms of the soldiers below.

Rolling her eyes, she says: "On the physical level, it was insane."

Not only did her prop sword weigh as much as Joan's real sword, but the armour she wore for six months added at least 50 pounds to her slight frame.

And her wardrobe consisted mostly of a custom-made genuine suit of armour, which she says made bathroom breaks very inconvenient.

She laughs: "I learned to hold it. It gave me an extra edge. After everything I'd been through, it's like, 'Okay, now let's BURN her.'."

The couple met when Besson, 40, directed Milla in The Fifth Element. It was hard for him to be unaware of her talent - for most of the film, she barely wore two strategic strips of bandage.

They married in Las Vegas soon afterwards.

She recalls: "We sensed the special chemistry between us immediately at the auditions and it just intensified during the filming of the movie."

Milla knew how she felt, but she wasn't certain he felt the same. He had a long-time French mistress, who had borne him two children.

Then she saw the finished version of The Fifth Element.

She says: "Luc had cast me as the perfect woman. That felt wonderful in itself, but then when I saw how he had filmed me in the movie, I knew he loved me as much as I loved him."

Claire Danes was meant to play Joan in his next picture, but Luc reinvented Joan of Arc for them to do as a couple.

By the end of filming, however, their marriage of 17 months was in tatters.

Yet Milla insists: "The movie did not break us up. Luc and my personal life never got entangled in our professional life. If we could make movies 365 days a year, we would still be together.

"Luc and I have this unique creative connection. We did get married. But we're not together anymore in that sort of particular context. We're best friends, apart from being together or not. He loves me, I love him."

Maybe the pair should have been more careful in their choice of picture.

The role of Joan itself has a hazardous, possibly cursed, reputation. Ingrid Bergman almost lost her career when she had a scandalous affair shortly after playing Joan.

Two other screen Joans - Renee Maria Falconetti and Jean Seberg - both died at relatively young ages.

But Milla dismisses any notion that the part could have cursed her marriage.

She says: "I've heard about the curse of Joan of Arc. But how many actors or actresses have perfect lives?

"Almost every old movie star that you hear about had some tragedy happen that usually happens to everybody, but just because they were a movie star, it's like, 'I can't believe it happened to her or him'. It's life."

However, her film has already irritated American test audiences, who hadn't heard of the real Joan's dreadful death at the stake.

Milla says: "We had a lot of people say, 'I don't think she should get burned at the end'."

A little over a month after filing for divorce from director Luc, Milla has been spotted keeping company with actor Jeremy Davies, best known for his role in Saving Private Ryan.

They met on the set of her latest film, Million Dollar Hotel.

One woman who won't be thrilled by this new love is Drew Barrymore, who had been dating Jeremy since January.

Her godfather and his director, Steven Spielberg, set them up.

At this stage, Milla will only praise Jeremy professionally. She gushes: "Hands down, he's the most wonderful actor I've ever worked with."

And has her new beau made it easier for her to deal with her latest character's dowdy wardrobe?

She laughs: "Are you kidding?

"It's so great to finally play a part where I don't have to wear some weird silicone spandex or a g-string bikini.

"Finally, I'm not only clothed, but comfortable. Not only comfortable, but layered and warm. It's perfect."
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Synnot, Siobhan
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Mar 10, 2000
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