Léa Seydoux was originally meant to star opposite Gaspard Ulliel in Bertrand Bonello’s audacious sci-fi love story “The Beast.” But the beloved César-winning French actor died at age 37 in January 2022 after a skiing accident while the film was still in pre-production, and he was posthumously replaced by George MacKay.

Seydoux previously starred alongside Ulliel, revered for roles in movies including Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s “A Very Long Engagement” and Bonello’s own “Saint Laurent,” in Xavier Dolan’s 2016 Cannes winner “It’s Only the End of the World.” Seydoux, who recently spoke with IndieWire about her multiple roles in “The Beast” as a woman confronted across centuries by a devastating impossible romance, did not get the chance to talk to Ulliel about “The Beast” before filming. He did, however, leave her a WhatsApp voice message praising her turn in Bruno Dumont’s media satire “France,” a box office hit in France in 2021.

“The last message I had from him, the last time I heard his voice, was after ‘France,’ this film I did with Bruno Dumont,” Seydoux said. “He just left me a message on my WhatsApp, an audio message, and he was telling me how much he liked the film. He was like, ‘I’m not saying that because we are going to work together. I just wanted to tell you I was very impressed.’ It was a very, very kind message.”

Seydoux continued, “Even me, I was like, he’s too nice. That’s the last thing we shared. And then I had a call from my agent, and he said, ‘Gaspard had this ski accident, and I think he’s in a coma.’ He said ‘I think it’s very, very serious.’”

Seydoux attended Ulliel’s funeral at the Saint-Eustache church in Paris in January 2022, shortly after the skiing accident in the Alps killed the actor.

Bonello previously told IndieWire that George MacKay, the British actor who also plays three roles in “The Beast,” was the last person he met with to take over for Ulliel as Bonello decided to still make the film. In “The Beast,” the role that went to MacKay includes playing a fin-de-siècle romantic, a 2014 toxic incel living in Los Angeles, and a man who gets his emotions erased in a dystopian 2044.

“The first decision was not to replace him with a French actor,” Bonello said. “I didn’t want any comparison because it would have been impossible for me and the actor. I wanted to switch to an American or British actor, so I started to do this classical [casting process], meeting a lot of people for three or four months. The last person I met was George. I went to London. We met and did a few tests, and after two or three minutes, it was obvious he was a good person [to play the role]. It is true he didn’t speak a word of French, but I’ve been always told British actors were amazing and the hardest actors. It’s true because it’s not phonetic; he’s really acting. We gave him coaches, but he’s really acting, not repeating.”

“The Beast” opens in select theaters April 5 from Sideshow and Janus Films.

Leave a comment