Finding an actress to fill Brooke Shields' sarong for the sequel Return to the Blue Lagoon was no easy task. But after months of national casting calls in 1990, Milla Jovovich, then 14 and the very first candidate considered before 800 others were auditioned, wound up plucking the role of Lilli, the blossoming island girl.
Hardly a discovery, the Russian-born, L.A.-raised model (daughter of Soviet actress Galina Jovovich) has been a cover girl for four years and was photographed by Richard Avedon for a Revlon ''Unforgettable Women'' ad. ''It felt really weird,'' recalls Jovovich, who was a mere 13 at the time. ''He had all these beautiful models and then there was this kid.'' Ironically, the kid's experience in front of a camera almost cost her the Lagoon job. ''In the beginning I was turned off by her modelly behavior,'' admits director William A. Graham. ''She seemed very mannered, always brushing her hair back and posing.'' After Jovovich spent a few weeks with an acting coach, however, Graham had his Lilli and Milla her first starring role. ''I played her very animal-like and innocent,'' she says.
In one scene with her 19-year-old costar, Brian Krause, Jovovich underwent a different sort of screen test. ''A lot of the film is about sexual awakening,'' says Graham, ''and in this scene Brian's character experiences his first sexual dream.'' Lilli had to get him out of bed, and ''to surprise me, they put a piece of wood in his pants,'' says Jovovich. ''I was cracking up so hard I forgot my line.''
Next up for the fledgling actress: Hero Wanted, in which she will play the girlfriend of Christian Slater, who gets her pregnant and then abandons her. Jovovich recognizes the role as typecasting of the sexual-awakening kind, but says that's fine: ''Since I am growing up myself, it's easy to relate to these characters.''