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-- FIRST IMPRESSIONS Struggling 37-year-old actor Thierry Segall was set to play a minor part in Russell Crowe's upcoming nautical adventure, Master and Commander, for director Peter Weir. But during a fitting, the film's costume designer said she'd seen Segall's audition tape and found his ''French arrogance'' perfect for the major role of the Gallic naval captain who haunts Crowe's character throughout the film. The actor promptly forgot the exchange -- until his agent called a few days later. ''He said, 'Thierry, I don't know what you did, but Peter likes you a lot and wants to use you for something bigger,''' says Segall. The costume designer was Weir's wife, Wendy, who was taken with his impression of Gerard Depardieu, star of Weir's 1990 film, Green Card. ''I charmed Wendy without knowing that she was Wendy,'' says Segall. ''When I met Peter for the first time, she asked me to do [the imitation], and he was laughing quite hard.'' Seems to us, Segall is the one who got the last laugh.

-- JUST SAY NOE It's hard to imagine Brad and Jennifer starring in a bloody film with a horrifying 10-minute rape scene. But that's exactly the risk that France's most popular screen couple, Monica Bellucci (Malena) and husband Vincent Cassel (Birthday Girl), took for director Gaspar Noe in Irreversible -- a release due to hit theaters in March that has so far polarized audiences at Cannes, Toronto, and Sundance. ''In France, it's not weird that they wanted to do this,'' insists Noe, who says he'd previously discussed making an even more explicit picture with the actors. The film, which, like Memento, unfolds in reverse time, is already stirring up plenty of watch-it-on-an-empty-stomach buzz. ''We never thought it would be commercial,'' says Noe. ''I just wanted to make a movie that could be banned!'' His next project -- about what he calls ''the pleasure of doing drugs'' -- just might do the trick.

Originally posted Feb 21, 2003 Published in issue #696-697 Feb 21, 2003 Order article reprints