As a rule, the French-British actress Stacy Martin eschews wearing fragrance while on set: “I try to leave myself behind. I’m not going into a role to show myself,” she says of her technique. “The same for my jewelry: I will only bring certain things on set with me, like a book I’m reading, to kill time between takes.” On the power of a scent, she says, “It influences me when I don’t realize it. Almost every smell makes me stop and think about the past, a person or an event.”
The zesty smell of oranges, for example, invokes memories of Christmases spent at her grandmother’s house in England, while a whiff of butter melting on a stovetop reminds her of her French grandmother. Food odors are the most evocative. “I love the smell of ground coffee beans,” she says with wonder, “but I don’t like the smell of anything pickled — it makes me think of the taste.”
Martin has just come off the back of promoting two movies at the Venice Film Festival: the French film “Taj Mahal” and Brady Corbet’s directorial debut “The Childhood of a Leader,” also starring Robert Pattinson. These releases mark the end of a busy filming schedule — “1, 2, 3, 4, 5 films,” she counts out loud — following her breakout role as Young Joe, the lead of Lars Von Trier’s provocative 2013 release “Nymphomaniac.” “It’s still like first days of school,” she says of the last 18 months. “I hope that doesn’t change because that’s the fun of it. Each director has their own technique, and the atmosphere of each production changes drastically.”
It was Martin’s baptismal role as Young Joe that first saw her face, in a climatic state of ecstasy, on film posters plastered on bus shelters and billboards around the world. A stylish Miu Miu fashion campaign, shot by Steven Meisel for the Fall Winter 2014 collection, quickly followed suit, and this month sees her front Miu Miu’s very first fragrance campaign, also shot by Meisel. While she might avoid wearing perfume while filming, she doesn’t hold back when promoting her work: “I’m happy to be myself on the red carpet,” she says.