Mary H.K. Choi on Wanting to be Vincent Cassel

Photo: Gramercy Pictures/Everett Collection

Vincent Cassel and I were born one day apart. Plus, also, 13 years. This is what I’ll tell him when I meet him and get close enough to touch his weird hair and stroke the pre-orbital puffiness that he gets around his baby blues. For the last 18 years—ever since La Haine in 1996—I’ve harbored a raging, throbbing, teeth-gnashing crush on the French actor. In the black-and-white film, he played Vinz, the Travis Bickle–obsessed Jewish hooligan who was incensed beyond usefulness and a total poseur. He was wiry and loutish, and had I gone to school with him, I would’ve wasted hundreds of hours being near him but not so near him that he knew I was there. He scared the piss out of me, which, at 16, was about as compelling as anything got.

I loved him medium-hard in the Oceans movies and extra-hard in Eastern Promises. For the latter, he learned conversational Russian, a bit of trivia that does not surprise me, considering he also speaks fluent Portuguese because he’s a capoeira expert. I found him spellbinding in Black Swan, which is where I (along with everyone who feels undeserving of approval but seeks it unfailingly) wanted to hate-fuck the living shit out of the arrogant bastard until his bulgy, slow-loris, murderer eyes hemorrhaged and I was finally done sobbing.

It was while observing him in the berserk Danny Boyle–directed film Trance, somewhere between the first time I saw Rosario Dawson’s unflinching, fully depilatoried pudendum and the moment that confirmed that the studio had marketed the film incorrectly, that I realized I didn’t want to be with Vincent Cassel, I wanted to be Vincent Cassel. Were I able to choose an avatar with which to navigate the world, it would be him. He’d be my brojan horse and I’d be unstoppable; rather, we’d be unstoppable.

He’s aging exquisitely; sexy in that beau laid way but not so handsome as to be detestable. The internet says he’s six-foot-one, which means he’s at least five-foot-ten, and even at that height, he’s a nimble distillation of virility. He looks fantastic in skinny blue expensive suits and tiny maroon European sports cars, and you can’t picture him drinking anything as improficient as beer unless he was vibing with some grizzled local old who was drinking beer first. He is the guy every guy envisions himself as when they order Fernet and pretend to like it. You can imagine him palling around with Eric Ripert on a yacht, wearing blinding-white shirts open all the way down to their trésor trails, both of them drinking a boatload without getting drunk while squinting at the other, startled at his tolerance.

He’s the new George Clooney for non-basic guys. And as debonair as he appears when his vintage bow tie hangs loose, that soupçon of Euro makes him deadlier in a string vest, rip-stop nylon trackpants, with a cigarette dangling from his mouth. Even with that one long fingernail. He’s perfect. Almost. If only he hadn’t shat the bed with Monica Bellucci—we could have had everything.

Mary H.K. Choi on Wanting to be Vincent Cassel