Meet Sasha Luss, the Russian top model starring in Luc Besson’s ‘Anna’ (PICS)

Legion Media
The famous Russian supermodel turned her career around and has set her eyes on an Oscar.

Another Hollywood Russian spy thriller hits the screens this summer; “Anna” is the first leading role for 27 year-old Sasha Luss born in Magadan, Russia.

Surrounded by a star-studded cast including Academy Award winner Helen Mirren, Cillian Murphy, and Luke Evans, the Russian model-turned-actress plays a Soviet government assassin operating in the 1980s, at a time of active KGB vs CIA confrontation. Her character - the seemingly delicate beauty Anna Poliatova - is actually a professional KGB agent who can take out a dozen mobsters in a restaurant full of people and not get caught.

“Anna” is the second time Sasha has starred in a Luc Besson movie. Back in 2017 the French filmmaker cast her in his “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” where she played Princess Lihö-Minaa of the 28th-century planet Mül, whose death at the hands of marauding aliens sets the movie’s plot in motion. He came across Luss’s photo in a magazine and contacted her agency. After a four-hour audition in Paris (she had to sing and even invent an alien language), she impressed the director and got the job.

According to Besson, Sasha has a natural talent for acting. “During the casting she had to cry in one particular scene and I understood that she can really control her emotions. I was surprised: She didn’t have any experience! Following my advice, she went to New York and studied acting there,” he told Forbes (link in Russian).

Besson adds they had interviewed a few actresses for the lead role in “Anna” but his American partners chose Sasha: “I’m glad that she got the part: She can be both very strong and very gentle, depending on the scene, and look natural. I’m very proud of her!” 

Starring in “Anna” was a dream come true, Sasha admits. Born in 1992 in the Far East port city of Magadan, she watched Besson’s “Fifth Element” numerous times when she was a kid. “I grew up in a small city in the middle of nowhere and this movie gave me a different perspective on what I could do. To imagine different worlds outside of your own. And that’s another reason why I was so happy to make this movie with Luc — he taught me how to use my imagination,” she said.

The future top model Sasha wasn’t a popular girl at school (she was tall, thin and wore glasses) and was a bit of a tomboy who could always fight back. 

“I was always for justice, so occasionally had to fight boys, of course. Sometimes really hard. And I have to admit it was often me who was beaten. But I did fight back. It looks like something has changed with years because during shooting “Anna” I didn’t have that much energy anymore,” she smiles (link in Russian). Apart from that, she had a normal childhood, did sports and loved ballet and, when spotted by model agencies at 15 years old, didn’t hesitate to take the opportunity. 

With her first major modeling debut in 2008 for Russian designer Alena Akhmadulina during Moscow Fashion Week, Sasha gradually found her way into the international modeling world. She was noticed by Karl Lagerfeld, represented Dior Beauty and Carolina Herrera and featured in the famous Pirelli 2015 calendar with “Gigi” Hadid, Adriana Lima and Natalia Vodianova.

Over the last six years, she’s been living in New York visiting her parents in Moscow every month. Yet despite her successful international modeling career, she only dreams about an Oscar. At some point, before casting for “Anna”, Sasha admitted to Luc Besson that she was growing frustrated with modeling and it wasn’t interesting for her anymore - so he asked if acting was something she was serious about. As she recalls, she said “yes”:  “He was like, ‘How do you see your life in five years?’ I said, ‘In five years, I’m going to have an Oscar.’ He was like, ‘You don’t sound like a girl who just shot a little scene in a big movie. But let me see if I can help you.’”

Besson has long introduced the world to unknown actresses and now it’s Sasha’s turn. As she says, even though starring in “Anna” was exhausting for her - both mentally and physically, it’s also extremely rewarding. “When such a person as Besson says that you are doing well and that you can do it, you simply immerse yourself into work happily,” she admits (link in Russian). “Yes, this is hard work which requires a lot of energy but when you love something you do it with pleasure. I was ready to be on set for days without food or water.”

“Anna” has already opened new doors for Sasha, although she refuses to reveal new projects. As she admits, she dreams about playing serious dramatic roles, like Charlize Theron’s character in “Monster”. “Such a transformation is extraordinary! But I think, my favorite character, that I’d like to play, is Julia Lambert from the novel “Theatre” by Somerset Maugham. But I need to grow for this role, in every sense.”

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