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Milla Jovovich goes from breathtaking to heart-stopping in The Three Musketeers.

The road from model to movie star is typically a cautionary tale, but, then, there’s precious little that’s typical about Milla Jovovich. A successful model by her 12th birthday, an indie pop star in her teen years, an actress with street cred and a new mother, the 35-year-old Jovovich is feisty, playful, determined and deeply gifted. This month, she plays assassin Milady de Winter in the Three Musketeers reboot, and she recently chatted with American Way about the role.

American Way: Three Musketeers is one of those stories Hollywood never tires of. Why is that?
Milla Jovovich: Friendship, love, betrayal and courage: Those are qualities that resonate no matter what time it is, no matter what generation, no matter what language. But also, Three Musketeers was one of the first real page-turners. Alexandre Dumas was the Michael Crichton of his day.

AW: You play a very dangerous woman in the movie.
MJ: It’s always been a fantasy of mine to be a ninja, and in this movie I get to live that out. I think my husband [director Paul W.S. Anderson] likes to watch me kick butt.

AW: This is a pretty hip telling of Musketeers.
MJ: A lot of times these movies would be made and the Musketeers looked like bad dinner theater — big floppy hats and giant vests and silly mustaches — but these guys were the rock stars of their era. When we were figuring out what this movie should look like, I pulled out all of my old music books and showed everybody pictures of Mick Jagger and Jim Morrison and Iggy Pop. Those guys were all musketeers; they just used microphones instead of swords.

AW: Somehow, you’ve avoided that jinx that most supermodels turned actresses suffer from.
MJ: I used to be a really bad actress; I’m not going to lie. I didn’t know myself well enough to pretend to be someone else. But I worked really, really hard at it, and eventually it clicked. I think The Fifth Element was a real turning point for me. Now, when I go on auditions, if it feels like I’m faking anything, I walk away.