More than two decades after John Malkovich played the arch seducer in Dangerous Liaisons, the American actor is revisiting the classic French work, this time directing a stage version in Paris.
For Malkovich, the 1782 novel by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos highlights the age-old struggle between the sexes.
"I'm not saying war between men and women, but the struggle between them," Malkovich said at the Theatre de l'Atelier in Paris.
"Deep emotions are often violent, and emotions, I think, are more or less the same," the Hollywood star said in fluent French, having lived in France for several years before quitting the country over a tax dispute.
And it is the struggle of the sexes that Malkovich has put at the heart of what he calls a timeless work. The play is British playwright Christopher Hampton's adaptation of Choderlos de Laclos' epistolary novel, with a new French translation by Fanette Barraya.
Malkovich's staging is stripped down, with minimalist sets in contrast to the elaborate splendor of the Hollywood movie.
The cast wear 18th-century garb but communicate with each other via mobile phones. "It's just a method," Malkovich said.
But the key tension remains between lovers-turned-rivals the Vicomte of Valmont and the Marquise de Merteuil.
Malkovich, now 58, played Valmont in the 1988 film by The Queen maker Stephen Frears, starring alongside Glenn Close as the marquise. But he has not "seen the film in more than 20 years." The stage was Malkovich's first passion before acting in about 70 films. It's "an ephemeral experience, alive and different each night," he said of its allure.
Malkovich sees Valmont as already lost at the start of the play, when he is challenged to seduce the beautiful and unattainable Madame de Tourvelle.
"He thinks he's going to seduce Madame de Tourvelle for glory and to enhance his reputation as a seducer, while he's already in love with her," Malkovich said.
"But he's so stupid he doesn't know it. That's what's most interesting in the play, the fact that they don't know their own feelings," he said.
"Like everyone." AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE