Every Monday on ABC, the French actor Gilles Marini dances for America with his partner Cheryl Burke on the television show Dancing with the Stars. A favorite on the show, Marini talks with France-Amérique about his life in Hollywood since his breakout role in the Sex and the City movie.
“Right now, I’m dancing on air!” Gilles Marini exclaims. For four weeks, the thirty-three year old Frenchman and his American partner Cheryl Burke have led the pack on the popular television show Dancing with the Stars, which airs Mondays on ABC. “Being on the show is an extraordinary opportunity for me to be exposed to the American public,” he says. And it’s true—every season, Dancing with the Stars breaks a new record. The show is currently watched by roughly 18 million viewers every week.
Gilles Marini is not totally unknown in America. He first gained visibility with his role in the film version of Sex and the City, in 2008. He played Dante, Samantha’s sexy neighbor. “Even when a role is short, you can always make it memorable with personality,” Marini says. “I was on my scooter like a good little French boy when my manager called me about auditioning. I only understood the magnitude of what was happening when they flew me to New York for the last audition, and there were only two of us competing for the role. Once I was chosen, the producer of the film told me this could make my entire career.”
The producer was right. The naked Frenchman’s shower scenes, in particular, were quite effective. Marini’s looks and charm not only caught the attention of American women, but of Hollywood producers. He began to get countless job offers. He’ll be seen next in the upcoming season of Nip/Tuck, playing husband to Vanessa Redgrave, the Oscar-winning actress.
In real life, the actor, who bears a striking resemblance to Antonio Banderas, is married to a Frenchwoman and has two children. Originally from Cannes, Marini left France in 1998. “I worked in a bakery; I was a policeman. I had a lot on my plate. When my father died, I decided I had to do something extraordinary,” he remembers. Armed with a few hundred dollars and no English, he took a plane to Miami to begin a career as a model. He made a good living, but his dream had always been to become an actor. “As a child, I watched American Gigolo. I was too young to understand the film at all. All I remember is the sense of freedom transmitted through the screen by Richard Gere in that red Cadillac.”
On the advice of famous friends, Gilles moved to Los Angeles in 2002 and began taking acting classes. After appearances in movies such as “Pirates of the Caribbean 3” and the series “Ugly Betty,” he landed the role in Sex and the City: The Movie. It was this role that convinced the producers of Dancing with the Stars they had to have him for the new season.
Gilles Marini has always believed in himself, and that attitude has carried him far. A month and a half ago, he had never danced a step in his life. Always the professional, he has since blown away the show’s jury and millions of American spectators. “I dance to make people happy. It’s my way of thanking the country which has so generously opened its arms to me,” he says.