‘Sisi’ Star Dominique Devenport on the Real Woman Behind the Legend

·4-min read

Swiss-American actress Dominique Devenport believes in luck. “I was having a beer with a friend of mine in a canteen in Munich and talking about how I felt a connection to Sisi,” she explained to Variety in a one-on-one conversation.

“What I didn’t realize was that the next day, he was meeting the film’s casting director. He told her about me, and she called.”

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Word had spread that the six-hour period drama was in the works in acting circles, and Devenport studied acting in Munich at the Otto Falckenberg Schule. She originally got into acting through singing, she explains. “I was one of two little girls asked to run across a stage for a director and I thought it was really cool,” she said.

As for “Sisi”: “I auditioned and was cast but it takes even more luck than that because then it has to work with the actor cast opposite Sisi,” said the up-and coming-actress, in Cannes for the world premiere of the period drama in an Out of Competition slot at Canneseries.

Germany’s Jannik Schümann was cast in the role of her husband Franz Joseph I, Emperor of Austria.

Beta Film is handling world sales for the six-hour series which will be broadcast on the German streaming platform RTL Plus and then on RTL’s linear channel. Story House Pictures produced for RTL in collaboration with Beta Film. Season two and a slew of deals were announced earlier in the fest.

A light, fragile figure in real life, Devenport (“Night Train to Lisbon”) carries this modernized retelling of the tale of a tomboy who falls in love with a twisted man. Unlike the real-life Empress, she finds her independence.

Sisi was dubbed Europe’s first superstar but in real life, Sisi was also a diminished character crushed by the norms of her time. She dealt with depression and an eating disorder. She lived friendless in a gilded cage, as legend has it.

Sven Bohse (“Dark Woods”) directs from a script by Elena Hell and Robert Krause.

“She’s a very interesting character, and I am so happy to have had the chance to have portrayed such an iconic figure,” said Devenport. “We have to remind ourselves that we will never be empresses. It’s important to remind ourselves that she found a way to fight for her personal private life. She married the emperor. Her only responsibility was to bear children and to represent. Her human side, her emotions were not important, but she found a way to have a private sphere.”

Costume helped her get into the part. “It definitely helped because it automatically gives you many restrictions, including breathing. In makeup, you slowly become her. It’s how I got into the character each day. For me it was quite easy to let it go again each night because I think it’s a big part of your job to stay sane and take a cold shower. The day is over. You are not her anymore.”

Notably, Devenport didn’t grow up on the classic Romy Schneider “Sisi” movies. “I knew the movies existed, but I only knew Sisi as a historical character. I think it’s important to show it again in a modern way,” she said.

“We show a human being, a woman who was incredibly young and thrown into this world with so many rules. Suddenly, no one cared about what she needed. She makes mistakes. She stumbles. Her weaknesses, in a way, make her stronger because you have to make mistakes to grow.

Devenport went on, explaining that “She was not able to be a person anymore. She was shy. Surely very lonely. She isolated herself as she got older. Her husband was a representative, so he wasn’t really close to her. Feeling like she was in a cage must have been hard for her.”

Next up for Devenport is a theatre stint in Rostock. “I’m moving to Rostock next week to work for the Volkstheater Rostock. I’m happy I was able to do this and to do some theater” she said.

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