Actresses are accustomed to getting chosen for roles—or not, as the case may be—based on a multitude of superficial factors: height, hair color, weight, ethnicity. When it came to being cast in the role of Sofi in “I Origins,” out this Friday, French-Spanish actress Astrid Berges-Frisbey found a very specific feature the subject of scrutiny: her eyes. The movie’s writer-director, Mike Cahill, had Sofi possessing a genetic mutation called sectoral heterochromia, which results in multi-colored irises. And Berges-Frisbey’s co-star Michael Pitt recalled meeting her in London and being struck by her grey-brown-blue-green gaze. “I don’t think my eyes are stunning as some people’s are,” demurred the actress, her unblinking stare on this particular day circled by pale wash of rose pink shadow. “I should be thankful to my genes and my parents.”
Of course, Berges-Frisbey didn’t land Sofi solely on the basis of the ocular lottery. Her chemistry with Pitt in “I Origins” is palpable. The film follows Dr. Ian Gray (Pitt), a molecular biologist obsessed with the evolution of the eye. After a romantic encounter with the bohemian, ephemeral Sofi and a series of unlikely events with his lab partner Karen (Brit Marling), he finds his tight scientific world challenged by spiritual possibilities he had never considered.
Growing up in Catalan, Spain and the countryside of France, Berges-Frisbey had a passion for science herself and, at 17, moved to Paris to pursue studies to become an osteopath. But that same year a combination of things, about which she remains vague, pushed to her to reexamine her future. She headed to drama school and never looked back.
“There is actually a point in common: osteopaths have extremely good knowledge of the human body and so do actors,” explains Berges-Frisbey. “When I’m working on my characters, that’s something I pay a lot of attention to: how their body works, how they move, how they articulate.”
The actress made her debut in 2007 on the French TV series “Sur le fil” and has since appeared in projects in multiple languages including the 2011 French period piece “The Well-Digger’s Daughter,” opposite Daniel Auteuil and “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” with Penelope Cruz and Johnny Depp. Along the way, she has also become a Chanel ambassador, donning their looks for red carpet appearances and sitting front row at their shows. Berges-Frisbey is adamant that she takes none of it for granted. “I’m very conscious of the luck I’ve had. It’s important to have this in your mind and remember it,” she says. “You have to work hard and prove that you deserve this place.”