When Lana Del Rey’s “Born to Die” teaser clip dropped in early December, we became quite curious about the young man playing her boyfriend on camera. His tattoos made him seem pretty badass and tough, but that tender thumb stroke said otherwise. And it turns out the same mysterious figure plays a prominent role in the official video for “Born to Die.” Lana Del Rey’s onscreen lover is Bradley Soileau, a 25-year-old New-York-based model who has appeared in Vogue Japan, among many other fashion magazines. Soileau had never acted before landing this gig, but now he finds himself front-and-center in Del Rey’s world.
Hive tracked down Soileau and talked with him about his experiences shooting “Born to Die,” working with Del Rey and what the tattoo on his forehead actually says.
“They feel pretty fucking real to me.”
How did you hook up with Lana Del Rey?
There is this magazine called The Wild. It was an internet magazine and they had a party last night for their first print issue, and I’m in the first print issue. This photographer that shot it, is friends with Yoann, the director of the video. Yoann was like, “Yo, we are shooting this video and I need a tattooed kid,” and [this photographer] had just shot me, and he was like “Yo, I got this model and he’s a tattooed kid. Here are some pictures.” He said its gonna be shot in New York. They hit my agent up, and said “Yeah, we wanna cast him.” [But] they moved it to Paris, and had a casting for it instead. And then Lana actually saw pictures and picked me.
She picked you? The tattooed kid?
The tattooed kid wins again. Was the whole thing was shot in Paris?
Yeah it was shot at, excuse this, I’m probably gonna butcher this … Château de Fontainblue? I don’t know, it’s a 700-year-old castle. It’s like an hour and a half away from Paris.
How long did it take?
It took three days. The part where she is in the cathedral with tigers and stuff, that was one day. I wasn’t there. The next day we started shooting the rest of it. I shot for two days, and it was like, a solid 13-14 hours each day that we shot.
There seems to be a bit of a back story to your character in the video but it seems a little unexplained. Who is this dude?
Alright, the back story. I’m her boyfriend. It’s basically like, the boyfriend, you can see the two sides of the relationship where I’m kissing her, then pointing a gun at her head. That’s what it is. It’s a relationship that is so terrible but neither of them want to leave. That’s why when she is in the car, and she wipes the glass, she’s looking mad sad, distant, thoughtful. But I’m still trying to get her attention. That’s kinda the story for it.
How did you get into character? Have you had acted before?
I was really nervous about it at first because I’ve never acted, but they kind of boosted my head up before I went out. They were like, “Yo, are you cool shooting really intimate bedroom scenes?” And I’m like, “Am I going to have fake sex with this girl?” I can’t even fathom that, I was freaking out a little bit. Everyone was really nice, it felt all good. It wasn’t anything to get into character. They were just like, “Make out with her and just be [you].” I said okay, I can do both of those things, I’ve done both in real life.
There is a lot of making out. The internet is obsessed with her lips, have you noticed this?
Yeah, I do know this. Obsessed.
Are they real? Are they good? What’s the deal?
She said they are real, I can’t say anything on that, that’s not me, you know what I’m saying? They feel pretty fucking real to me. I’ve kissed a girl with fake lips, and those aren’t fake lips in my opinion. I know everyone is so obsessed with her having plastic surgery, and if you really sit down and look at it — makeup, and more money behind her now, so the shoots are better, everything is going to look better than the stuff she did when she was Lizzy Grant. It doesn’t look good, they didn’t have a bunch of money backing it and so on and so forth. So it’s amazing what someone looks like once they are backed by money, compared to what they look like when they are broke. If you look at me in real life, and you look at me in a model picture, I look like a different person. And I’ve had no plastic surgery. People obsess about the wrong things. They should be obsessed with her voice, and her music because it’s fucking amazing. But everyone got to make something bad from something beautiful. Everyone is gonna wanna hate and say whatever it is they wanna say. So it’s like, okay. Well, whatever.
Do you have a tattoo on your chest that says “Refuse to Lose”?
And one on your forehead?
Yeah. All the tattoos are real.
What does the one on your forehead say?
It says “War inside my head.” It’s a Suicidal Tendencies song.
You seem really tender in the opening scene with the flag and the toplessness and the caressing thumb.
That what they wanted! They wanted tender-loving stroking. That’s what I gave them.
You did give it. I feel like that could have been the hardest part to shoot.
Nah, that was easy, I just stood there and closed my eyes. They were just like, “Yo, stand here on this box” so that I was way taller than her and her head was on my chest. So yeah, close your eyes and stroke her head, and I thought, “Okay, that’s the easiest thing ever.”
But there are tons of people watching you do this?
All my friends were like, “Dude, in the car scene, you didn’t have an erection?” No! There are 50 people, big lights, and while we are in the car there is a walky-talky sitting right next to us, and Yoann is screaming “More tongue!” Shit like that. There is a lot of laughing going on.
There are tigers chilling in this video. Did you interact with them?
I wasn’t there that day. That was the day I was supposed to be there but I was having a hard time getting my passport, so, yeah … I missed that day.
They seem like pretty mellow tigers.
It’s actually one tiger.
Yeah. They mirrored it.