July 18, 1991 12:00 PM

Her mother was an actress at the Comédie-Française in Paris, and director Jean-Luc Godard is her godfather, so perhaps she was destined for the performing arts. But as a bullfighter? It began with visits to the south of France and to the corridas of Seville when she was in her early teens. “I really knew this was what I wanted to do,” she says. “I read every book about bullfighting, everything Hemingway wrote, knew the histories of every fighter and went to every exhibit by artists like Picasso and Botero.” Today, Bourseiller is Europe’s only woman who fights in the rejoneador style—on horseback with a barbed lance. She was trained by one of the best: Simon Casas, 43, a prominent matador until his retirement in 1975. “When I first saw her, I didn’t think about her potential as a bullfighter,” says Casas. “It was lust at first sight. But,” he adds, “it didn’t take me long to realize she had the passion, patience and intelligence of a champion. She and her horses are trained and tuned up like Formula 1 race cars.” Bourseiller and Casas have been lovers for the last 10 years. Marie Sara seems destined to conquer more than the corrida. Christian Lacroix has designed a beaded costume for her (at left), and her fame has led to plans for an appropriately dashing line of sportswear bearing the initials MS.

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