'Titane' Breakout Agathe Rousselle Wants to Conquer Hollywood: 'My Movie Culture Is Mainly American'

French actress Agathe Rousselle, who makes her acting debut in the Palme d'Or-winning film Titane, talks to PEOPLE about how she landed her breakthrough role and why she wants to work in the U.S.

Agathe Rousselle
Photo: Noam Galai/Getty

Agathe Rousselle gives the most scorching acting debut of the year in Titane, the Palme d'Or-winning sensation that's about to set America aflame once it opens on Oct. 1.

From writer/director Julia Ducournau (Raw), Titane stars Rousselle, 33, as a young woman who has an unusual relationship with cars after surviving an accident as a child. Among the dark and twisted turns along the way is the film's most talked-about scene: a sex scene between her character and a car.

"I think it's probably less embarrassing to do a sex scene with a car than it is to do it with an actual human being," the French actress tells PEOPLE at the New York Film Festival, where the film recently screened. "I was kind of very apprehensive of it, so I just told myself, 'Go out there and do a little show. I just lost total control and left all I thought I knew at the door."

Learn more about the breakthrough actress and model below:

She was discovered on Instagram for the role

"It would happen to me quite often for short movies or like modeling jobs," Rousselle shares. "The message didn't say much, it was like, 'Hey, do you want to audition for a movie?' I was like, 'Yeah, sure.' Because I would say yes to anything. I went there and then I heard it was this director's next movie, but I hadn't seen Raw. So I wasn't even like that psyched, but I was like, okay, cool, she's interesting. I kind of looked her up through some background and stuff, realized that we had a lot in common. Then I watched Raw because I kind of had to and I thought it was brilliant, so I was super excited.

TITANE
Carole Bethuel

She's fearless when it comes to her work

"There's a very clear boundary for me between my work and my personal life," she says. "You see me naked in the movie, it's like, whatever. You don't see me naked, you see my character is naked or you see my character is having sex with a car. It's not me having sex with a car, obviously. And you see my character killing people and I obviously don't kill people on the weekends. For me, it's very dissociated."

She worked extensively in the industry before her acting debut

"I did drama class from when I was 15 until like 22 or something," Rousselle recalls. "And then I realized that I wanted to do movies and I realized that not being the daughter of anyone, not knowing anyone in the industry, it was going to be impossible. And I didn't want to hang out in clubs and to try to meet directors and producers, I thought it was gross. So I just like did a bunch of different things. I worked as an artist for almost 10 years and I had a dozen of different lives. I worked both sides of the camera, I was a photographer, I produced stuff. I did casting, but I also was a model. And I tried pretty much everything that I could and it got back to me. So that's the beauty of it."

She has a strong work ethic

"The only advice that I would give to people, I'm not sure the right person to give advice to anyone, but I mean, you just have to work.," Rousselle says. "All the time. Even though I wasn't working specifically towards being an actress, I was working and I was working all the time and working hard. And I think working hard is key to anything because I don't believe in talent. Things can be a little easy for you, some stuff. For me, for instance, writing is easy for me, but if I don't work on my writing, I'm never going to be a writer. It's never going to happen. You have to work. Even if it's easy for you to, like you can draw pretty easy — if you don't work on your drawing, you're never going to be a painter. It's not going to happen. So you have to work your way through life in general. But you have to work on your art every day."

TITANE
Carole Bethuel

She wants to take on Hollywood

"My movie culture is mainly American," she reveals. "I don't know much about French cinema, which is no good, but it's like, that's my culture. So that's my culture also like in terms of character building and the way people work also. I'm someone who's really disciplined, I'm someone who's a hard worker. I really want to work in the U.S., that would be the dream — and live in New York."

Titane is in theaters Friday.

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