Pom Klementieff does not play your average superhero. “I’d say she’s more of a superweirdo,” she says of her character, Mantis, in the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise. Klementieff even calls the hit film’s characters, from Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill to Zoe Saldana’s Gamora, “a band of outsiders and weirdos.” And she can relate: “People tell me I’m a little weird all of the time,” she says, gesturing toward an iPhone 5, which in today’s era of the X is practically vintage. “I like the way it fits into my pocket,” she explains.
Klementieff grew up as an outsider of sorts, too. While she was born in Quebec, she’s not actually Canadian, despite frequent misreporting by the press (“I do love Canadians,” she adds). Her father was a diplomat, and Klementieff moved to Kyoto, Japan, as a toddler, and then to the Ivory Coast in Africa. When her father died, she was just 5 years old and living in France, where her aunt raised her in what Klementieff describes as “a very French way”: in the countryside, dedicating time to gardening “and building stuff around the house.”
Her diverse appreciation for art, fashion, and martial arts can all be traced back to those childhood years. In boarding school, Klementieff collected magazines and dreamed of working with the photographers featured in the issues of French Vogue stacked around her room. At the same time, her aunt’s appreciation for pleasures like horticulture and an insistence that “fashion was bullshit” led to Klementieff’s early rebellions, including a deeper love not only for fashion but also for fitness.
The actress’ impressive résumé reads as a manifestation of her worldliness. After roles in several French films, her big break in the U.S. came from Spike Lee’s remake of the Korean hit Oldboy. It was an important project for the rising star, and not just because of her admiration and respect for Lee. Though she wasn’t raised by her mother, who is Korean, she was proud to work on an American film with Korean roots.
Klementieff went on to balance roles in indie films like Ingrid Goes West, set in the bizarre, fabricated world of Instagram, with her work on Guardians Vol. 2 and the forthcoming Avengers: Infinity War, another out-of-this-world film set in the Marvel Universe.
Many of her films have been lauded for their art direction and production design, and as an avid moviegoer, the actress appreciates this emphasis on beautiful shots. “I run to the movie theater to watch everything on the big screen,” she says. But she hopes to tell all sorts of stories through film, regardless of aesthetic value. Klementieff’s eagerness to expand her filmography highlights both her versatility and that signature weirdness.
“I’d love to work with Judd Apatow or Seth Rogen, and their films aren’t known for being traditionally beautiful,” she says with a laugh. “And I’d love to do an action movie along with all of my own stunts. There are some actresses who are amazing, but you’d never believe them as an action star.”
Klementieff’s favorite shoes—a pair of Louis Vuitton combat boots with a heel—are the epitome of her contradictions and charm. “They’re beautiful, but I love them because I feel like I can kick in them. I could fight in them,” she says. As for her acting, Klementieff has found a career where she also gets the best of both worlds. She can kill it on a red carpet in a designer gown, but not until she kills the bad guy first.