Michèle seems indestructible. Head of a successful video game company, she brings the same ruthless attitude to her love life as to business. Being attacked in her home by an unknown assailant changes Michèle’s life forever. When she resolutely tracks the man down, they are both drawn into a curious and thrilling game-a game that may, at any moment, spiral out of control.—SBS Productions
The initial plan was to produce the movie in the United States, but there were problems finding a female lead. Nicole Kidman, Sharon Stone, Julianne Moore and Diane Lane were offered the role, but they all passed on the opportunity. Marion Cotillard and Carice van Houten were also considered. Paul Verhoeven later revealed that when Isabelle Huppert heard of the plans to adapt the book, she called around to express her interest in the project; when she landed the lead role, she requested that Verhoeven be asked to direct. After producer Saïd Ben Saïd sent Verhoeven a copy of the book by Philippe Djian, his interest was immediately piqued, and fortunately, Verhoeven and Huppert were fans of each other’s work and had wanted to work together for a long time, so his participation was quickly secured. It was then decided to relocate the shoot of Elle to France, since there would be no American lead and no American company was willing to produce such a controversial film. Verhoeven also claimed that most actresses who had previously been approached immediately turned down the part as soon as they had read the script, instead of waiting for a few days, which is standard practice. One of the actresses said that she felt uncomfortable because of things that had happened to her in the past, and another didn’t give any reasons but just said “certainly not”. Verhoeven also told The Guardian that the only American actress he thought would have been game was Jennifer Jason Leigh (with whom he worked in Flesh+Blood (1985)): “She would have had absolutely no problem. She’s extremely audacious. But she’s an artistic presence and we were looking for names”. Although Huppert had difficulties relating to her character, Verhoeven was exceptionally pleased with her performance, stating that she brought things to the role beyond what was written in the script, and that it was her film from the beginning, since he had only joined the project much later on her insistence.