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Beauty and talent: the new generation of French actresses
Last week, we covered the new generation of French actors and directors, so we thought we might as well also bring you up to date with what is happening in the world of French actresses? There is, of course, no longer any need to introduce well known actresses such as Catherine Deneuve and Sophie Marceau. They have already established their reputation internationally. However, there is now a new generation of French actresses who in the last few years have also made the headlines outside of France and have a large part to play in the revival of French Cinema.
We're looking at the five most successful ones: the Oscar winner Marion Cotillard, Ludivine Sagnier from "Swimming Pool", Audrey Tautou, who made us dream in "Amélie", Virginie Ledoyen, lately seen in "London Mon Amour", and Marie Gillain, who started her career in "Mon père ce héros", opposite Gérard Depardieu.
The question now is: Which one do you prefer? So, read on and vote!
Look for the bleu voting box on the left hand side of your screen.
Marion Cotillard has lived her entire life in an artistic world. Born in 1975, she is the daughter of Jean-Claude Cotillard, a theatre actor, writer and director, and Niseeema Theillaud, an actress and drama teacher. So, each time that a child was needed for a play, she went on stage and played opposite her mother.
After studying at the Conservatoire d’Art Dramatique in Orléans, she made her cinema debut with a few small roles, such as in “Histoire du garçon qui voulait qu’on l’embrasse” (Story of the boy who wanted to be kissed), directed by Philippe Harel in 1994, or in “Comment je me suis disputé… (ma vie sexuelle)", by Arnaud Desplechin in 1996.
Her first important screen role was as Lilly Bertineau in Taxi (1998), directed by Gérard Pirès. The film was such a commercial success that three sequels followed, and Cotillard was in two of them.
Two more important parts followed in “Furia”(2000), by Alexandre Aja, and “Lisa” (2001), by Pierre Grimblat. In 2001, she was at the top of the bill in “Les Jolies choses”, directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner. Playing twin sisters in this film, she was congratulated by critics for her performance. In 2002, she was at the top of the bill again, with the famous Guillaume Canet in “Love me if you dare” (Jeux d’enfants), directed by Yann Samuel.
2003 marks the beginning of her international career with her part in “Big Fish”, directed by Tim Burton. Marion Cotillard's pretty face finally seems to have seduced Hollywood. In fact, in 2006, she played the lead alongside Russel Crowe in “A Good Year”, directed by Ridley Scott.
However, Marion Cotillard remained more present in French cinema productions. In 2004, she won a César Award as Best Supporting Actress for her role in ean-Pierre Jeunet's “A Very Long Engagement” (Un Long Dimanche de Fiançailles). In 2005 and 2006, she was seen in many films, such as “Ma vie en l’air”, by Rémi Bezançon, “La Boite Noire”, by Richard Berry, and “Fair Play”, by Lionel Bailliu.
But the real turning point of her career was in 2007, when Olivier Dahan cast her to play Edith Piaf, the legendary French singer, in “La Vie en Rose”. The film was a huge success worldwide, and Marion Cotillard won numerous awards for her performance, including an Oscar for Best Actress, a César, a Bafta and Golden Globe award.
Wreathed with this success Marion Cotillard is now shooting with the biggest stars in Hollywood. We will see her soon alongside Johnny Depp in “Public Enemies”, directed by Michael Mann. She will also play opposite Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz and Sophia Loren in the drama musical “Nine”, by Rob Marshall, the director of “Chicago”.
Ludivine Sagnier was born on 3rd July 1979 in La Celle-Saint-Cloud, in France’s Yvelines département. Comedy was a real calling for her. She studied acting as a young girl and began her career at the age of ten in “Les Maris, les femmes, les amants”, directed by Pascal Thomas. After that, she made some small
appearances in films and short films, such as in “Cyrano de Bergerac” in 1990, directed by Jean-Paul Rappeneau, in “Rembrandt”, directed by Charles Matton in 1999, and in “Les Enfants du siècle”, directed by Diane Kurys in 1999.
But it’s thanks to the famous French director François Ozon that Ludivine Sagnier established her reputation as one of the brightest young stars of French cinema. Their collaboration started in 2000 with “Water Drops on Burning Rocks” (Gouttes d’eau sur pierres brûlantes), based on a screenplay by the German Rainer Werner Fassbinder. And she especially proved the extent of her talent in “8 femmes” (8 Women), directed by Ozon in 2002. In that film, she managed to distinguish herself in a stellar cast that included the legendary actresses Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Hupert and Emmanuelle Béart: a real prowess. In fact, for this role, she was nominated for a Cesar award, and won the Romy Schneider Award, given each year to a promising young French actress.
She seduced the foreign public with another film directed by Ozon: “Swimming Pool”, released in 2003. How could one not notice the splendid young girl lying down near her swimming pool? Obviously, a few British men did not miss that, since in October 2008, the GQ magazine named Ludivine Sagnier one of the sexiest twenty-five women in film ever.
This film could have opened the doors of Hollywood for Ludivine Sagnier. But, appart from her role as Tinkerbell in “Peter Pan”, directed by the Australian J.P. Hogan, Ludivine remained committed to French cinema. After “Swimming Pool”, she worked with some of the most famous French directors of our times. In 2007, we saw her in “A secret” (Un secret), directed by Claude Miller, “Love songs”, by Christophe Honoré, and “A girl cut in two” (La Fille coupée en deux), by Claude Chabrol. What a great year for Ludivine Sagnier!
Currently, she’s on the screens with Vincent Cassel, playing Mesrine’s girlfriend in “Death Instinct”, a film about the former French public enemy number one.
Born in 1976, Audrey Tautou showed an interest for cinema at an early age. She took acting lessons at the famous “Cours Florent” and had her first minor role in the TV movie “Coeur de Cible” in 1996. Several small parts in other French TV movies and series followed. And finally, in 1999, she came to the attention of French director Tonie Marshall and got a role in the movie “Vénus Beauté”
(Venus Beauty). She did a fantastic job portraying the young beautician Marie, and consequently won a César for “Most Promising Actress”.
Thanks to this success, 2000 was a good year for Audrey Tautou. One could see her in “Pretty Devils” (Voyous, voyelles), directed by Serge Meynard, “Happenstance” (Le Battement d’ailes du papillon), by Laurent Firode, or in “The Libertine” (Le Libertin), by Gabriel Aghion.
Her breakthrough followed in 2001 when director Jean-Pierre Jeunet cast her for “Amélie” (Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain), a romantic comedy about an innocent girl in Paris who decides to help people around her. The film was an enormous international success and Audrey’s performance was acclaimed both by critics and audience all over the world. An international star was born. The amusing thing is that she nearly never got the chance to play Amélie, as Jean-Pierre Jeunet was considering the British actress Emily Watson for the role...
After that, Audrey Tautou continued to play in French movies. In 2001, she was a young woman trying the right religion in “God is great, I’m Not” (Dieu est grand, je suis toute petite), by Pascale Pailly; in 2002 she played the capricious girlfriend of the main character Xavier, in “The Spanish Apartment”, by Cédric Klapisch; in 2003 she was a charming ingenu woman in “Not on the lips” (Pas sur la bouche) by Alain Resnais; and so on.
But the worldwide success of “Amélie” was also the starting point of an international career for Audrey Tautou. In 2002, the British director Stephen Frears wanted her to star in his new thriller “Dirty Pretty Things”. And she played Sophie Neveu in the Hollywood blockbuster “The Da Vinci Code” (2006).
After playing with Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou decided to dedicate herself to French cinema once mp. In 2006, she signed for the main part in the romantic comedy “Priceless” (Hors de Prix), and played in the movie adaptation of Anna Gavalda’s novel “Ensemble c’est tout”, directed by Claude Berri.
And soon Audrey Tautou will portray one of the biggest French icons: the fashion designer Coco Chanel. The film, which should be released next year, will focus on the early years of the designer, who rose from humble beginnings to the top of the international fashion ladder. Another fabulous destiny!
Virginie Ledoyen was in the spotlight at an early age. Born in 1976, she got her first modelling job at the age of 2 and made several ads, such as commercials for Bledina and Buitoni. At 9, she started going to the Ecole des Enfants du Spectacle (School of the Entertainment Children), and made her film debut at ten in “Les exploits d’un jeune Don Juan”, directed by Gianfranco Mingozzi.
She was soon recognized as one of the most promising actress of her generation. In fact, she was nominated three times for a César award, for her roles in “Les Marmottes” (1993), by Elie Chouraqui, “Cold Water” (“L’eau froide), by Olivier Assayas in 1994, and “Single Girl” (La Fille seule), by Benoît Jacquot in 1995. This last film, relating two hours in real time of a young hostel’s employee’s life, was a big success in the United States. The New York Times even said that Virginie had a “natural screen presence”.
As a result, Virginie was very busy in the following years. She collaborated with one of the biggest French directors, Claude Chabrol, for his film “La Cérémonie” (The Ceremony) in 1995. In 1997, she portrays a young pop star in “Heroïnes”, by Gérard Krawczyk. She even played in a musical in 1998, entitled “Jeanne et le garçon formidable” (Jeanne and the formidable boy), by Olivier Ducastel. However, she was not the one singing in this film; she confined herself to lip-syncing. One cannot have every talent!
Her international breakthrough was in 1999 when she became ambassador for the cosmetics L’Oréal. This led to her casting in “The Beach” (2001), where she played alongside Guillaume Canet and the Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio.
Then, she proved that she was able to shoot almost every kind of film. She was as much at ease in the dark film directed by Jean-François Richet “De l’amour” (About Love) in 2001, as in the burlesque comedy “8 femmes” (8 Women, 2002), by François Ozon. She even tried her hand at the fantastic style in 2004, with her role in the film “Saint-Ange”, by Pascal Laugier.
However, Virginie often came back to the role of a romantic girl, such as in “La Doublure” (The Double), in 2006, or in “Un baiser s’il vous plaît” (A kiss please). She also portrayed the loving Audrey in “London mon amour” (Mes amis, mes amours), inspired by the novel of the French writer Marc Levy, which did not do very well at the box-office.
Here, we are cheating a little bit, since Marie Gillain was actually born in the French speaking part of Belgium in 1975. However, since she has collaborated with so many French directors, we almost forgot that she is not French but Belgian. So, we will say that she is French by adoption!
From an early age, Marie Gillain showed a keen interest in the world of entertainment. At the age of 14, she auditioned for the film “L’Amant” (The Lover), directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud.
Unfortunately, the role went to the English actress Jane March. However, the experience was not wasted, since the following year, the same casting director contacted her for a major part in what became her first feature film: “Mon père, ce héros”. Thanks to her performance as the teenage daughter of Gérard Depardieu, Marie Gillain was nominated for a César Award. The movie beat all records worldwide and was remade by Hollywood a few years later under the title “My Father The Hero”, with an american actress.
After this amazingly good start, Marie was the heroine of “L’Appât” (1995), directed by Bertrand Tavernier. This film earned her the Romy Schneider Price in 1996 and another nomination for a César award. At the same time, she made her debut in the theatre, with the play “Le journal d’Anne Frank” (The Diary of Anne Frank), which did very well both in France and in Belgium.
Marie Gillain did not stop there. In 1998 she was on the list again for a César Award, for her role in “Le Bossu”, a big budget movie directed by Philippe de Broca. It was a huge success and was released in several countries with the title of “On Guard!”.
In 1998, the young actress became one of the faces for the cosmetics firm Lancôme. This contract provided her with the financial security which allowed her to be more selective in choosing her scripts and to make films with less experienced filmmakers. This resulted in “Laissons Lucie Faire!” (Leave It To
Lucie!), directed by Emmanuel Mouret in 2000, and “Barnie et ses petites contrariétés” (Barnie and its minor annoyances) in 2001, by Bruno Chiche. She also proved her talent as a comedy actress by starring in “Absolument Fabuleux”, a French adaptation of the cult British television series “Absolutely Fabulous”.
However, she did not give up on famous directors entirely and went on to collanborate again with Bertrand Tavernier in 2002 for “Laissez passer” (Safe Conduct). She also got the opportunity to work with Cédric Klapisch in 2003 for the crime drama “Ni pour, Ni contre (Bien au contraire)” (Not for or against. Quite the contrary).
Afterwards, she reduced her work load because of her pregnancy (she gave birth to her daughter in 2004). And she made her real come back to the cinema in 2007 with three feature films: “Pars vite et reviens tard” (Leave fast and come back late), “Fragile(s)”, and the romantic comedy “La vie n’est pas une comédie romantique” (Life is not a romantic comedy).
2008 was also a good year for Marie Gillain. We could see her in “Female Agents”, which did very well at the box office in several countries. And she is now on the French screens in two films “La très très grande entreprise”, by Pierre Jolivet, and “Magique”, by Philippe Muyl. Finally, she will soon star alongside Audrey Tautou in the oncoming film about the life of the French legendary designer Coco Chanel.