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Isabelle Adjani

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

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Isabelle Adjani, one of the most talented and accomplished actresses in the history of French and world cinema, was born on June 27, 1955 in Paris, France in the 17th Arrondissement, a working class neighborhood on the Right Bank of the Seine. She and her younger brother Eric were raised by her Algerian father and German mother in Gennevilliers in the Hauts-de-Seine Department, an industrial city located to the northwest of Paris. She started acting before her teen years, appearing in an amateur theater by the time she was 12 years old and in her first movie at the age of 14. It all started in 1969, at the Courbevoie school, when she was discovered by the assistant of director Bernard Toublanc-Michel who offered her the leading role of his film Le petit bougnat (1970). At that time, Isabelle lived quietly with her family in Gennevilliers. She wanted to take a degree in Psychology and believed that cinema was a parallel holiday activity. But fate decided otherwise, when in 1971, Nina Companéez proposed her for Faustine et le bel été (1972). Henceforth, Isabelle thought only about theater and soon after enrolled at the famous Parisian drama art course Le Cours Florent. She was cast for the TV series Le secret des flamands (1974) (TV), where she played a young Renaissance Florentine, she was then spotted by Robert Hossein who hired her for The House of Bernarda Alba by Federico García Lorca. The piece was a triumph, and defied all the French Theater rules as Isabelle was the first actor to join the Comédie Française despite being under 18 and without coming from the National Conservatory of Dramatic Arts (where an actor should pass the obligatory entry examination of the Comédie Française after a 3 year study and upon graduation from the Conservatoire).
The teenage Adjani, already a great beauty, appeared with the Comédie Française, France's premier theater company, where she played the roles of Agnes in L'école des femmes (The School of Women) and Marianne in L'Avare (The Miser), both by Molière; Sister Marie-Françoise in Port Royal by Montherlant; and the title role in Jean Giraudoux's play Ondine, where she scored a great success while she was 17 (she repeated the performance on TV in 1975). Nevertheless, she rejected the exceptional twenty-year contract that had been proposed to her in 1974, left the Comédie Française (after being repeatedly told that she would regret it for the rest of her life) and returned to the cinema with the film what would prove to be her cinematic breakthrough La gifle (1974) (The Slap) by director Claude Pinoteau, where she played Lino Ventura and Annie Girardot's adolescent daughter. The film was awarded the Prix Louis Delluc and Isabelle received the Prix Suzanne Bianchetti. Also that year, she played the title role in French cinema great François Truffaut's L'histoire d'Adèle H. (1975) (The Story of Adele H.), a biographical film about Victor Hugo's daughter. The role brought her her first Best Actress nominations from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and from the French Academy (Oscar and César Awards, respectively).
Her beauty and talent made her an international star, and the multilingual Adjani has performed in English and German language films apart from her native French. She garnered the Cannes Film Festival's Best Actress Award for her English-language role in Andrzej Zulawski's Possession (1981) and James Ivory's Quartet (1981). The next year she won the first of her five César Awards for Possession (1981). She won her second César in 1983 for her role in L'été meurtrier (1983) (One Deadly Summer) and her third for playing French sculptor Camille Claudel (1988) in the eponymous film. That role also brought her her second Best Actress Oscar nomination (the film, which was produced by her own production company, was also nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar). She won her fourth César Award for La reine Margot (1994), and her record fifth César for La journée de la jupe (2008). The last film represented the high-water mark of her career.
Adjani has appeared in few movies lately, among them the female lead in Bon voyage (2003) and a cameo role in Monsieur Ibrahim et les fleurs du Coran (2003). As Adjani explained after quitting the Comédie Française, work is not her consuming passion. Lately, she has devoted most of her time to her private life, including raising her two children, Barnabé Nuytten and Gabriel-Kane Day-Lewis (born 1995).
Bearing a distinctive dark-haired, porcelain-skin beauty that lent itself to the tragic heroines she frequently played, Isabelle Adjani became one of France's biggest and most acclaimed stars in the '80s, winning four Césars between 1981 and 1994. Of Algerian and German parentage, Adjani was born in Gennevillier (near Paris) on June 27, 1955. She grew up loving poetry and theater, and began acting in amateur stage productions at the age of 12 after winning a school recitation prize. Two years later, she made her film debut in 1970's Le_Petit_Bougnat while on summer vacation. Her second film, Faustine et le Bel Été (1972), was also made while she was still in school. At the age of 17, Adjani was permitted to join the prestigious Comédie Française, where she drew excellent audience and critical response performing the classics. She signed a 20-year contract with the troupe, which she broke a short time later to pursue her film career, and the resulting controversy was be the first of many.
In 1974, the young actress appeared in La_Gifle and won the prestigious Prix Suzanne Bianchetti for Most Promising Actress. She became a bona fide star the following year, after director François_Truffaut cast her as the tormented daughter of Victor_Hugo in L'Histoire d'Adèle H./The Story of Adèle H., which earned her an Oscar nomination and worldwide acclaim. Many French critics, in particular, enthused over her performance, comparing her with the legendary Jeanne_Moreau. Further acclaim greeted Adjani in 1981, when she won the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival for her performances in Possession and Quartet, as well as her first César for the former film.
With the release of L'Été_Meurtrier in 1983, Adjani garnered both her second César and another helping of controversy. Although the film was a box-office hit and created many new fans for the actress, Adjani declined to behave in the manner expected of a movie star; she refused to allow herself to be photographed by the press at Cannes, and avoided interviews and press conferences. Despite her difficulties with the press, Adjani continued to rack up excellent screen portrayals and industry awards. She received particular praise for her work in the title role of Camille_Claudel (1988), directed by her former longtime companion (and father of one of her sons) Bruno_Nuytten; it was also the first film that she produced herself. Adjani won an Oscar nomination and her third César for her performance as the tragic heroine, but she caused more controversy during her César acceptance speech by reading aloud from Salman_Rushdie's -The Satanic Verses.
More acclaim and less controversy followed for the actress in 1994, when she won her fourth César for her portrayal of the title character in La_Reine_Margot. A subsequent -- and uncharacteristic -- Hollywood outing, the 1996 remake of Diabolique, proved a disappointment, and, for the next couple of years, Adjani receded from view. However, she was no less respected in her homeland, where she was appointed president of the 50th Cannes Film Festival in 1997. She also continued to be highly visible on the political scene, staunchly supporting Algerian rebel activities and actively fighting racism against North African immigrants (such as her father) in France. She was particularly outspoken concerning the activities of the French National Front. In 1986, the anti-immigration group organized a smear campaign against her, starting rumors that she was dying of AIDS. This actually resulted in newspaper reports of Adjani's death, which caused her to go on national television to prove that she was, in fact, still alive. Sandra Brennan, Rovi
She first gained fame as a classical actress for her interpretation of Agnès, the main female role in Molière's L'École des femmes, but soon left the Comédie française she had joined in 1972, to pursue a film career. After minor roles in several films, she enjoyed modest success in the 1974 film La Gifle (or The Slap). The following year, she landed her first major role in François Truffaut's The Story of Adèle H. Critics enthused over her performance, with Pauline Kael calling her acting talents "Prodigious". She was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar and offers for roles in Hollywood films, such as Walter Hill's 1978 crime thriller The Driver. She then played Lucy in Werner Herzog's 1979 remake of Nosferatu (1979).
In 1981, Adjani received the Cannes Film Festival's best actress award for the Merchant Ivory film Quartet based on the novel by Jean Rhys, and for the horror film Possession. The following year, she received her first César Award for Possession, in which she portrays a woman having a nervous breakdown. In 1983, she won the César, for her depiction of a vengeful woman in the blockbuster One Deadly Summer.
In 1988, she co-produced and starred in a biopic of the sculptor Camille Claudel. She received her third César and second Oscar nomination for her role in the film, which was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Following this publicity, she was chosen by People magazine as one of the '50 Most Beautiful People' in the world. Her fourth César win was for the 1994 film Queen Margot, an ensemble epic directed by Patrice Chéreau.

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