There are some inexplicable phenomena that continue to boggle scientists and masses alike – Bermuda Triangle, women, and our preoccupation with anything French. The world was still reeling under the pleasant blow of Chardonnay wine and Foie gras and as if that was not enough, we are now being inebriated by some hottest and most famous French actors.
Did You Know?
Gaspard Ulliel’s trademark dimple is not a dimple actually, but a scar that he received from a canine attack when he was 6 years old.
Just as the French hold a covetous spot in the arena of fashion, they also rule the roost in terms of being the first to bring ground-breaking cinematic developments. The origin of cinema began with the trailblazers, the Lumière brothers, who made an unimaginable feat of making the first real motion picture. That was the best thing since sliced bread back then. France cinematic odyssey sighted the influences from the art world, evidenced global collaboration, and advent of many genres.
From the pessimistic and gloomy stories of the Poetic Realism to the imaginative interplay of philosophical values and global cinematic influences of the New Wave (Nouvelle Vague) France’s cinematic hunger grew with each passing decade. The end of World War II saw France cashing in on commercial cinema and witnessed the birth of various genres, most notably, crime. The onset of 1980s brought a new explosion of cinematic vision in the form of Cinéma du look that gravitated more toward the visual quality of film-making and captured the youth’s fixation with high art and pop culture. 1990s brought heritage cinema, political impact on civil life, community reflections, and most importantly, Banlieue cinema (movies that revolved around lives of destitute people who lived on the outskirts of big French cities) to the fore.
2000 bid welcome to a new cinematic chapter in France―one that defined and continues to experiment with extremism. This decade also saw the revival of the popular genres of crime and thriller. French cinema is truly a tour de force of all extraordinarily talented people, who molded stories with their strong envisaging power and gave the world some of the most unconventional and avant-garde cinematic experiences. Let’s now take a look at some noteworthy French actors.
From being a notorious juvenile delinquent to a prolific actor, Gérard Depardieu’s life story is no less happening than a movie. Don’t let his Neanderthal-esque appearance scare you, or else you might just miss out on some of best works, like the 1974 Les Valseuses (Going Places), César award-winning performances in Cyrano de Bergerac in 1990, and Le dernier métro (The Last Train) in 1981. Gérard extended his talent across France’s transatlantic friend, America, by starring in Hollywood movies like Green Card (1990), Bogus (1996), The Man in the Iron Mask (1998), 102 Dalmatians (2000), etc.
Men around the world envied him as he married the Italian sensation Monica Bellucci, (they un-coupled their alliance in 2013). An apple doesn’t fall far from its tree, this especially holds true for Vincent as he, like his famous father actor Jean-Pierre Cassel enjoys massive popularity in the French cinematic world. Cassel’s depiction of edgy and complex characters in native movies like La Haine (1995), L’Appartement (1996), Dobermann (1997), etc, skyrocketed his popularity across Europe. He has also extended his expertise across the pond with movies like Ocean’s Twelve (2004), Ocean’s Thirteen (2007), Eastern Promises (2007), Black Swan (2010), etc.
Jean Reno is the most recognizable French import whose striking semblance and overflowing manly allure has won him both adrenaline pumping gun-play lovers and romance yearning female fans. Reno started his career by working in television and stage where he learned the ropes of the trade, but it was the onset of 1980s that changed his stars for good. Famous French director, Luc Besson turned Reno’s action to good account, and the two gave memorable hits like Le Dernier Combat (1983), Nikita (1990), English movie Léon: The Professional (1994), etc. Reno has appeared in successful American movies like French Kiss (1995), Mission:Impossible (1996), Godzilla (1998), The Pink Panther (2006), The Pink Panther 2 (2009), etc.
Gaspard Ulliel took up the baton from Anthony Hopkins with the Hannibal Lector franchise in 2007 with The Hannibal Rising. This French babe-magnet left many quaking in their boots with that performance. Ulliel’s performances in movies like A very Long Engagement (2004), The Last Day (2004) and Jacquou le croquant (2007) add weight to his resume. Ulliel is fashionably drawn, quite literally, and one can ascribe that to parental influence as both of them come from France’s most exalted metier of fashion. No wonder, he was chosen to play the illustrious Yves Saint Laurent in the recently released movie, Saint Laurent.
A French actress who surfed sensuously on the New Wave, Jeanne Moreau’s uninhibited personality coupled with boundless sexuality cut a wide swath with her performances. As a novice, she did small roles in movies but she was destined to make it big, which she did with her first breakthrough performance in Elevators to the Gallows (1957). From playing the amorously driven upper-class Jeanne Tournier in The Lovers (1958) to playing the blithely unconcerned Catherine in Jules et Jim (1962), Jeanne’s flair and flamboyance made her the cynosure of viewers’ eyes. Her interpretations in Italian drama La Notte (1961), and other films like Diary of a Chambermaid (1964), The Bride Wore Black (1968), etc. showed her fierce aptitude as an actress and seductress.
You can’t really stop from getting yourselves enamored of this mysteriously carnal-esque French actress, Catherine Deneuve. Her most famous performance is that of an impassive housewife with an erogenous vocation of a cocotte in Belle de Jour (1967). Deneuve’s star appeal as an actor can be felt with movies like Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg) in 1964, Repulsion (1965), Indochine (1992), My Favorite Season (1993), Les Voleurs (Thieves) in 1996, etc. She has also acted in American movies like The April Fools (1969), The Hunger (1983), etc.
Tautou’s titular role in the 2001 romantic comedy, Amélie, thrust her into glory. Tautou’s first breakthrough performance came with Venus Beauty Institute (1999) for which she scored a César Award for Best Promising Actress. Her appeal lies in that teasingly boyish charm and articulate eyes. She is well-known for her interpretation in British thriller Dirty Pretty Things (2002) and Hollywood project The Da Vinci Code with Tom Hanks (2006). Tautou’s acting faculty can be evinced in movies like Pretty Devils (2000), Happenstance (2000), A Very Long Engagement (2004), Mood Indigo (2013), etc.
Marion Cotillard’s stellar rendering of the French singer, Edith Piaf, in the movie La Vie En Rose
in 2007, won her a César Award as well as an Academy Award. Cotillard has starred in a barrage of Hollywood movies like Public Enemies (2009), Nine (2009), Inception (2010), Contagion (2011), Midnight in Paris (2011), The Dark Knight Rises (2012), and The Immigrant (2013). Cotillard also has a virtuosic side to her―she can sing, play bass guitar, keyboard, and tambourine. She demonstrated her musical maven side in ‘Lily’s Body’ in the Lady Dior Web Documentary. Cotillard has also borne a child with French actor-director, Guillaume Canet; however, they both choose not to spill the beans about their relationship or marital status.
Isabelle’s thespian talents shone on the big screen through her debut film in 1971. She showed predilection for acting from a young age and was steeped in dramatic milieu that put her in the league of fine actors. She is known for her performances in movies like The Lacemaker (1977), Violette Nozière (1978), La Cérémonie (1995), La Pianiste (2001), et al. She is also known to the American audiences through her performances in movies like Heaven’s Gate (1980) and I Heart Huckabees (2004).
Singer, actress, and model, Vanessa Paradis tasted success at 14 with her single, Joe le taxi in 1987. Her natural leaning toward music put her on the leading spot in the French charts. Paradis netted her exceptional success at 20 with her self-titled English album with her then boyfriend, Lenny Kravitz. She then moved her métier from music to movies and became part of successful fims like Elisa (1995), Un Amour de Sorciere (1997), Girl on the Bridge (1999), etc., and was seen in the recent American Comedy, Fading Gigolo. Paradis has modish interests, which is amply demonstrated through her associations with iconic fashion brands like Chanel and Miu Miu. She should also be credited for reigning in Johnny Depp, with whom she has two children but separated in 2012.
Delon’s piercing eyes are his pièce de résistance, which in his heydays could detect all that extravagant admiration directed towards him. Delon’s breathtaking good looks could have easily established him as a tender hero, but those rugged looks were meant to seduce and menace, and he did that perfectly with Purple Noon (1960) and Mr. Klein (1976). Delon’s romantic associations with popular actresses Romy Schneider, Mireille Darc, and Rosalie van Breemen led to copious discussions over the grapevine.
Jean Gabin’s contribution in the history of French cinema is indisputably awe-inspiring. Known for getting into the skin of characters that he played, Gabin’s incredible performances in movies like Pépé le Moko (1937), La Grande Illusion (1937), La bête humaine (1938), Le plaisir (1952), La Traversée de Paris (1956), L’Affaire Dominici (1973), et al, manifest his ingenuity and finesse as a fine actor. Gabin was quite a hot-headed personality whose adamant insistence on getting things done his way often led to his dismissal from films. Nonetheless, that never affected his stardom, and people still remember him for his iconic interpretation of police detective Jules Maigret.
Brialy literally rode on the new wave as he teamed with avant-garde director Claude Chabrol in Le Beau Serge (1958) and Les Cousins (1959). Bialy’s camaraderie with revolutionary directors furthered his career and placed him in the league of Jean-Pierre Léaud and Jean-Paul Belmondo. An open homosexual, Bialy’s varied portrayal of characters gained him the reputation of a versatile actor.
No woman on the face of earth ever looked that aphrodisiac-ally beautiful before Brigitte Bardot. Brigitte’s sexy beehive coiffure with her signature cat eyes tangled millions in her enticing web. Bardot’s essential armory of sex appeal and audacity made her an iconic sex symbol. She starred in movies like And God Created Woman (1956), Le Mépris (Contempt) in 1963, La femme et le Pantin (A Woman Like Satan) in 1958, etc. Bardot’s pursuit-of-pleasure attitude in real life naturally aided her for her on-screen portrayals. She has also acted in notable films like Shalako (1968) alongside Sean Connery, In Case of Adversity (1958) opposite Jean Gabin, Viva Maria! (1965) with Jeanne Moreau, etc.
Danielle Darrieux is France’s exemplar feminine beauty and natural acting. She grew up in a musical milieu that benefited her in understanding rhythms and nuances, which were the prerequisites of musicals. Danielle’s decision to work in Mayerling (1936), Port-Arthur (1936), and Abus de confiance (1937) proved to be triumphant and helped her gain recognition for her acting potentiality. Her remarkable acting paved the way for her entry in Hollywood and starred in movies like The Rage of Paris (1938), Rich, Young and Pretty (1950), Five Fingers (1952), and Alexander the Great (1956). Danielle experienced lapse in popularity when she was believed to have collaborated clandestinely with the Germans, but the French couldn’t hold a malice for long, and she then went on to give the biggest hit of her career in the 1953 drama film The Earrings of Madame de…
From the charming black and white legends to the flamboyant contemporaries, we have tried to pay homage to some of the most hottest and boldest French actors of all time. Merci beaucoup!