“This is all very funny. Today I am a star - and tomorrow?” Isabelle Adjani
A shimmering brunette with porcelain skin and expressive blue eyes, Isabelle
Adjani has become the only actress in the history French Cinema to win four
Cesar awards. She took home her first Cesar in 1981 when she was cast as in the
starring role of the unfaithful wife of Sam Neill in Possession, where she also
won a Cannes Film Festival award, and two years later, she netted a second Cesar
for her role in the French runaway success One Deadly Summer. In 1988, one of
France’s best known actresses, Adjani gained further success for playing the
French sculptor in the Academy Award-nominating for Best Foreign Language Film
Camille Claudel, where she was handed a third Cesar award and a Berlin Festival
award, as well as earned a nomination at Oscar, and the titular monarch in Queen
Margot (1994), wherein she picked up her last Cesar award. Other impressive
performances include as blemished teenager Isabelle Doulean in The Slap (1974),
Victor Hugo’s love-obsessed daughter in Francois Truffaut’s The Story of Adele H
(1975, received an Oscar nomination), and the penniless mistress of Alan Bate in
James Ivory’s Quartet (1981), for which she nabbed a Cannes Film Festival award.
Brown-haired Adjani was named one of People magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful People
in the world” (1990) and was ranked #2 (after Monica Bellucci) by the French
public in the TV show “La plus belle femme du monde” (2004). The president of
the 1998 Cannes jury was also a political activist who actively supported
Algerian rebel actions and fought racism against North African immigrants in
France. For her brave activities, in 1986, Adjani was reportedly dying of AIDS,
a rumor created by an anti-immigration group that organized a smear campaign
against her. She dusted the gossip by appearing on national TV to prove she was,
in fact, still alive. On a more personal note, Adjani was linked to Bruno
Nuytten, with whom she has a son named Barnabe Said Nuytten (born in 1980).
After the break up, she became involved with Warren Beatty (together from
1986-87) and then dated Oscar-winning British/Irish actor Daniel Day-Lewis
(together from 1988-94). Gabriel-Kane Day-Lewis, Adjani’s son with Day-Lewis,
was born several months after her relationship with his father ended.
Childhood and Family:
Daughter to an Algerian-Turkish father and a German mother, Isabelle Yasmine
Adjani was born on June 27, 1955, in Gennevilliers, France. Her father, Mohammed
Cherif Adjani, was a Muslim and served in French army (died in 1983). She has a
brother named Eric Adjani, who appeared in Joseph Losey’s film Don Giovanni.
Raised and schooled in Paris, Adjani became interested in acting at a young age
and had been discovered in amateur theater by the time she was 12. At age 17,
she became the member of the Comedie Francaise but later quit to pursue film
career. The France-born beauty has two sons, Barnabe Said Nuytten (born in 1980)
and Gabriel-Kane (born in April 1995) from her previous relationships.
Initiating acting in amateur theater as a child, Isabelle Adjani kicked off her
film career in her native country of France at age 15 when she was cast as Rose
in the comedy/drama Petit bougnat, Le, which starred Claude Amazan, and landed
her next film role in Faustine and the Beautiful Summer two years later. Also in
1972, the seventeen-year-old Adjani joined the Comedie Francaise and earned her
first critical praise as its youngest member. After a two-year stints, however,
she chose to leave Comedie Francaise in favor of film career. In the meantime,
Adjani divided her time between TV work, appearing in television movies Avare,
L’ (1973), École des femmes, L’ (1973) and Secret des flamands, Le (1974).
In 1974, Adjani won her first major film role when director Claude Pinoteau cast
her opposite Lino Ventura and Annie Girardot in the drama/comedy The Slap. As
spoiled teen Isabelle Doulean, Adjani was so impressive that she earned rave
reviews and much public acclaim. She garnered even more praise in the next year
when she starred as the author Victor Hugo’s mentally unbalance daughter Adèle
in the biopic The Story of Adele H, for director François Truffaut. For her
bright efforts, Adjani was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress. In addition
to receiving an international stardom, the role became Adjani’s Hollywood
Work with renowned worldwide filmmakers quickly followed, including in Roman
Polanski’s The Tenant (1976), the Andre Techine-helmed Barocco (1976, opposite
Gerard Depardieu) and The Bronte Sisters (1978), and the Werner Herzog retelling
of the Dracula legend Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979). Adjani made her first
Hollywood movie with the 1978 crime/thriller by Walter Hill, the memorable dud
The Driver, portraying a gambler rented to present the title character (Ryan
O’Neal) with an alibi.
Adjani’s big breakthrough arrived in 1981 when she starred as Anna/Helen, Sam
Neill’s faithless wife who struggles with evil spirits in Andrzej Zulawski’s
Possession. Due to her fabulous performance, Adjani was handed the Cesar Best
Actress Award (France’s equivalent of an Oscar) and a Cannes Film Festival for
the same category. The same year, she took home another Cannes Film Festival for
her brilliant turn as the impecunious mistress of Alan Bates in the
drama-romance Quartet, directed by James Ivory.
After finishing Next Year If All Goes Well (1981), All Fired Up (1982), Carlos
Saura’s Antonieta (1982) and Deadly Circuit (1983), Adjani once again attracted
the attention of public with her implacable portrayal of Eliane dite ‘Elle’ in
the French blockbuster One Deadly Summer (1983), wherein she took home a second
Best Actress Cesar award. She followed that up with such vehicles as Subway
(1985), T’as de beaux escaliers tu sais (1986) and the American film Ishtar
(1987). However, it was Bruno Nuytten’s Camille Claudel (1988) that garnered the
actress many critical plaudits. Starring in the title role of the French
sculptor and mistress of August Rodin (Gerard Depardieu), Adjani won a third
Cesar and a Berlin Festival for Best Actress, as well as received a second
Academy Award nomination. As for the film, in which Adjani also made her debut
as a producer, it was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.
Disappearing from the scene for five years, Adjani made her way back to
filmmaking in 1993 with the France-produced Toxic Affair before netting a fourth
Cesar for Best Actress for her spectacular performance as the titular monarch in
Patrice Chereau’s film adaptation of Victor Hugo’s Queen Margot (1994).
Unfortunately, the victory was followed with the disappointing vehicle, the
American horror/thriller Diabolique (1996), starring with Sharon Stone. This
failure led Adjani to withdraw from view for the next couple of years.
Adjani returned to the scene in 2002 when she had the lead in Laetitia Masson’s
The Repentant, along side Sami Frey, Samy Naceri and Aurore Clément, and starred
in the award-winning drama film Adolphe. In 2003, she re-teamed with Gérard
Depardieu and starred with Virginie Ledoyen in director
Jean-Paul Rappeneau’s Bon voyage (2003), and appeared in the drama film Monsieur
Ibrahim before finally retiring from acting.
Aside from acting, Adjani was an accomplished singer. In 1983, she released a
million selling album which spawned the hit single “Pull Marine,” penned by
Serge Gainsbour. The video for the song was shot by Luc Besson.
Cesar: Best Actress, Queen Margot, 1994
Cesar: Best Actress, Camille Claudel, 1988
Berlin Festival: Best Actress prize, Camille Claudel, 1988
Cesar: Best Actress, One Deadly Summer, 1983
Cannes Film Festival: Best Actress, Quartet, 1981
Cannes Film Festival: Best Actress, Possession, 1981
Cesar: Best Actress, Possession, 1981