French postcard by Humour a la Carte, Paris, no. ST-158.
Isabelle Adjani (1955) is a dark-haired beauty with a porcelain skin and expressive blue eyes, who has appeared in 30 films since 1970. The French film actress holds the record for most César Awards for Best Actress with five, for Possession (1981), L'Été Meurtrier/One Deadly Summer (1983), Camille Claudel (1988), La Reine Margot/Queen Margot (1994) and La journée de la jupe/Skirt Day (2009). She also received two Oscar nominations for Best Actress.
Isabelle Yasmine Adjani was born in the immigrant neighborhood Gennevilliers in Hauts-de-Seine, a suburb of Paris, in 1955. Her father was Mohammed Cherif Adjani was Algerian. He was a soldier in the French Army in World War II. Her mother Augusta, called "Gusti", was German. She grew up bi-lingual, speaking German and French fluently. After winning a school recitation contest, she began acting in amateur theater by the age of twelve. At the age of 14, she starred in her first motion picture Le Petit bougnat (1970, Bernard Michel), while on summer vacation. She made her second film, the coming-of-age drama Faustine et le bel ete (1971, Nina Companeez), also while she was still at school. In 1972, the 17-year-old joined the prestigious Comédie française as the youngest company member ever. There she gained fame as a classical actress for her interpretation of Agnès, the main female role in Molière's L'École des femmes. After only two years she left the Comédie française, to pursue a film career. She played minor roles in several films, and enjoyed modest success as the spoiled teenage daughter of Lino Ventura in La Gifle/The Slap (1974, Claude Pinoteau). She won the prestigious Prix Suzanne Bianchetti for Most Promising Actress. The following year, she landed her first major role as the mentally unbalanced daughter of author Victor Hugo in L Histoire d Adele H./The Story of Adèle H. (1975, François Truffaut). Critics enthused over her performance as the intense, unstable, love-obsessed Adèle Hugo. She was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar and received offers for roles in international films. For André Téchiné, she co-starred with Gerard Depardieu in Barocco (1976), as the instigator of a plot to blackmail a politician, and in Les Soeurs Bronte/The Bronte Sisters (1978), as Emily Bronte. In Roman Polanski's psychological thriller Le Locataire/The Tenant (1976), Adjani was the suicidal former occupant of the apartment rented by a confused man (Polanski himself). In Hollywood she played a gambler opposite Ryan O’Neal in the crime thriller The Driver (1978, Walter Hill). She then portrayed Lucy in the horror film Nosferatu/Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979, Werner Herzog), a retelling of the Dracula legend featuring Klaus Kinski. In 1980 she had a son, Barnabé Nuytten with Flemish cinematographer Bruno Nuytten.
In 1981, Isabelle Adjani received a double Best Actress Award at the Cannes Film Festival for her part as the impoverished mistress of Alan Bates in Merchan-Ivory's Quartet (1981, James Ivory), and for her role as the unfaithful wife of Sam Neill struggling with demons in the horror film Possession (1981, Andrzej Zulawski). Yuri German at AllMovie: “Filmed amidst the oppressive backdrop of the Berlin Wall by the expatriate Polish director Andrzej Zulawski (who was unable to work in his homeland after too many clashes with the authorities), the picture is so relentlessly intense and so deliberately esoteric, that most viewers would find it too hard to connect with. Still its symbolism, its unbridled and flashy directorial style, and the tour de force performance by Isabelle Adjani earned this unique tale a cult following in Europe.” The following year, she received her first César Award for Possession. In 1983, she won the César, for her depiction of a vengeful woman in the blockbuster L'Été Meurtrier/One Deadly Summer (1983, Jean Becker). That same year, she released the French pop album Pull marine written and produced by Serge Gainsbourg. She starred in a music video for the hit title song Pull Marine, which was directed by Luc Besson. For the then 26-year-old Besson she also starred in the successful comedy thriller Subway (1985, Luc Besson) opposite Christophe Lambert. From 1986 to 1987 Adjani was romantically linked to actor Warren with whom she co-starred in the commercial failure Ishtar (1987, Elaine May). In 1988, she co-produced and starred in a biopic of the sculptor Camille Claudel (1988, Bruno Nuytten), the mistress of August Rodin (Gerard Depardieu). As she had done in her portrait of Adele Hugo, Adjani fully conveyed the passion and spirit of a strong-willed woman who descends into madness. She received her third César, a second Oscar nomination and a Berlin Film Festival Best Actress Award for this role. Following this publicity, she was chosen by People magazine as one of the '50 Most Beautiful People' in the world.
Isabelle Adjani won her fourth César for the ensemble epic La Reine Margot/Queen Margot (1994, Patrice Chéreau), based on Victor Hugo's novel. The film provided her with another portrayal in her galaxy of fragile women surrounded by violence. She had a relationship with Daniel Day Lewis from 1989 to 1995. He left her during her pregnancy with their son, Gabriel-Kane Day-Lewis, who was born in 1995. The following year, she was teamed with Sharon Stone for Diabolique (1996, Jeremiah S. Chechik), a remake of the classic psychological thriller Les Diaboliques by Henri-Georges Clouzot. Adjani again seemed out of her element as the meek, sickly wife of a belligerent school headmaster (Chazz Palminteri). Sandra Brennan at AllMovie: “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.” In 2000, she made a rare stage acting appearance in the title role of a Parisian production of La Dame aux Camelias. After a five year hiatus, Adjani returned to the screen starring in La Repentie/The Repentent (2002, Latitia Masson) with Sami Frey. The following year she appeared in the drama Monsieur Ibrahim et les fleurs du Coran/Monsieur Ibrahim (2003, François Dupeyron) featuring Omar Sharif, and assumed a role originally meant for Sophie Marceau in the black comedy Bon Voyage (2003, Jean-Paul Rappeneau). Adjani was engaged to composer Jean Michel Jarre, but they broke up in 2004. She won her fifth Cesar for her role as a troubled and emotionally fragile woman at the center of a firestorm in the psychological drama La journée de la jupe/Skirt Day (2008, Jean-Paul Lilienfeld). In 2009, she denounced statements by Pope Benedict XVI claiming that condoms are not an effective method of AIDS prevention. Adjani was made a Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur in 2010. Her most recent films are the road movie Mammuth (2010, Benoit Delépine, Gustave de Kervern) starring Gérard Depardieu, and the action film De force (2011, Frank Henry) with former soccer player Eric Cantona.
Sources: Sandra Brennan (AllMovie), Yahoo! Movies, Wikipedia and IMDb.