Isabelle Huppert was born in Paris on 16th March 1955, the youngest of four children in a stable middle class family. After a model school career, she decided, with her parents’ support, to become an actress. Shortly after entering the Conservatory of dramatic art in Paris at the age of 17, she made her first film appearance, a walk-on part in Faustine et le bel été (1972). She was also making television appearance, again minor parts, but it was not until she appeared in Claude Sautet’s 1972 film, César et Rosalie, (playing Romy Schneider’s younger sister) that she was noticed.
Appearances in two subsequent films consolidated Huppert’s popularity and ensured stardom would follow. These were Bertrand Blier’s cult film, Les Valseuses (1974) (which also launched the careers of two other promising young actors, Patrick Dewaere and Gérard Depardieu), and Bertrand Tavernier’s critically acclaimed Le Juge et l’assassin (1975).
After appearing in another half a dozen or so films, Huppert soon achieved celebrity and the unanimous praise of critics for her role in La Dentellière (a.k.a. The Lace Maker) in 1977, for which she won a César. The following year, she won best actress award at the Cannes film festival for her part in Claude Chabrol’s Violette Nozière. Instantly, she was loved by the cinema-going public, critics and film-makers alike. In addition to her many collaborations with Claude Chabrol, she would work with some of the great French film directors, including Jean-Luc Godard, Maurice Pialat and Michel Deville.
In 1980, Huppert left her native France to work for the first time in Hollywood, on Michael Cimino’s now notorious film Heaven’s Gate. This was not a pleasant experience for the actress (she was forbidden to speak French on the set) and the film was a staggering commercial failure. Huppert made a hasty return to France and redeemed herself with excellent performances in Tavernier’s Coup de torchon and Deville’s Eaux profondes (1981).
Throughout the 1980s, Huppert’s popularity would grow as the actress matured and took on a wider variety of roles. Her most acclaimed performances can be seen in Diane Kurys’ Coup de foudre (1983), in which she starred with Miou-Miou, La Garce (1984), opposite Richard Berry, and Chabrol’s moving war-time tale, Une affaire de femmes (1988).
By the late 1980s, Huppert had safely established herself as the leading French film actress, a position she would occupy for the next decade. At the same time, her international reputation grew and she accepted work abroad (mainly in Italy and America), although it is to French cinema to which she remained most attached. During this period, her best appearances are to be found in Christian Vincent’s touching 1994 drama La Séparation (opposite Daniel Auteuil) and Claude Chabrol’s popular thriller, La Cérémonie (1995), in which she played a psychotic, psychopathic post mistress. In 1991, she also played Flaubert’s lovelorn tragic heroine in Chabrol’s film Madame Bovary, again to great acclaim.
Entering a new decade, Huppert’s popularity shows no signs of diminishing. Her formidable appearance as Madame de Maintenon, mistress to King Louis XIV, in the historical film Saint-Cyr earned her a nomination (but not the award) for best actress at the 2001 Césars. Isabelle Huppert looks like remaining a fixture of French cinema for many years to come.
Die Große Ekstase (1975)
Les Médiateurs (2008)
Des parents formidables (2009)