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Isabelle Adjani
Isabelle Yasmine Adjani

(1955-06-27) 27 June 1955 (age 69)
Paris, France
  • Actress
  • singer
Years active1970–present
Partner(s)Bruno Nuytten (1976–1981)
Daniel Day-Lewis (1989–1995)

Isabelle Yasmine Adjani (born 27 June 1955) is a French actress and singer of Algerian and German descent.

She is the only performer to win five César Awards for acting—all in the Best Actress category—for Possession (1981), One Deadly Summer (1983), Camille Claudel (1988), La Reine Margot (1994), and Skirt Day (2009). She was made a Knight of the Legion of Honour in 2010 and a Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters in 2014.

Her portrayal of Adèle Hugo in The Story of Adèle H. (1975) earned Adjani her first nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress, which made her, at 20, the youngest nominee in that category at the time. Her second Best Actress nomination came in 1990 for portraying Camille Claudel, making her the first French actress to receive two Academy Award nominations for foreign-language films. She won the Cannes Film Festival Award for her performances in Possession and Quartet (1981), becoming the only actress to win a joint award for two films in the same competition slate, and a Berlin Silver Bear for Camille Claudel.

Her other notable film roles include The Slap (1974), The Tenant (1975), Barocco (1976), The Driver (1978), Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979), All Fired Up (1982), Subway (1985), Ishtar (1987), Diabolique (1996), Adolphe (2002), Bon voyage (2003), French Women (2014), The World Is Yours (2018) and Peter von Kant (2022).

Early life and education

Isabelle Yasmine Adjani was born on 27 June 1955 in the 17th arrondissement of Paris, to Mohammed Cherif Adjani, an Algerian Muslim from Constantine, and Emma Augusta "Gusti" Schweinberger, a German Catholic from Bavaria.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7]

Adjani's parents met near the end of World War II, when her father was in the French Army and stationed in Germany. They married and her mother returned with him to Paris, despite not speaking a word of French.[8][9] She asked him to take Cherif as his first name as she thought it sounded more "American".[10]

Isabelle grew up bilingual, speaking French and German fluently,[11][12][13] in Gennevilliers, a northwestern suburb of Paris, where her father worked in a garage.[14] After winning a school recitation contest, Adjani began acting by the age of 12 in amateur theater. She successfully passed her baccalauréat and was auditing classes at the University of Vincennes in 1976.[3]

Adjani had a younger brother, Éric, who was a photographer. He died on 25 December 2010, aged 53.[15][16]

Acting career

Adjani at the 35th César Awards, 27 February 2010
Adjani at the Hôtel Amour, 2012

At the age of 14, Adjani starred in her first motion picture, Le Petit Bougnat (1970).[17] She first gained fame as a classical actress at the Comédie-Française, which she joined in 1972. She was praised for her interpretation of Agnès, the main female role in Molière's L'École des femmes. She soon left the theatre to pursue a film career.

After minor roles in several films, she enjoyed modest success in the 1974 film La Gifle (The Slap), which François Truffaut saw. He immediately cast her in her first major role in his The Story of Adèle H. (1975) which he had finished writing five years prior. Critics praised her performance,[3] with the American critic Pauline Kael describing her acting talents as "prodigious".[18]

Only 19 when she made the film, Adjani was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role, becoming the youngest Best Actress nominee at the time (a record she held for almost 30 years). She quickly received offers for roles in Hollywood films, such as Walter Hill's 1978 crime thriller The Driver. She had previously turned down the chance to star in films like The Other Side of Midnight. She had described Hollywood as a "city of fiction" and said, "I'm not an American. I didn't grow up with that will to win an award." Truffaut on the other hand said, "France is too small for her. I think Isabelle is made for American cinema."[3] She agreed to make The Driver because she was an admirer of Hill's first film Hard Times. Adjani said:

I think he is wonderful, very much in the tradition of Howard Hawks, lean and spare. The story is contemporary but also very stylized, and the roles that Ryan and I play are like Bogart and Bacall. We are both gamblers in our souls and we do not show our emotions or say a lot. For us, talk is cheap. I am really quite a mysterious girl in this film, with no name and no background. And I must say that it is restful not to have a life behind me; this way, I don't have to dig deep to play the part. All I know is that life for me is gambling and I am a loser. I have what people call a poker face.[19]

The film was seen more than 1.1 million times in Adjani's native France but did not do as well in the US.[20]

She played Lucy in the German director Werner Herzog's 1979 remake of Nosferatu which was well-received critically and performed well at box offices in Europe.[21] Roger Ebert loved the film, calling Herzog's casting of Adjani one of his "masterstrokes" in the film. He wrote that she "is used here not only for her facial perfection but for her curious quality of seeming to exist on an ethereal plane."[22] The cast and the crew filmed both English- and German-language versions simultaneously upon request of 20th Century Fox, the American distributor,[23] as Kinski and Ganz could act more confidently in their native language.

In 1981, she received a double Cannes Film Festival's Best Actress award for her roles in the Merchant Ivory film Quartet, based on the novel by Jean Rhys, and in the horror film Possession (1981). The following year, she received her first César Award for Possession, in which she had portrayed a woman having a nervous breakdown.

In 1983, she won her second César for her depiction of a vengeful woman in the French blockbuster One Deadly Summer, and starred with Michel Serrault in the black diamond thriller Deadly Circuit directed by Claude Miller. That same year, Adjani released the French pop album Pull marine, written and produced by Serge Gainsbourg. She then starred in a music video for the hit title song, Pull Marine, which was directed by Luc Besson.

Adjani also drew controversy at the 1983 Cannes Film Festival when she refused to attend a traditional photocall after the press conference for One Deadly Summer. Adjani was annoyed at the time by the intrusion of photographers into her private life. The photographers in Cannes boycotted Adjani upon her arrival on the red carpet for the premiere, at which point they put down their cameras down and turned their backs to her.[24]

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, becoming the first French actress to receive two Oscar nominations. The film was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

She received her fourth César for the 1994 film Queen Margot, an ensemble epic directed by Patrice Chéreau. She received her fifth César for Skirt Day (2009), the most that any actress has received. The film features her as a middle school teacher in a troubled French suburb who takes her class hostage when she accidentally fires off a gun she found on one of her students. It was premiered on the French Arte channel on 20 March 2009, attaining a record 2.2 million viewers) and then in movie theaters on 25 March 2009.[25] The film was her return to the cinema after eight years of absence.[26]

In 2010, she made an appearance in the social comedy Mammuth, from directors Benoît Delépine and Gustave Kervern, and in which she played the phantom of Gérard Depardieu's first love.[27] The same year, she lent her voice to the character of Mother Gothel in the french version of the animated film Tangled.[28] In 2011, she co-starred in De Force, the first film directed by Frank Henry. She embodied the commander Clara Damico, head of the brigade for the repression of banditry.[29]

She became the first French actress to star in a Bollywood film, playing the mother of Preity Zinta in the 2013 romantic comedy Ishkq in Paris, directed by Prem Soni and alongside Shekhar Kapur.

She joined the comedy The World Is Yours, playing the eccentric Dany, directed by Romain Gavras alongside Vincent Cassel, which entered into the Directors' Fortnight during the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.

In 2022, she played the movie star Sidonie von Grassenabb in the comedy drama Peter von Kant, tribute to Rainer Werner Fassbinder's The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, directed by François Ozon alongside Denis Ménochet, which entered as the opening film into the 72nd Berlin International Film Festival.

In 2023, Adjani released her second French pop album Bande originale, written and produced by Pascal Obispo, and arranged by Cécile DeLaurentis. She also joined the Netflix action film Wingwomen, directed by Mélanie Laurent, and then, the Netflix miniseries The Perfect Couple directed by Susanne Bier, alongside Nicole Kidman and Liev Schreiber.[30]

Personal life

In 1979, Adjani had a son, Barnabé Saïd-Nuytten, with the cinematographer Bruno Nuytten,[11] whom she later hired to direct her project Camille Claudel, a biopic of the sculptor who was the lover of Rodin.[14]

During the mid-eighties, she had a relationship with Warren Beatty, who convinced her to appear with him in the epic comedy Ishtar, directed by Elaine May, co-starred by Dustin Hoffman, and shot in Morocco.[citation needed]

From 1989 to 1995, she had a relationship with Daniel Day-Lewis,[11] which ended before the birth of their son, Gabriel-Kane Day-Lewis, in 1995.[31]

Adjani was later engaged to the composer Jean-Michel Jarre; they broke up in 2004.[31]

On 14 December 2023, Adjani was handed a two-year suspended sentence for tax fraud. [32]

Political views

Adjani has been vocal against anti-immigrant and anti-Algerian sentiments in France.[14] In 2009, she criticized statements by Pope Benedict XVI, who claimed that condoms are not an effective method of AIDS prevention.[33]

In September 2009, she signed a petition in support of Roman Polanski, calling for his release after he was arrested in Switzerland in relation to his sexual abuse case.[34]

In 2017, Adjani was interviewed by Vincent Josse on the French public radio station France Inter. During the interview, she expressed her vaccine hesitancy and opposition to mandatory vaccination.[35]

In 2018 Adjani signed a letter calling to act "firmly and immediately" for stopping climate change and biodiversity loss.[36]


In addition to specific awards for particular films, Adjani was made a Knight of France's Legion of Honour on 14 July 2010 for her contributions to the arts.[37]


Year Film Role Director Notes
1970 Le Petit bougnat Rose Bernard Toublanc-Michel
1972 Faustine et le Bel Été Camille Nina Companeez
1973 L'école des femmes Agnès Raymond Rouleau TV movie produced by the Comédie-Française
1974 L'Avare Mariane René Lucot TV movie produced by the Comédie-Française
Le Secret des Flamands Maria Robert Valey TV series
The Slap Isabelle Doulean Claude Pinoteau Special David di Donatello
Ariane Ariane Pierre-Jean de San Bartolomé
1975 The Story of Adele H. Adèle Hugo François Truffaut Cartagena Film Festival Golden India Catalina for Best Actress
David di Donatello for Best Foreign Actress
National Board of Review Award for Best Actress
National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actress
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress
Nominated—Academy Award for Best Actress
Nominated—César Award for Best Actress
Ondine Ondine Raymond Rouleau TV movie
1976 The Tenant Stella Roman Polanski
Barocco Laure André Téchiné Nominated—César Award for Best Actress
1977 Violette et François Violette Clot Jacques Rouffio
1978 The Driver The Player Walter Hill
1979 Nosferatu the Vampyre Lucy Harker Werner Herzog Bambi Award for Best Actress
The Brontë Sisters Emily Brontë André Téchiné
1981 Clara et les Chics Types Clara Jacques Monnet
Possession Anna/Helen Andrzej Żuławski Cannes Film Festival Best Actress Award
César Award for Best Actress
Quartet Marya "Mado" Zelli James Ivory Cannes Film Festival Best Actress Award
L'Année prochaine... si tout va bien Isabelle Maréchal Jean-Loup Hubert
1982 All Fired Up Pauline Valance Jean-Paul Rappeneau
The Last Horror Film Herself David Winters
Antonieta Antonieta Rivas Mercado Carlos Saura
1983 Deadly Circuit Catherine Leiris/Lucie, 'Marie' Claude Miller
One Deadly Summer Eliane known as 'Elle' Jean Becker César Award for Best Actress
1984 Pull marine The Heroine Luc Besson Music video
1985 Subway Héléna Luc Besson Nominated—César Award for Best Actress
1986 T'as de beaux escaliers tu sais Herself Agnès Varda Short film
Princesse au petit pois Herself Jean-Paul Seaulieu Music video
1987 Ishtar Shirra Assel Elaine May
1988 Camille Claudel Camille Claudel Bruno Nuytten César Award for Best Actress
Silver Bear for Best Actress at Berlin[38]
Nominated—Academy Award for Best Actress
1990 Lung Ta: Les cavaliers du vent Narrator Marie-Jaoul de Poncheville and Franz-Christoph Giercke Voice
1993 Toxic Affair Pénélope Philomène Esposito
1994 La Reine Margot Margot Patrice Chéreau César Award for Best Actress
1996 Diabolique Mia Baran Jeremiah S. Chechik
1998 Paparazzi Herself Alain Berbérian
2002 The Repentant Charlotte/Leïla Laetitia Masson
Adolphe Ellénore Benoît Jacquot Cabourg Romantic Film Festival Award for Best Actress
2003 Bon Voyage Viviane Denvers Jean-Paul Rappeneau
Monsieur Ibrahim The Star François Dupeyron
2004 Y'a pas un homme qui soit né pour ça Herself Pascal Obispo Music video by Florent Pagny, Calogero and Pascal Obispo
2008 Figaro Countess Almaviva Jacques Weber TV movie
2009 La Journée de la jupe Sonia Bergerac Jean-Paul Lilienfeld César Award for Best Actress
Lumières Award for Best Actress
Globes de Cristal Award for Best Actress
2010 Mammuth The Lost Love of Serge Gustave Kervern and Benoît Delépine Entered into the 60th Berlin International Film Festival
Tangled Mother Gothel Nathan Greno and Byron Howard Voice dub for French version
2011 Aïcha Doctor Assoussa Yamina Benguigui TV series (Episode: "Job à tout prix")
De Force Clara Damico Frank Henry
2012 David et Madame Hansen Madame Hansen-Bergmann Alexandre Astier
2013 Ishkq in Paris Marie Elise Prem Raj
2014 French Women Lili Audrey Dana
2016 Carole Matthieu Carole Matthieu Louis-Julien Petit
2017 Call My Agent! Herself Jeanne Herry TV series (Season 2, Episode: "Isabelle")
2018 The World Is Yours Dany Romain Gavras Entered into the 50th Cannes Director's Fortnight
Nominated—César Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Capitaine Marleau Isabelle Laumont Josée Dayan TV series (Episode: "Ne plus mourir jamais")
2019 Meet Me by the Gates Herself Nicolas Bary Music video with The Penelopes
2021 Soeurs Zorah Yamina Benguigui
2022 Peter von Kant Sidonie von Grassenabb François Ozon Entered into the 72nd Berlin International Film Festival
Quelques mots Herself Antoine Carlier Music video with Malik Djoudi
Masquerade Martha Nicolas Bedos Entered into the 75th Cannes International Film Festival
Diane de Poitiers, la plus que reine Diane de Poitiers Josée Dayan TV movie
2023 Dammi Herself Yann Demange Short film
Entered into the 76th Locarno Film Festival
Adieu Vinyle Eve Faugère Josée Dayan TV movie
Wingwomen Marraine Mélanie Laurent
Wish Queen Amaya Chris Buck and Fawn Veerasunthorn Voice dub for French version
2024 Où tu ne m'attendais pas Herself Alexandre Mattiussi Music video
The Perfect Couple Isabel Nallet Susanne Bier TV series


See also


  1. ^ Brennan, Sandra. "Isabelle Adjani". Allmovie. Archived from the original on 25 November 2009. Retrieved 6 July 2009.
  2. ^ Michel David (2008). Isabelle Adjani: la tentation sublime. Imago. p. 55. ISBN 978-2-84952-070-3.
  3. ^ a b c d Andriotakis, Pamela (22 March 1976). "Isabelle Adjani Has the Face That's Launching a Thousand Scripts". People Magazine. Retrieved 23 April 2022.
  4. ^ Love Film. "French Heartbreakers". Archived from the original on 16 January 2013. Retrieved 23 March 2012.
  5. ^ Chantal, Thompson; Phillips, Elaine (2012), "Trois grandes stars françaises: Isabelle Adjani", Mais Oui!, Volume 1, Cengage Learning, p. 13, ISBN 978-1-111-83582-8
  6. ^ Auzias, Dominique; Labourdette, Jean-Paul (2006), "Les comediens: Isabelle Adjani", Hauts de Seine, Petit Futé, p. 35, ISBN 2-7469-1351-8
  7. ^ The Middle East Quarterly (March 1997). "Islam in France: The French Way of Life Is in Danger". Middle East Quarterly. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  8. ^ Isabelle Adjani : "Mon père, kabyle, s'était engagé dans l'armée française à 16 ans, et c'est en remontant d'Italie jusqu'en Bavière à la fin de la seconde guerre mondiale qu'il rencontre et séduit ma mère" Interview with Isabelle Adjani, Télérama, 31 March 2009
  9. ^ "A German woman met in Bavaria who was married at the end of the Second World War by Mohammed Adjani, a Kabyle soldier in the French army", Jean de La Guérivière, Amère Méditerranée: Le Maghreb et nous, Seuil, 2004, p.391
  10. ^ "My mother was Bavarian. She felt very uncomfortable in France, where she had arrived without speaking a word of French. She couldn't stand the fact that her husband was Algerian. She said he was of Turkish origin and I believed her. Between my parents, there was conjugal racism. My mother used to call my father a jerk and my father would say, "You dirty Kraut." His name was Mohammed but my mother had forced him to change his first name. On our mailbox, there was: Cherif Adjani. My mother thought it looked American."Adjani la vérité, Interview Isabelle Adjani, Le Nouvel Observateur, 1985
  11. ^ a b c "Isabelle Adjani". Yahoo! Movies. Retrieved 6 July 2009.
  12. ^ Kemp, Philip. "Isabelle Adjani". Film Reference. Retrieved 8 September 2008.
  13. ^ Applefield, David (November 2001). "Isabelle Adjani". Paris Voice.
  14. ^ a b c Collins, Glenn (6 January 1990). "The 'Hounding' of Isabelle Adjani". New York Times.
  15. ^ "Isabelle Adjani: «Je suis passée à côté d'une partie de ma vraie vie» | Illustré".
  16. ^ "Isabelle Adjani, bouleversante : Son aveu d'échec face à son frère toxicomane - Gala". 29 October 2018.
  17. ^ Isabelle Adjani at IMDb
  18. ^ Kael, Pauline (1980). When The Lights Go Down. Henry Holt & Co. ISBN 0-03-042511-5.
  19. ^ Flatley, Guy (12 August 1977). "At the Movies: Isabelle Adjani Finds Poker Easy; Cheating Takes Practice". The New York Times. p. C7.
  20. ^ JP. "The Driver (1978)- JPBox-Office".
  21. ^ "Nosferatu the Vampyre". 17 January 1979 – via IMDb.
  22. ^ Ebert, Roger (24 October 2011). "Nosferatu the Vampyre Movie Review (1979)". Chicago Sun-Times. Sun-Times Media Group. Retrieved 3 November 2013.
  23. ^ "Nosferatu". horrordvds.com. Retrieved 29 May 2008.
  24. ^ Dominguez, Klhoé (6 May 2018). "Retour sur... Isabelle Adjani boycottée par les photographes à Cannes". Madame Figaro (in French). Retrieved 14 March 2024.
  25. ^ "La journée de la jupe". Archived from the original on 9 May 2013.
  26. ^ "Tchat Isabelle Adjani : "Je ne me rends pas compte du temps qui passe"". Télérama (in French). 31 March 2009. Retrieved 15 September 2021.
  27. ^ Saltz, Rachel (30 September 2011). "The Joys of Retirement". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 15 September 2021.
  28. ^ "Raiponce, la princesse aux cheveux d'or". LEFIGARO (in French). 16 November 2010. Retrieved 15 September 2021.
  29. ^ "Isabelle Adjani : Son réalisateur, ex-gangster, évoque son travail avec la star". www.purepeople.com (in French). Retrieved 15 September 2021.
  30. ^ "Nicole Kidman, Liev Schreiber, Eve Hewson, Dakota Fanning to Star in Netflix Limited Series 'The Perfect Couple". Variety. 31 March 2023.
  31. ^ a b Watson, Shane (15 August 2004). "The dumping game". The Times. UK. Retrieved 19 June 2007.
  32. ^ "Isabelle Adjani Gets Two-Year Suspended Prison Sentence for Tax Fraud". Variety. 14 December 2023.
  33. ^ "Adjani traite le pape de "peste blanche"". 20 Minuten. 25 March 2009.
  34. ^ "Signez la pétition pour Roman Polanski !" (in French). La Règle du jeu. 10 November 2009.
  35. ^ Denaes, Bruno (29 September 2017). "Isabelle Adjani : vaccination et contre-vérités". France Inter. Retrieved 18 October 2021.
  36. ^ "200 stars urge 'serious' action on climate change in letter to Le Monde". Le Mond. France24. 3 September 2018. Retrieved 20 December 2023.
  37. ^ "Légion d'honneur : Aubrac, Bouygues, Pérol, Adjani, Bolling parmi les promus", Le Monde, 14 juillet 2010
  38. ^ "Berlinale: 1989 Prize Winners". berlinale.de. Retrieved 10 March 2011.
  39. ^ "Isabelle Adjani on battling shyness for new pop album". 11 November 2023.
  40. ^ "Isabelle Adjani: «Les artistes qui ont une haute opinion d'eux-mêmes évitent mieux les erreurs de parcours»". 8 November 2023.

Further reading