I wasn’t sure whether to include Marion Cotillard (40) in this list of “new generation” European actresses crossing over into mainstream Hollywood. I could have just mention her in the introduction to Part 1 along with Penelope Cruz and Audrey Tautou; after all, she is in the same age bracket as the ‘veterans’ and had her first big hit in France in 1998 with the action-comedy Taxi (produced by Luc Besson). But she broke out internationally ‘only’ in 2007 with her Oscar-winning portrayal of legendary songstress Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose, so I guess it is worth including her with the current generation! Her Hollywood career kicked off with Michael Mann’s Public Enemies (2009) and Chris Nolan’s Inception (2010). Her biggest English-language release to date is Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises (2012), but she had a meatier role as part of a love triangle in James Gray’s excellent indie drama The Immigrant (2013), along with Joaquin Phoenix and Jeremy Renner. Through it all, Ms. Cotillard has maintained strong roots in French cinema and arguably that’s where you can see her best work – Little White Lies (2010), Rust and Bone (2012) and Two Days One Night (2014). The last movie got Ms. Cotillard yet another Oscar nom this year and is one of my top films of 2014 (see trailer below). It should be interesting to see her as Lady Macbeth opposite Michael Fassbender in Macbeth, coming out this December. And then she will re-team with the same actor in the film adaptation of video game Assassin’s Creed, releasing December next year.
Melanie Laurent (32) was named ‘Most Promising Newcomer’ at the French César Awards in 2007 for the drama Don’t Worry I’m Fine. But of course, her major international breakthrough came in 2009 with Quentin Tarentino’s sublime WW2 adventure Inglourious Basterds (below) as the gutsy theater owner Shosanna. Since then, she has appeared in a few English-language dramas, but all in limited release; the only one worth watching is 2010’s Beginners, the ‘senior-citizen coming out’ dramedy which won an Oscar for Christopher Plummer at the age of 82. Her next film is By the Sea, directed by Angelina Jolie, in which she stars alongside Mr. and Mrs. Pitt; it was expected to be an awards contender this winter, but the initial reviews I have seen aren’t very promising.
Alicia Vikander (27) is the youngest in this list, but currently the most prolific European export, having moved into high visibility in 3 short years. She received multiple international acting nominations for Danish film A Royal Affair opposite Mads Mikkelsen. This film was nominated for Best Picture Oscar and I really liked the chemistry between the two leads; it was the first time I had seen Ms. Vikander on screen, as she had mainly been on Danish TV shows before that. She then acted in films from 2 highly respected directors, which were unfortunately little seen by the public – Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina and Bill Condon’s The Fifth Estate. She has since then gone into overdrive. Just look at her 2015 slate – she started off the year with the fantasy film The Seventh Son, then played British pacifist Vera Brittain in the period piece Testament of Youth, she was a creepy android in the scifi thriller Ex Machina and then starred as a gutsy East German in the stylish spy flick The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Before the year ends, she will appear in The Danish Girl as a woman whose husband became the first publicly known person to undergo a sex-change operation, back in 1930. The film is expected to garner yet another acting nod for Eddie Redmayne. It’s a bit scary, how many big projects this young actress is getting. Is there such a thing as too much international exposure? Perhaps not, when you think about how unpredictable acting careers are. She has been quoted as saying,”I suffer from a constant anxiety that what’s happening to me isn’t going to last forever. It’s a tough industry. Really tough. And I’m constantly preparing myself for it to go wrong.” Might as well make hay while the sun shines. And making hay she is! Having been confirmed to star opposite Matt Damon in the next Jason Bourne movie, there is now talk that Ms. Vikander will play Lisbeth Salander in The Girl in the Spider’s Web.
The many faces of Alicia Vikander: clockwise from top left – The Danish Girl (2015), The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015), A Royal Affair (2012) and Ex Machina (2015).
In my concluding post, I will cover 2 French actresses who are making it big in Hollywood.