In Part 1 of my run-through of European actresses crossing over to mainstream Hollywood films, I had looked at the careers of Eva Green, Rebecca Ferguson and Noomi Rapace. In Part 2, I covered Marion Cotillard, Melanie Laurent and Alicia Vikander. Now in Part 3, let’s look at two more French-speaking actresses.
Léa Seydoux (30) comes from both cinema and business royalty. She is a descendant of the founders of oilfield services company Schlumberger; her grandfather and granduncle were the chairmen of Pathé and Gaumont respectively, both highly respected French film production companies. No doubt that with such a background, acting opportunities would come her way. She started her film career at the age of 21 and soon after was nominated Most Promising Actress for her lead role in the French TV film The Beautiful Person. She doesn’t have a very emotive face, so her characters tend to appear rather cool or pouty, except when she flashes her smile. Which she did, in her small role as the down-to-earth antique dealer Gabrielle in Woody Allen’s magical 2011 romantic comedy Midnight in Paris (pic below); I loved that last scene where she walks off in the rain with Owen Wilson. The same year, we saw her play a deadly assassin who falls off the Burj Khalifa after a cat-fight with Paula Patton in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. At the time of writing, she can be seen on-screen with Daniel Craig in Spectre. Bond films are not really platforms to showcase acting skills, but instead audiences will be looking for screen presence and chemistry. I’m not sure she scores very high in this regard – Monica Bellucci probably created more sparks with Daniel Craig during their brief moment together in the film; and when compared with past ‘Bond girls’, she neither has the stunning looks/ figure of Ursula Andress and Halle Berry nor the IQ/ EQ of Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd. So it’s tough to say how much her Hollywood career will benefit from this high profile role. Of course, it could well be that Ms. Seydoux may want to limit her overseas appearances, given her thriving French film career. She has after all, received best actress nominations for 2 highly regarded French films (both on my to-watch list) – the period film Farewell My Queen and the Cannes Palm d’Or winner Blue is the Warmest Color – while enjoying box office success as Belle in the big-budget French version of Beauty and the Beast (2014).
I first saw Charlotte Le Bon (29) last year in The Hundred-Foot Journey (pic below) as the local sous chef who helps a struggling Indian family to set up a restaurant in her village in the Pyrenees. The Canadian-born actress is based in Paris and so technically qualifies for this list! Since the start of her career in 2011, she has acted in some well-known French films including comic-book adventure Asterix and Obelix: God Save Britannia and biopic Yves Saint Laurent, for which she received her first ever acting nomination earlier this year. Her latest Hollywood release is with Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the acclaimed, but little seen The Walk. I am looking forward to her next release The Promise – it is a period drama set during the last days of the Ottoman Empire and her co-stars are powerhouse actors Christian Bale and Oscar Isaac. It is directed by Terry George who made the heart-wrenching Hotel Rwanda a few years ago. Next year will be a big one for Ms. Le Bon; besides The Promise, she has 3 other English-language films scheduled for release – scifi thriller Project Lazarus, action movie Bastille Day and WW2 historical thriller Anthropoid (the same story as another upcoming film, HHhH, which I had mentioned in my coverage of Rosamund Pike recently).
Looking back at this three-part list, it’s pretty clear that the European ‘invasion’ is mainly coming from France and the Nordics (Denmark and Sweden, to be precise). Unlike two generations earlier, there are very few actresses crossing over from Italian films (except Monica Bellucci for the odd supporting role). The Spanish and German film industries are thriving and there are a number of fantastic actresses from those two nations, but they appear quite content to stay within their borders.