The Piano Teacher
“I don’t know if you ever say to yourself that you want to be an actress. It eventually becomes a social function - you are an actress and you make a living out of it, but at the beginning it’s more a matter of how to survive, or how to exist in a certain way. I think being an actress is more how to cope with the fact that you can’t do anything else than to express a talent. It’s a way of being untalented for anything. To say, ‘I want to be an actress’ is to say, ‘I can’t do anything else, so let’s try to be an actress.’” Isabelle Huppert
One of the most appreciated actresses in French movies, Isabelle Huppert is recognized for her portrayals of characters varying from the naive to the sultry to the comic. One of the top actresses of her generation, she also has created a history in French cinema for becoming the most nominated actress for the Cesar Award. Since 1975’s Aloise, she has received thirteen Cesar nominations and won once, for Cérémonie, La (1995). As a shy postmistress, she also took home the Venice Film Festival’s Volpi Cup Award.
Huppert was propelled into international stardom with her roles in Dentellière, La (1977), where she won a BAFTA Award, and Claude Chabrol’s Violette Nozière (1978), in which she earned a Cannes Film Festival Award. Known for her long-running fruitful partnership with famed filmmaker Claude Chabrol, she achieved even more recognition in the director’s Une affaire de femmes/Story of Women (1988), where her portrayal of a shameless abortionist won her a Valladolid International Film Festival Award, a Venice Film Festival Award, a Bogota Film Festival Award and a Sant Jordi Award. She also was handed a German Film Award for Malina (1991) and a Moscow International Film Festival for Chabrol’s Madame Bovary (1991).
Following the award-winning performance in Chabrol’s Merci pour le chocolat/Nightcap (2000), Huppert drew attention from the American public with her role as a sexually reserved piano tutor in the controversial Pianiste, La/The Piano Teacher (2001). This notable performance won her a Cannes Film Festival Award, a European Film Award, a Seattle International Film Festival Award, a San Francisco Film Critics Circle Award and a Russian Guild of Film Critics Award. She bolstered the fame with important work in Francois Ozon’s 8 Femmes/8 Women (2002), David O. Russell’s I Heart Huckabees (2004) and Patrice Chéreau’s Gabrielle (2005). The cool, innocent-looking leading lady also has starring roles in the upcoming films Amour cache, L (2007), Clara (2007) and America (2008).
Aside from acting, multi-talented Huppert is a musician. With French singer/rock star Jean-Louis Murat, she has released an album called Madame Deshoulières. She also plays the piano. On a more private note, the 5’ 3” beauty has been married to Ronnie Chammah since 1982. The couple became the parents of three children, Lolita, Lorenzo and Angelo.
Childhood and Family:
The youngest of five children of Raymond Huppert and Annick Beau Huppert, an English teacher, Isabelle Ann Huppert was born on March 16, 1953, in Paris, France. Her siblings include director Caroline Huppert and actress/writer/director Elisabeth Huppert. Isabelle had a happy upbringing. She was raised in a rich family and was encouraged by her mother to start acting at a young age. She attended the Conservatory of Versailles, in which she won a prize for her acting, before honing in on her craft at the National Conservatory of Dramatic Art of Paris (CNSAD).
Isabelle married Ronnie Chammah in 1982, who later directed her in Milan noir (1987). She gave birth to the couple’s first child, a baby girl named Lolita, in October 1983. The two welcomed their sons, Lorenzo, in 1986, and Angelo, in August 1997.
Story of Women
Isabelle Huppert decided to become an actress when she was 13. She later won an acting honor for her work in Alfred de Musset’s “Un caprice” and graduated from Europe’s most prominent National Conservatory of Dramatic Art of Paris. After a noted stage career, most notably Ivan Turgenev’s “A Month in the Country” and Euripides’ “Medea,” the green-eyed actress stepped in front of the camera for a part in the made-for-television film Prussien, Le (1971) and soon branched out to the big screen with Nina Companeez’s Faustine et le bel été/Faustine and the Beautiful Summer (1972). Many other TV and film roles followed, like the role of the younger sister of Romy Schneider in César et Rosalie/Cesar and Rosalie (1972) and as a jaded teen who runs off with a vagrant threesome in Bertrand Blier’s road film Valseuses, Les/Going Places (1974). She also made her English-language debut in 1975’s Rosebud, helmed by the late Austria-born Otto Preminger. The same year, the twenty-something actress gained notice for playing a madwoman in the drama film Aloise, from which she was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress César. The role also won her much praise at the Cannes Film Festival.
Huppert continued to build a good reputation and soon became one of France’s leading thespians. She won a BAFTA Film award for Best Newcomer, a David di Donatello for Best Foreign Actress, as well as a César nomination for Best Actress after starring as a naive girl who falls for and is deceived by a student in Claude Goretta’s Dentellière, La/The Lacemaker (1977) and for her portrayal of a young woman who kills her parents in Claude Chabrol’s Violette Nozière (1978), she received the Best Actress honors at the Cannes Film Festival and another César nomination). She also starred in such important films as Maurice Pialat’s Loulou (1980), where she netted a César nomination for playing an aristocrat woman who is physically fascinated by a young hobo, and Jean-Luc Godard’s Sauve qui peut (la vie) (1980), as a hooker named Isabelle Rivière. In 1981’s Coup de torchon/Clean Up, she picked up her fifth César nomination. 1980 also saw the applauded actress make her Hollywood debut with the lead role of a brothel madam in Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate. The film, however, was considered one of the biggest box office flops in American history.
The actress quickly returned to French cinema and gained a reputation for exploiting her power to help non-commercial projects get off the ground. Those included Jean-Luc Godard’s Every Man for Himself (1980), Joseph Losey’s Truite, La/The Trout (1982) and sister Caroline Huppert’s Sincerely, Charlotte (1984). In addition, she went on to collaborate with non-mainstream filmmakers like Diane Kurys in 1983’s Entre Nous, and well-known international figures such as Claude Chabrol. Under the direction of Chabrol in 1988’s Une affaire de femmes/Story of Women, her portrayal of an abortionist was critically applauded and she was handed such awards as a Valladolid International Film Festival, a Volpi Cup from the Venice Film Festival and a Golden Precolumbian Circle from the Bogota Film Festival and a Sant Jordi for Best Foreign Actress. She also earned another Best Actress César nomination. Still with the renowned director, Huppert nabbed a Silver St. George Best Actress at the Moscow International Film Festival for starring in Madame Bovary (1991). In the based-on-novel Malina (1991), for director Werner Schroeter, she received a German Film award for Outstanding Individual Achievement.
Following a starring turn opposite Martin Donovan in the Hollywood film Amateur (1994), where director Hal Hartley perfectly cast her as a former nun, and after netting a Best Actress César nomination in Christian Vincent’s Séparation, La/The Separation (also 1994), Huppert’s next partnership with Chabrol once again proved successful when she took home a César for her outstanding work in Cérémonie, La/A Judgement in Stone (1995), from which she also won a Volpi Cup at the Venice Film Festival. Next, she provided the voice of Mistress in the NBC miniseries version of “Gulliver’s Travels” (1996), starred for Chabrol in Rien ne va plus/The Swindle (1997) as well as played an affluent older women who keeps a young hustler in École de la chair, L/The School of Flesh (1998).
Kicking off the 2000s, Huppert re-teamed with Chabrol in the director’s crime/thriller, Merci pour le chocolat/Nightcap (2000, released in America in 2002). The role brought her a Montréal World Film Festival and a Lumiere for Best Actress. The same year, she also gave a César-nominating, starring turn in the Patricia Mazuy’s Saint-Cyr, as Madame de Maintenon. However, it was her role as a sexually withdrawn piano teacher in Michael Haneke’s controversial Pianiste, La/The Piano Teacher (2001) that garnered the actress international recognition. For her brilliant effort, she was awarded a Cannes Film Festival award, a European Film award, a Seattle International Film Festival and a San Francisco Film Critics Circle for Best Actress and a Russian Guild of Film Critics for Best Foreign Actress. She followed the huge victory with a memorable performance opposite Catherine Deneuve in Francois Ozon’s ensemble 8 Femmes/8 Women (2002). There, she jointly earned a Berlin International Film Festival for Outstanding Artistic Achievement and a European Film for Best Actress. On her own, she won a Russian Guild of Film Critics for Best Foreign Actress and was nominated for a Best Actress César.
Huppert then played Sylvia, a prostitute whose daughter commits a crime, in Vie promise, La/The Promised Life (2002), costarred as the French radical Caterine Vauban in writer-director David O. Russell’s I Heart Huckabees (2004) and had the title role in Gabrielle (2005), where she received a César nomination for Best Actress. As for her forthcoming projects, the well-respected performer is scheduled to star in such movies as the drama Amour caché, L’ (2007), the historical Clara (2007) and the based-on-book America (2008), opposite Jennifer Jason Leigh and Dennis Hopper.