French actress/director Mélanie Laurent quickly ascended to star status in her native country with acclaimed, award-winning turns as soulful, often sultry women in such films as "Don't Worry, I'm Fine" (2006), before reaching international stardom with Quentin Tarantino's World War II action epic "Inglourious Basterds" (2009). She began acting as a teenager on the advice of Gérard Depardieu, who provided her with a debut role in his drama "The Bridge" (1999), which was soon followed by small parts in features and on French television. A César Award for her gripping performance in "Don't Worry, I'm Fine" as a teenager embroiled in a family secret vaulted her to the top of her profession, while also spurring her to explore opportunities behind the camera as the director of two well-regarded short films. Her turn in "Basterds" as an avenging Jewish theater owner received near-universal acclaim from international critical associations. However, Laurent preferred to remain active in French cinema for the next few years until returning to the States for such English-language hits as "Beginners" (2010) and "Now You See Me" (2013). Laurent's smoldering screen presence and burgeoning multi-hyphenate status underscored her standing as one of world cinema's most accomplished talents.
Born February 21, 1983 in Paris, France, Mélanie Laurent is the daughter of performing parents: her father, Pierre, was a voice-over actor who dubbed the character Ned Flanders for the French broadcast of "The Simpsons" (Fox, 1989- ), while her mother, Annick, was a dancer and ballet instructor. While immersed in the arts throughout her childhood, Laurent did not begin acting until her teens, when she met French film icon Gérard Depardieu while visiting a friend's father on the set of "Asterix and Obelix" (1999). Depardieu suggested that she try her hand at the craft, but strongly advised against any sort of training, adding that she already possessed the skills necessary to become an actor. In 1999, he cast her in a small role in "The Bridge," a drama on which he also served as co-director. For the next decade, Laurent worked steadily in features and on television, quickly rising from bit and supporting roles to showcase turns as a Russian gangster's moll in "The Beat That My Heart Skipped" (2005) and the World War II drama "Days of Glory" (2006). That same year, she claimed her first César Award for her moving portrayal of a teenaged girl devastated by the apparent disappearance of her beloved brother in "Don't Worry, I'm Fine." Her performance captured several other significant French film acting awards, including the Etoiles d'Or, which also won that year for "Dikkenek" (2006), a Belgian comedy that cast her as an extroverted model.
Laurent was soon a featured player in major European projects, ranging from the intimate drama "Hidden Love" (2007), to the sprawling ensemble drama "Paris" (2008). That same year, she also made her directorial debut with the seven-minute film "De moins en moins" (2008), which received a Best Short Film nomination at the 61st Annual Cannes Film Festival. She soon followed it with a second short, "At Her Feet" (2008), which was aired on the French television channel Canal+. While preparing several additional directorial efforts, including the play "Mi-cuit Coeur pistache," Laurent was cast as the French Resistance fighter Shoshanna Dreyfus in Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds." Her powerful performance, which she claimed in interviews was inspired in part by her own childhood fantasy of killing Adolf Hitler, earned considerable praise from critics, while also reaping a shared Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture, as well as Best Actress awards from the Austin Film Critics Association and Online Film Critics Society.
Despite the global popularity of "Basterds," Laurent continued to chart her own eclectic course in the entertainment industry. She remained true to her French roots by working exclusively in Europe for the next two years in features like the Golden Globe-nominated "Le Concert" (2009) and "The Round Up" (2010), though she also made a return to English-language filmmaking with "Beginners" (2011), Mike Mills' charming comedy-drama with Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer in his Oscar-winning turn. That same year, Laurent made her debut as a feature-film director with "The Adopted" (2011), which received a mixed response from critics. Laurent also received a similar response to her first album as a singer and songwriter, En T'Attendant (2011), which was co-written and co-produced by Irish artist Damien Rice. But she rebounded with major roles in "Night Train to Lisbon" (2013), a drama from director Bille August with an all-star international cast led by Jeremy Irons and Lena Olin, and the caper thriller "Now You See Me," which became a surprise box-office hit in the early summer of 2013.
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Discovered at age 15 by Gerard Depardieu while visiting set of "Asterix et obelix contre Cesar"
Made acting debut in French TV movie "Un pont entre deux rives," starring Depardieu
Starred in TV movie "Route de nuit" as Francesca
Appeared in first feature film "Ceci est mon corps," co-starring Jane Birkin; premiered at Cannes Film Festival
Starred in comedy film "Embarassez qui vous voudrez" alongside Gaspar Ulliel
Featured in "Snowboarder" and "La Faucheuse"
Re-teamed with Ulliel in "Le dernier jour"
Joined ensemble cast for Jacques Audiard's "De batter mon coeur s¿est arrête"
Played lead role in director Phillipe Lioret's "Je vais bien, ne t¿en fais pas"
Played role of Laetitia in "Paris" alongside Juliette Binoche and Francois Cluzet
Made debut as director and screenwriter with "De moins en moins," screened at Cannes Film Festival
Made U.S. film debut as Shosanna Dreyfus in Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds"
Co-starred with Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer in "Beginners"
Directed, co-wrote, and co-starred in "Les adoptés"
Co-starred with Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson in "Now You See Me"