Family & Companions
The progeny of a French recording artist and a British film star, singer-actress Charlotte Gainsbourg inherited not only her parents' respective talents, but their penchant for embracing the unconventional. In the spotlight roughly from birth, it came as little surprise when the youngster first appeared on film, starring alongside French cinema icon Catherine Deneuve in the film "Paroles et Musique" (1983) at the age of 12. A role in the drama "L'Effrontee" (1985) two years later earned Gainsbourg a Cesar Award for Most Promising Newcomer, an accomplishment followed by her first music album Charlotte for Ever in 1986. Before long, she was working with the likes of director Franco Zeffirelli as the titular star of "Jane Eyre" (1996), appearing opposite Sean Penn in "21 Grams" (2003), and winning the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival for her shocking turn in Lars von Trier's take on the horror genre "Antichrist" (2009). Music remained a passion for Gainsbourg, who continued to release such well-received albums as 2009's IRM. Other projects included her return to the world of von Trier in another Cannes favorite, the heralded apocalyptic drama "Melancholia" (2011). Possessing a non-traditional beauty and an unconventional artistic bent, Gainsbourg enjoyed her reputation as one of the more versatile, talented and daring performers on the international landscape.
Born Charlotte Lucie Gainsbourg on July 21, 1971 in London, U.K., she was the daughter of French singer-songwriter Serge Gainsbourg and the British actress Jane Birkin. Raised in Paris and growing up very much in the public eye, thanks to her famously provocative parents, she spent as much time on film sets and in recording studios as she did attending school. In a case of life imitating art, Gainsbourg, whose parents separated when she was nine, made her screen debut as Catherine Deneuve's daughter in "Paroles et Musique" (1983), a romantic drama set within the music industry world about the disintegration of a marriage. Director Claude Miller later cast the 14-year-old Gainsbourg in the coming-of-age drama "L'Effrontee" (1985), in a role that won her a Cesar Award - the French equivalent of an Oscar - for Most Promising Newcomer. The ambitious adolescent made her recording debut on a duet with her father for the controversially-titled "Lemon Incest" from Gainsbourg's Love on the Beat album later that same year, then recorded her first album as a solo artist, Charlotte for Ever, in 1986.
Working with her mother, Gainsbourg appeared in "Kung Fu Master!" (1989) - released in Europe as "Le petit amour" - a drama written by and starring Birkin as a divorced mother infatuated with a 14-year-old friend (Mathieu Demy) of her daughter (Gainsbourg). The young actress began to generate considerable international buzz with her portrayal of a teenage vixen in "The Little Thief" (1989), based on a story originally conceived by the late François Truffaut. Later, she co-starred with future husband, actor-director Yvan Attal, in the romantic drama "Lover" (1992) then made her first appearance in an English language film with the British "The Cement Garden" (1994), written and directed by her uncle Andrew Birkin. In an attempt to leave no medium unconquered, the 23-year-old Gainsbourg made her stage debut in a Paris production of David Mamet's "Oleanna" later that same year. Her breakout role came in the remake of Charlotte Bronte's "Jane Eyre" (1996), directed by Franco Zeffirelli. Not known for period fare, Gainsbourg ably portrayed the adult Jane, an impoverished governess who falls in love with her brooding employer (William Hurt).
Gainsbourg won another Cesar, this time for Best Supporting Actress, for her turn as one of a trio of sisters attempting to cope with the loss of their father during the holidays in the comedy-drama "La Buche" (1999). Making her American television debut, she took on primary roles in a pair of high-profile miniseries - the Nazi war crimes docudrama "Nuremberg" (TNT, 2000) and a non-musical adaptation of Victor Hugo's "Les Miserables" (Fox Family Channel, 2000), starring Gerard Depardieu. Gainsbourg appeared with Attal again in the romantic-comedy "My Wife is an Actress" (2001) - which he also wrote and directed - as the titular spouse of a man (Attal) convinced she is having an affair with an older, more sophisticated co-star (Terrence Stamp). Gainsbourg made an impact on American audiences with her nuanced performance in the acclaimed multi-narrative drama "21 Grams" (2003) as the desperate, guilt-ridden wife of a math professor (Sean Penn) in critical need of a heart transplant. She later went toe-to-toe with film icon Charlotte Rampling in the byzantine, nightmarish thriller "Lemming" (2005).
Taking part in wildly diverse productions on both sides of the Atlantic, Gainsbourg appeared opposite Gael Garcia Bernal in Michel Gondry's surrealistic romantic-drama "The Science of Sleep" (2006) then played the wife of an actor (Heath Ledger) in the ode to musician-folksinger Bob Dylan in "I'm Not There" (2007). Never afraid to push boundaries or take chances, she won the Best Actress award at the 62nd Annual Cannes Film Festival for her performance as a grieving wife and mother driven to violence and madness in controversial filmmaker Lars von Trier's disturbing art house horror film "Antichrist" (2009). Later that year, she released her third studio album, IRM - the French acronym for MRI or "magnetic resonance imaging" - which was produced by pop powerhouse Beck. The album and its title were the product of an experience two years prior, when she was rushed to a Paris hospital weeks after a waterskiing accident had left her with severe headaches, She ended up undergoing emergency brain surgery for a cerebral hemorrhage. It was during her time spent inside the noisy, claustrophobic confines of the MRI machine that the actress-singer distracted herself with thoughts of music, which would form the basis for the third album.
Back on film, Gainsbourg starred as a newly-widowed mother trying to help her four children cope with their tragic loss in the family drama "The Tree" (2010). She soon returned to work with von Trier in the apocalyptic tale "Melancholia" (2011), in which she played a wealthy woman whose reaction to the impending end of the world stands in direct contrast to that of her eerily calm, deeply depressed younger sister (Kirsten Dunst). The film - in particular, co-star Dunst's performance and the unfortunate comments made by von Trier at a press conference - proved to be one of the more talked about entries at the 64th Annual Cannes Film Festival.
By Bryce Coleman
Cast (Feature Film)
Music (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Made film debut in "Paroles et musiques/Love Songs"
Appeared in the incest-themed drama "Charlotte Forever," starring and directed by her father; also recorded the controversial duet with her father titled "Lemon Incest"
Became a leading actress with "L'Effrontee"
Released her debut album <i>Charlotte for Ever</i>
Starred in "Kung Fu Masters"; written by her mother
Gained first notice in America with "The Little Thief"
Appeared in "The Cement Garden"; helmed by her uncle Andrew Birkin
Landed title role in the remake "Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre"
Played the lead in photographer in David Bailey's feature directorial debut "The Intruder"
Played the younget of three sisters coping with the impending Christmas holidays in "La Buche"
Co-starred in the TNT miniseries "Nuremberg"
Starred opposite Philippe Torreton in "Felix et Lola," directed by Patrice Leconte
Had leading role in Yvan Attal's "Ma Femme est une Actrice/My Wife Is an Actress"
Featured in "21 Grams," which also starred Benicio Del Toro and Naomi Watts
Sang a duet with French pop star Étienne Daho on his single "If"
Co-starred in Michel Gondry's "The Science of Sleep"
Released first album in 20 years, <i>5:55</i>
Starred in the Italian film "The Golden Door," written and directed by Emanuele Crialese
Joined an ensemble cast for Todd Haynes' "I'm Not There," about the life of musician Bob Dylan
Co-starred with Anthony Hopkins and Laura Linney in the film "The City of Your Final Destination"
Co-starred in Lars von Trier's controversial film "Antichrist"
Released the Beck-produced electropop album <i>IRM</i>
Re-teamed with Von Trier, co-starring opposite Kirsten Dunst in the apocalyptic drama "Melancholia"