Possessing a unique blend of innocence and sexuality, the alarmingly pretty, almond-eyed Virginie Ledoyen has delivered performances every bit as striking as her good looks and has arguably become the preeminent French actress of her generation. Along the way she has drawn comparisons to the likes of Jeanne Moreau, Brigitte Bardot, Isabelle Adjani and Sophie Marceau and seems poised to make her mark in English-language films as well. A model at the age of two, she began acting in commercials soon after and landed her first movie bit at age nine in "Les Exploits d'un jeune Don Juan/The Exploits of a Young Don Juan" (1987). She later starred as "Mima," the sweet child who sees the men who take her grandfather away to kill him in Philomene Esposito's attractive first feature, and played a teenager adopted by a bizarre Argentine expatriate (Marcello Mastroianni) in "Le Voleur d'enfants/The Children Thief" (both 1991).
No less a personage than the esteemed director Marcel Carne recognized her talent early, casting her in the title role of his comeback feature "Mouche." Ledoyen appeared on his arm at Cannes in 1992 as the octogenarian raised money for the project, put on hold after a few days of fall shooting due to bad weather and insurance problems surrounding Carne's age and failing health. Her first real notice came as a rebellious teen committed to an institute after a shoplifting spree in Olivier Assayas' "L'Eau froide/Cold Water" (1993), and she has credited Assayas as an inspiration, but it would remain for director Benoit Jacquot to make her star. They first teamed for the costume epic "La Vie de Marianne" (1994), a TV miniseries which drew one of the highest-ever ratings for the French channel Arte, followed by "La Fille seule/A Single Girl" (1995), a surprise hit in the USA, establishing her in the words of NEW YORK TIMES critic Stephen Holden as "a luminous natural screen presence."
Jacquot told the almost stream-of-conscience tale of Valerie (the titular "Single Girl") in real-time, following the hotel worker in and out of rooms on her first day of work as she ponders her new pregnancy and her relationship with a boyfriend whom she has instructed to wait in a cafe. Returning to the cafe, she breaks off the affair, choosing independence and life as a single mother over what she perceives as a less satisfying alternative. Subsequently, Jacquot's "Marianne" (1997), a 90-minute feature distillation from his 1994 miniseries, served almost as a companion piece to "A Single Girl," showcasing Ledoyen's appealing presence as a 15-year-old orphan with beauty and smarts to spare who receives proposals of marriage from all quarters while sympathetic viewers root for her not to accept any. Ledoyen also added to her following with popular portrayals as the love object in Edward Yang's clever Taipei-made spy comedy "Mahjong" (1996) and as another pregnant girl, this time in a middle-class family, in Claude Chabrol's thriller "La Ceremonie/The Ceremony" (1996), co-starring Isabelle Huppert.
Much as Jacques Demy had done for Catherine Deneuve in "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" (1964), the Demy-like musical "Jeanne and the Perfect Guy" (1998) provided an almost uninterrupted homage to Ledoyen's photogenic personality and physique. Part of the fine ensemble for Assayas' "Late August, Early September," considered the director's most mature effort to date, she starred opposite Guillame Canet (as her bartender boyfriend) in "En Plein coeur/In All Innocence" (both also 1998), a remake of the 1958 Bardot film "En Cas de malheur" in which she played an alluring thief (Bardot's role) who has an affair with her lawyer. After making her English language debut that year in the small role of a young mother who gives up her child in "A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries," she increased her American exposure immeasurably in "The Beach" (2000). The triangular love story reteamed her with Canet as a French couple who encounter Leonardo DiCaprio while backpacking through Thailand, accompanying him in search of a utopian paradise. She subsequently returned to French television in a miniseries version of "Les Miserables" (2000), starring Gerard Depardieu and John Malkovich and acted in the acclaimed comedic murder mystery "8 Women" for which she won an ensemble award at the Berlin Film Festival in 2002.
Cast (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Began modeling as a toddler at age two (date approximate)
At age nine, made stage acting debut in "L'affaire du courrier de Lyon" (date approximate)
Film debut, "The Exploits of a Young Don Juan"
Played the title role of "Mima", a sweet 12-year-old who sees the men who take her grandfather away to kill him
Had supporting role in "Le Voleur d'enfants/The Children Thief"
Directed by Marcel Carne in uncompleted "Mouche", put on hold in fall of the year due to bad weather and production insurance problems owing to the director's age and failing health
Appeared in the French telefilm "La Regle de l'homme"
Acted with Jacqueline Bisset and Jean-Hugues Anglade in "Les Marmottes/The Groundhogs"
Initial collaboration with Benoit Jacquot, the French TV miniseries "La Vie de Marianne", adapted from the unfinished novel by 18th Century French writer Marivaux
Breakthrough role in "L'Eau froid/Cold Water", directed by Olivier Assayas
Had title role in Jacquot's "La Fille seule/A Single Girl"; received 1996 Cesar Award nomination as most promising young actress
Co-starred in Claude Chabrol's "La Ceremonie", alongside Isabelle Huppert and Sandrine Bonnaire
Acted in Edward Yang's "Mahjong"
Appeared again in title role of Jacquot's "Marianne", a 90-minute distillation from the helmer's 1994 miniseries
Starred opposite Mathieu Demy in "Jeanne and the Perfect Guy", a musical recalling those directed by Demy's father Jacques (particularly "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" 1964 and "The Young Girls of Rochefort" 1967), earned Paris Film Festival Best Actress Award
Reteamed with Assayas for fine ensemble pic, "Late August, Early September"
Made American film debut as a young mother who gives her son up for adoption in the Merchant Ivory production "A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries"; first English-language role
Starred opposite Guillaume Canet (as her bartender boyfriend) in "En Plain coeur/In All Innocence", a remake of the 1958 Brigitte Bardot film "En cas de malheur"; played the Bardot role of a young thief who has an affair with her lawyer
Signed by L'Oreal as a commercial spokesperson
Attended Cannes as a representative of L'Oreal, one of the official partners of the festival; also a member of the jury to select the best short film
Reteamed with Canet to play a couple who encounter a traveler (Leonardo DiCaprio) in the triangular love story "The Beach", adapted from the cult novel by Alex Garland
Acted in French miniseries version of "Les Miserables", starring Gerard Depardieu and John Malkovich; aired in USA on Fox Family Channel in January 2001
Appeared in Francois Ozon's "8 Femmes"
Appeared in "Bon voyage" with Gérard Depardieu
Co-starred with Daniel Auteuil in Francis Veber's "The Valet"
Appeared in the child trafficking drama, "Holly"