Isabelle Adjani



Also Known As
Isabelle Yasmine Adjani
Birth Place
June 27, 1955


An ethereal beauty as well as one of the most formidable actresses of her generation, Isabelle Adjani won more Cesars - the French equivalent of the Oscar - than any other performer in history on the strength of her heart-rending performances in such acclaimed films as ""The Story of Adèle H." (1975), "Camille Claudel" (1988) and "Queen Margot" (1994). In these and other pictures, Adjani...

Family & Companions

Bruno Nuytten
Director of photography; director. Flemish; met in 1976; no longer together; father of Adjani's son Barnabe.
Warren Beatty
Actor. Together c. 1986-87.
Daniel Day-Lewis
Actor. Together c. 1988-94; father of Adjani's son Gabriel.


An ethereal beauty as well as one of the most formidable actresses of her generation, Isabelle Adjani won more Cesars - the French equivalent of the Oscar - than any other performer in history on the strength of her heart-rending performances in such acclaimed films as ""The Story of Adèle H." (1975), "Camille Claudel" (1988) and "Queen Margot" (1994). In these and other pictures, Adjani struck deep into the passionate, conflicted cores of her heroines, fleshing out their desires and sadness in extraordinarily nuanced performances, which earned her the respect of the critical press around the globe. She was less successful in winning over other members of the media, due to her reluctance to participate in the glad-handing and posturing that accompanied film promotion, as well as her stands on racial discrimination against North African immigrants like her Algerian father. Though her output slowed in the new millennium, her 2009 Cesar win for "La journée de la jupe" showed that Adjani had lost none of her power to mesmerize audiences with the scope and breadth of her astonishing talents. She remained one of France's national treasures, an actress by which all others could measure their abilities, for nearly four decades.

Born Isabelle Yasmine Adjani on June 27, 1955 in Gennevilliers, a suburb of Paris, France, she was the daughter of Mohammed Cherif Adjani, an Algerian who fought for the French during World War II, and a German mother, Augusta. Fluent in both French and German, she became interested in performing before an audience after winning a school prize for recitation, and soon began appearing in amateur stage productions as a preteen. At 14, she made her screen debut in "Le petit bougnat" ("The Little Coal Man") (1970), and would divide her time over the next few years between minor features and her schooling. Three years later, Adjani joined the famed state theater Comédie-Française, where she drew critical praise for performances in classical works, most notably in Molière's "The School for Wives." She soon signed a 20-year contract with the theater, only to break it shortly thereafter to pursue a career in film.

Almost immediately, Adjani began to impress the international cinema circuit, winning both the prestigious Prix Suzanne Bianchetti for Most Promising Young Film Actress and a special David from the Academy of Italian Cinema for her turn as a rebellious teenager in "La Gifle" ("The Slap") (1974). She bested that triumph the following year as the tormented daughter of novelist Victor Hugo in "The Story of Adèle H." (1975), which earned her a second David, as well as Oscar and César nominations, among countless other laurels. The film's success cemented her in the minds of moviegoers as an emotionally fragile, tragic heroine, and she would play variations on that role throughout her career. In "The Tenant" (1976), she played a young woman deceived by an unstable obsessive (director Roman Polanski), while in André Téchiné's "Barocco" (1976) her turn as a rootless, amoral girlfriend who transformed her boyfriend's killer into the image of her lost love earned her a Cesar nomination. Adjani made her American film debut in Walter Hill's neo-noir "The Driver" (1978), which owed a considerable debt to the work of French director Jean-Pierre Melville's metaphysical crime pictures. The following year, she gave her only performance in German as the self-sacrificing Lucy Harker in Werner Herzog's chilly remake of "Nosferatu the Vampyre" (1979), then added another doomed character portrait, that of Emily Bronte, in Téchiné's "The Bronte Sisters" (1979), to her growing list of ill-fated heroines.

Adjani claimed her first Cesar for Andrzej Zulawski's alarming and surreal "Possession" (1981), in which she played a woman whose agonies over a failed marriage appear to manifest in outbursts of homicidal mania and monstrous prodigies. That same year, she appeared as a woman taken in by a British couple (Maggie Smith and Alan Bates) with unseemly designs on her in James Ivory's "Quartet" (1981). So impressed was the Cannes Film Festival jury that year that they gave her Best Actress awards for both films, but her relationship with the festival would sour with 1983's "One Deadly Summer," a thriller that cast her as a disturbed young woman on the hunt for the men who raped her mother. She claimed a second Cesar for her performance, but at Cannes that year, she refused to cooperate with the press, avoiding interviews and refusing to be photographed. For many, Adjani's behavior underscored her standing as a serious actress interested more in her craft that promotion, while others viewed her as spoiled and self-centered. She would continue to generate controversy with the press throughout the remainder of her career, most notably in her efforts to speak out against the anti-immigrant French National Front. The group launched a smear campaign in 1986 that claimed Adjani was dying from AIDS, which forced her to appear on national television to confirm her good health.

To the surprise of many, Adjani generated even more unwanted headlines by becoming involved with actor-director Warren Beatty in 1986, and concurrently appearing in his infamous box-office bomb "Ishtar" the following year. Their relationship soon dissolved, and she returned to France to earn her third Cesar for "Camille Claudel" (1988), a biopic about the French sculptress (Adjani) and her tumultuous life, as well as her relationship with the artist Auguste Rodin (Gerard Depardieu). The film also marked Adjani's debut as producer, but the accolades for her accomplishments were largely drowned out by the roar of the press over her acceptance speech, in which she read aloud from Salman Rushdie's then-notorious Satanic Verses.

In 1994, Adjani set the record for most Cesars won by a single actress with "Queen Margot," a biopic of the 16th century royal who became caught in a power play between Catholic and Protestant forces in France. Its international success once again boosted her profile on the global cinema circuit, and she returned to Hollywood for "Diabolique," a remake of Henri-Georges Clouzout's acclaimed thriller "Les Diaboliques" (1955). The film, which co-starred Sharon Stone as the mistress of a cruel teacher (Chazz Palmintieri) who teamed with his wife (Adjani) to plot his murder, was a dismal failure, and for a period, Adjani stepped away from moviemaking to concentrate on political causes, including racial prejudice against North African immigrants and Algerian rebel activities. In 1997, she returned briefly to public view as president of the 50th Cannes Film Festival. Adjani returned to films in 2002 with the period romance "Adolphe," which also featured a cameo by Gabriel-Kane Day-Lewis, her son from a relationship with actor Daniel Day-Lewis. In 2009, she broke a six-year absence from acting with "La journée de la jupe" ("Skirt Day"), a tense thriller about a teacher (Adjani) who took her combative students hostage. Her high-intensity performance won her a fifth Cesar, and preceded a period of increased appearances in features and television.

By Paul Gaita

Life Events


Feature film acting debut aged 14 in "Le Petit Bougnat"


TV debut in "Le secret des Flamands/The Secret of the Flemish"5


Became youngest member of Comedie Francaise; refused 20 year membership; stayed for two years


First leading film role in "The Slap"


Gained international acclaim for title role as the mentally unbalanced daughter of author Victor Hugo in Francois Truffaut's "L'Histoire d'Adele H./The Story of Adele H."; earned Best Actress Oscar nomination


First collaboration with Bruno Nuytten, "Barocco"


First US film, "The Driver"


Returned to the stage in unsuccessful production of "Miss Julie"


First film as producer (also actress), "Camille Claudel"; directed by Nuytten; earned second Best Actress Academy Award nomination


Received praise for her portrayal of the titular monarch in "La Reine Margot/Queen Margot", directed by Patrice Chereau


Teamed with Sharon Stone in the remake of "Diabolique"


Made rare stage acting appearance in the title role of a Parisian production of "La Dame aux Camelias"


Returned to screen acting after a five-year hiatus starring in "The Repentent"


Had female lead in "Adolphe"


Assumed role originally meant for Sophie Marceau in "Bon Voyage", directed by Jean-Paul Rappeneau


Appeared in the drama "Monsieur Ibrahim et les fleurs du Coran"


Movie Clip

Super Cops, The (1974) -- (Movie Clip) Instruments Of Death Opening featuring news footage of the real life heroes (David Greenberg, Robert Hantz), director Gordon Parks introduces leads Ron Leibman and David Selby taking their oath, in The Super Cops, 1974.
Three Musketeers, The (1921) -- (Movie Clip) Behind The Luxembourg The obligatory and comical if deadly inaugural bonding event, as ruffian D’Artagnan (producer Douglas Fairbanks, in his first film in his newly-formed United Artists venture) engages in duels with the three established musketeers (Leon Barry, George Siegmann and Eugene Pallette as Athos, Porthos and Aramis), soon devolving into a larger scrap with Cardinal Richelieu’s guards, in The Three Musketeers, 1921.
Camille (1936) -- (Movie Clip) Buy Me Some Sweets Mid 19th-century Paris courtesan Marguerite (Greta Garbo) thinks Armand (Robert Taylor) is the Baron with whom she's being set up, as they first meet at the theater, until her friend Prudence (Laura Hope Crews) shows up, in MGM's Camille, 1936.
Camille (1936) -- (Movie Clip) You Look Ill, Too Feeling faint at a party, consumptive Marguerite (Greta Garbo, title character) retreats, followed by Armand (Robert Taylor) who professes his feelings, in MGM's Camille, 1936, from the Alexandre Dumas fils novel.
Last Wave, The (1977) -- (Movie Clip) He Stole Our Things Hillbilly bar in downtown Sydney, native Australian Billy (Athol Compton) panics when a gang of acquaintances (Walter Amagula, Roy Bara, Cedric Lalara, Morris Lalara) arrives, early in Peter Weir's The Last Wave, 1977.
Camille (1936) -- (Movie Clip) Marguerite Gautier A mild literary prologue then the introduction of Marguerite (Greta Garbo), as the "lady of the camelias," thus the name of the story, with friend prudence (Laura Hope Crews), George Cukor directing, in MGM's Camille, 1936.
Hanover Street (1979) -- (Movie Clip) When You Cross A Parakeet With A Tiger Introduction of Christopher Plummer as Paul, with his spouse, English military nurse Margaret (Lesley-Anne Down), whom we know is involved with an American pilot (Harrison Ford), young Patsy Kensit their precocious daughter, in Peter Hyams’ WWII romantic drama, Hanover Street, 1979.
Three Musketeers, The (1973) -- (Movie Clip) Bishop To Queen Two Director Richard Lester's smooth introductions of Cardinal Richelieu (Charlton Heston), the queen (Geraldine Chaplin) and King Louis XIII (Jean-Pierre Cassel), playing lawn-chess with pooches, in The Three Musketeers,1973, from George MacDonald Fraser's screenplay.
Corsican Brothers, The (1941) -- (Movie Clip) It Wasn't A Dream Introduction of second brother, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. again, as Mario, in Paris pursuing Isabella (Ruth Warrick), tangling with De Raveneau (Henry Brandon), twin Lucien in Corsica with sympathetic pain, in The Corsican Brothers, 1941.
Corsican Brothers, The (1941) -- (Movie Clip) Proud And Noble Name Douglas Fairbanks Jr. as both bandit Lucien and citified Mario, surgically separated at birth, meeting with their guardians Lorenzo (J. Carrol Naish) and Dr. Paoli (H.B. Warner) revealing their history, in The Corsican Brothers, 1941, from the Alexandre Dumas story.
Corsican Brothers, The (1941) -- (Movie Clip) They Were Born To Be One Dr. Paoli (H.B. Warner) has just separated the Siamese-twin Franchi sons and learned, with the DuPre's (Walter Kingsford, Nana Bryant), from Lorenzo (J. Carrol Naish) that their family has been slaughtered, whereby Lucien (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) is introduced, in The Corsican Brothers, 1941.
Black Magic (1949) -- (Movie Clip) His Cunning Gypsy Mind We know from narration (by Berry Kroeger as Alexandre Dumas) that gypsy Balsamo (Orson Welles) is a prodigiously gifted hypnotist, seen here just after he’s been discovered and bailed out of a Vienna jail by the professionally interested Dr. Mesmer (Charles Goldner), in Black Magic, 1949.



Mohammed Cherif Adjani
Muslim Algerian; served in French army; died c. 1983.
Eric Adjani
Appeared in Joseph Losey's film "Don Giovanni".
Barnabe Said Nuytten
Born c. 1980; father Bruno Nuytten.
Gabriel Kane Adjani
Born April 1995; father Daniel Day-Lewis.


Bruno Nuytten
Director of photography; director. Flemish; met in 1976; no longer together; father of Adjani's son Barnabe.
Warren Beatty
Actor. Together c. 1986-87.
Daniel Day-Lewis
Actor. Together c. 1988-94; father of Adjani's son Gabriel.