Isabelle Adjani

Isabelle Yasmina Adjani (born 27 June 1955) is a French film actress and singer. She is the only actress or actor in history to win five César Awards; she won Best Actress for Possession (1981), One Deadly Summer (1983), Camille Claudel (1988), La Reine Margot (1994), and Skirt Day (2009). She was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour in 2010, and a Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters in 2014.

Isabelle Adjani
Isabelle Yasmina Adjani

(1955-06-27) 27 June 1955
Paris, France[1]
Alma materUniversity of Vincennes
OccupationActress, singer
Years active1970–present
Partner(s)Bruno Nuytten
Daniel Day-Lewis

Adjani's performance as Adèle Hugo in the 1975 film The Story of Adele H. earned her the first of two nominations for the Academy Award for Best Actress. Her second nomination—for Camille Claudel—made her the first French actress to receive two nominations for foreign-language films. She won Best Actress at the 1981 Cannes Film Festival for her performances in Possession and Quartet, and, later, she won the Silver Bear for Best Actress at the 1989 Berlin Film Festival for Camille Claudel. Her other notable film performances include The Tenant (1976), Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979), Subway (1985), Diabolique (1996), and French Women (2014).

Early life and education

Isabelle Yasmina Adjani was born on 27 June 1955 in the 17th arrondissement of Paris, to Mohammed Cherif Adjani, an Algerian Kabyle father from Constantine, and Emma "Gusti" Augusta Schweinberger, a German Catholic mother from Bavaria.[2][3][4][5][6][7]

"Gusti" met Adjani's father, Mohammed Adjani, near the end of World War II, when he was in the French Army. They married and she returned with him to Paris, not speaking a word of French.[8][9] She asked him to take Cherif as his first name as it sounded more "American".[10]

Isabelle grew up bilingual, speaking French and German fluently,[11][12][13] in Gennevilliers, a northwestern suburb of Paris, where her father worked in a garage.[14] After winning a school recitation contest, Adjani began acting by the age of 12 in amateur theater. She successfully passed her baccalauréat and was auditing classes at the University of Vincennes in 1976.[3]

Adjani had a younger brother, Éric, who was a photographer. He died on 25 December 2010, aged 53.


At the age of 14, Adjani starred in her first motion picture, Le Petit Bougnat (1970).[15] She first gained fame as a classical actress at the Comédie-Française, which she joined in 1972. She was praised for her interpretation of Agnès, the main female role in Molière's L'École des femmes. She soon left the theatre to pursue a film career.

After minor roles in several films, she enjoyed modest success in the 1974 film La Gifle (The Slap), which François Truffaut saw. He immediately cast her in her first major role in his The Story of Adèle H. (1975) which he had finished writing five years prior. Critics praised her performance,[3] with the American critic Pauline Kael describing her acting talents as "prodigious".[16]

Only 19 when she made the film, Adjani was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar, making her the youngest best actress nominee at the time (a record she held for over 30 years). She quickly received offers for roles in Hollywood films, such as Walter Hill's 1978 crime thriller The Driver. She had previously turned down the chance to star in films like The Other Side of Midnight. She had described Hollywood as a "city of fiction" and said, "I'm not an American. I didn't grow up with that will to win an award." Truffaut on the other hand said, "France is too small for her. I think Isabelle is made for American cinema."[3] She agreed to make The Driver because she was an admirer of Hill's first film Hard Times. Adjani said:

I think he is wonderful, very much in the tradition of Howard Hawks, lean and spare. The story is contemporary but also very stylized, and the roles that Ryan and I play are like Bogart and Bacall. We are both gamblers in our souls and we do not show our emotions or say a lot. For us, talk is cheap. I am really quite a mysterious girl in this film, with no name and no background. And I must say that it is restful not to have a life behind me; this way, I don't have to dig deep to play the part. All I know is that life for me is gambling and I am a loser. I have what people call a poker face.[17]

The film was seen more than 1.1 million times in Adjani's native France but did not do as well in the US.[18]

She played Lucy in the German director Werner Herzog's 1979 remake of Nosferatu which was well-received critically and performed well at box offices in Europe.[19] Roger Ebert loved the film, calling Herzog's casting of Adjani one of his "masterstrokes" in the film. He wrote that she "is used here not only for her facial perfection but for her curious quality of seeming to exist on an ethereal plane."[20] The cast and the crew filmed both English- and German-language versions simultaneously upon request of 20th Century Fox, the American distributor,[21] as Kinski and Ganz could act more confidently in their native language.

In 1981, she received a double Cannes Film Festival's Best Actress award for her roles in the Merchant Ivory film Quartet, based on the novel by Jean Rhys, and in the horror film Possession (1981). The following year, she received her first César Award for Possession, in which she had portrayed a woman having a nervous breakdown. In 1983, she won her second César for her depiction of a vengeful woman in the French blockbuster One Deadly Summer. That same year, Adjani released the French pop album Pull marine, written and produced by Serge Gainsbourg. She starred in a music video for the hit title song, "Pull Marine", which was directed by Luc Besson.

In 1988, she co-produced and starred in a biopic of the sculptor Camille Claudel. She received her third César and second Oscar nomination for her role in the film, becoming the first French actress to receive two Oscar nominations. The film was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

She received her fourth César for the 1994 film Queen Margot, an ensemble epic directed by Patrice Chéreau. She received her fifth César for Skirt Day (2009), the most that any actress has received. The film features her as a middle school teacher in a troubled French suburb who takes her class hostage when she accidentally fires off a gun she found on one of her students. It was premiered on the French Arte channel on 20 March 2009, attaining a record 2.2 million viewers) and then in movie theaters on 25 March 2009.[22]

Personal life

In 1979, Adjani had a son, Barnabé Saïd-Nuytten, with the cinematographer Bruno Nuytten,[11] whom she later hired to direct her project Camille Claudel, a biopic of the sculptor who was best known as the lover of Rodin.[14]

From 1989 to 1995, she had a relationship with Daniel Day-Lewis,[11] who left before the birth of their son, Gabriel-Kane Day-Lewis, in 1995.[23]

Adjani was later engaged to the composer Jean-Michel Jarre; they broke up in 2004.[23]

Political views


In addition to specific awards for particular films, Adjani was made a Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur on 14 July 2010 for her artistic contributions.[30]


Year Film Role Director Notes
1970 Le Petit bougnat Rose Bernard Toublanc-Michel
1972 Faustine et le bel été Camille Nina Companeez
1973 L'école des femmes Agnès Raymond Rouleau TV movie produced by the Comédie-Française
1974 L'avare Mariane René Lucot TV movie produced by the Comédie-Française
Le secret des Flamands Maria Robert Valey TV movie
La Gifle Isabelle Doulean Claude Pinoteau Special David di Donatello
Ariane Ariane Pierre-Jean de San Bartolomé
1975 The Story of Adèle H. Adèle Hugo François Truffaut Cartagena Film Festival Golden India Catalina for Best Actress
David di Donatello for Best Foreign Actress
National Board of Review Award for Best Actress
National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actress
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress
Nominated—Academy Award for Best Actress
Nominated—César Award for Best Actress
Ondine Ondine Raymond Rouleau TV movie
1976 The Tenant Stella Roman Polanski
Barocco Laure André Téchiné Nominated—César Award for Best Actress
1977 Violette et François Violette Clot Jacques Rouffio
1978 The Driver The Player Walter Hill
1979 Nosferatu the Vampyre Lucy Harker Werner Herzog Bambi Award for Best Actress
The Brontë Sisters Emily Brontë André Téchiné
1981 Clara et les Chics Types Clara Jacques Monnet
Possession Anna/Helen Andrzej Żuławski Cannes Film Festival Best Actress Award
César Award for Best Actress
Quartet Marya Zelli James Ivory Cannes Film Festival Best Actress Award
L'Année prochaine... si tout va bien Isabelle Maréchal Jean-Loup Hubert
1982 Tout feu, tout flamme Pauline Valance Jean-Paul Rappeneau
The Last Horror Film Herself David Winters
Antonieta Antonieta Rivas Mercado Carlos Saura
1983 Mortelle randonnée Catherine Leiris/Lucie, 'Marie' Claude Miller
One Deadly Summer Eliane known as 'Elle' Jean Becker César Award for Best Actress
1984 Pull marine Luc Besson Short film
1985 Subway Héléna Luc Besson Nominated—César Award for Best Actress
1986 T'as de beaux escaliers tu sais Isabelle Agnès Varda Short
1987 Ishtar Shirra Assel Elaine May
1988 Camille Claudel Camille Claudel Bruno Nuytten César Award for Best Actress
Silver Bear for Best Actress at Berlin[31]
Nominated—Academy Award for Best Actress
1990 Lung Ta: Les cavaliers du vent Narrator Marie-Jaoul de Poncheville
Franz-Christoph Giercke
1993 Toxic Affair Pénélope Philomène Esposito
1994 Queen Margot Margot Patrice Chéreau César Award for Best Actress
1996 Diabolique Mia Baran Jeremiah S. Chechik
1998 Paparazzi Herself Alain Berbérian
1999 Bonne Nuit Yvette
2002 La Repentie Charlotte/Leïla Laetitia Masson
Adolphe Ellénore Benoît Jacquot Cabourg Romantic Film Festival Award for Best Actress
2003 Bon voyage Viviane Denvers Jean-Paul Rappeneau
Monsieur Ibrahim et les fleurs du Coran The Star François Dupeyron
2008 Figaro Countess Almaviva Jacques Weber
La journée de la jupe Sonia Bergerac Jean-Paul Lilienfeld César Award for Best Actress
Lumières Award for Best Actress
Globes de Cristal Award for Best Actress
2010 Mammuth The Lost Love of Serge Gustave de Kervern
Benoît Delépine
Entered into the 60th Berlin International Film Festival
2011 Aïcha Doctor Assoussa Yamina Benguigui TV series (Episode: "Job à tout prix")
De Force Clara Damico Frank Henry
2012 David et Madame Hansen Madame Hansen-Bergmann Alexandre Astier
2013 Ishkq in Paris Marie Elise Prem Raj Bollywood movie
2014 Sous les jupes des filles Lili Audrey Dana
2016 Carole Matthieu Carole Matthieu Louis-Julien Petit
2017 Call My Agent! Herself Jeanne Herry TV series (1 episode)
2018 The World Is Yours Dany Romain Gavras

Music video

See also


  1. Brennan, Sandra. "Isabelle Adjani". Allmovie. Retrieved 6 July 2009.
  2. Michel David (2008). Isabelle Adjani: la tentation sublime. Imago. p. 55. ISBN 978-2-84952-070-3.
  3. People Magazine. "Isabelle Adjani Has the Face That's Launching a Thousand Scripts". Retrieved 23 March 2012.
  4. Love Film. "French Heartbreakers". Archived from the original on 16 January 2013. Retrieved 23 March 2012.
  5. Chantal, Thompson; Phillips, Elaine (2012), "Trois grandes stars françaises: Isabelle Adjani", Mais Oui!, Volume 1, Cengage Learning, p. 13, ISBN 1-111-83582-9
  6. Auzias, Dominique; Labourdette, Jean-Paul (2006), "Les comediens: Isabelle Adjani", Hauts de Seine, Petit Futé, p. 35, ISBN 2-7469-1351-8
  7. The Middle East Quarterly. "Islam in France: The French Way of Life Is in Danger". Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  8. Isabelle Adjani : " Mon père, kabyle, s'était engagé dans l'armée française à 16 ans, et c'est en remontant d'Italie jusqu'en Bavière à la fin de la seconde guerre mondiale qu'il rencontre et séduit ma mère " Interview with Isabelle Adjani, Télérama, 31 March 2009
  9. "A German woman met in Bavaria who was married at the end of the Second World War by Mohammed Adjani, a Kabyle soldier in the French army", Jean de La Guérivière, Amère Méditerranée: Le Maghreb et nous, Seuil, 2004, p.391
  10. "My mother was Bavarian. She felt very uncomfortable in France, where she had arrived without speaking a word of French. She couldn't stand the fact that her husband was Algerian. She said he was of Turkish origin and I believed her. Between my parents, there was conjugal racism. My mother used to call my father a jerk and my father would say, "You dirty Kraut. His name was Mohammed but my mother had forced him to change his first name. On our mailbox, there was: Cherif Adjani. My mother thought it looked American."Adjani la vérité, Interview Isabelle Adjani, Le Nouvel Observateur, 1985
  11. "Isabelle Adjani". Yahoo! Movies. Retrieved 6 July 2009.
  12. Kemp, Philip. "Isabelle Adjani". Film Reference. Retrieved 8 September 2008.
  13. Applefield, David (November 2001). "Isabelle Adjani". Paris Voice.
  14. Collins, Glenn (6 January 1990). "The 'Hounding' of Isabelle Adjani". New York Times.
  15. Isabelle Adjani on IMDb
  16. Kael, Pauline (1980). When The Lights Go Down. Henry Holt & Co. ISBN 0-03-042511-5.
  17. Flatley, Guy (12 August 1977). "At the Movies: Isabelle Adjani Finds Poker Easy; Cheating Takes Practice". New York Times. p. C7.
  18. JP. "The Driver (1978)- JPBox-Office".
  19. "Nosferatu the Vampyre". 17 January 1979 via IMDb.
  20. Ebert, Roger (24 October 2011). "Nosferatu the Vampyre Movie Review (1979)". Chicago Sun-Times. Sun-Times Media Group. Retrieved 3 November 2013.
  21. "Nosferatu". Retrieved 29 May 2008.
  22. "La journée de la jupe". Archived from the original on 9 May 2013.
  23. Watson, Shane (15 August 2004). "The dumping game". The Times. UK. Retrieved 19 June 2007.
  24. "Adjani traite le pape de "peste blanche"". 20 Minuten. 25 March 2009.
  25. "Signez la pétition pour Roman Polanski !" (in French). La Règle du jeu. 10 November 2009.
  26. Hirini, Rangi (6 July 2017). "France to make 11 vaccines compulsory in 2018". SBS News. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  27. Bonier, Sylvie (19 September 2018). "Isabelle Adjani: "Je ne suis qu'une humble «mélophile"". Le Temps. Retrieved 22 March 2019.
  28. Inter producers (29 September 2017). "Isabelle Adjani : vaccination et contre-vérités". France Inter. Retrieved 27 March 2019.
  29. Dryef, Zineb (9 October 2017). "Isabelle Adjani, nouvelle icône des " antivax "". Le Monde. Retrieved 26 March 2019.
  30. "Légion d'honneur : Aubrac, Bouygues, Pérol, Adjani, Bolling parmi les promus", Le Monde, 14 juillet 2010
  31. "Berlinale: 1989 Prize Winners". Retrieved 10 March 2011.

Further reading

  • Adjani, Isabelle (1980). Isabelle Adjani in : Jean-Luc Douin (Hrsg.): Comédiennes aujourd'hui : au micro et sous le regard. Paris: Lherminier. ISBN 2-86244-020-5
  • Austin, Guy (2003). Foreign bodies: Jean Seberg and Isabelle Adjani, S. 91–106 in: ders., Stars in Modern French Film. London: Arnold. ISBN 0-340-76019-2
  • Austin, Guy (2006). Telling the truth can be a dangerous business : Isabelle Adjani, race and stardom, in : Remapping World Cinema : Identity, Culture and Politics in Film, herausgegeben von Stephanie Dennison und Song Hwee Lim, London: Wallflower Press. ISBN 1-904764-62-2
  • Halberstadt, Michèle (2002). Adjani aux pieds nus – Journal de la repentie. Paris: Editions Calmann-Lévy. ISBN 2-7021-3293-6
  • Roques-Briscard, Christian (1987). La passion d'Adjani, Lausanne et al.: Favre. ISBN 2-8289-0279-X
  • Zurhorst, Meinolf (1992). Isabelle Adjani : ihre Filme, ihr Leben. Heyne Film – und Fernsehbibliothek, Band 163. München: Heyne. ISBN 9783453052383
  • Rissa, Alvaro (pseudonimo di Walter Lapini) (2015), Ode an Isabelle, in Antologia della letteratura greca e Latina, Genova: Il Melangolo. ISBN 978-88-6983-004-4
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