Olivier Assayas

Olivier Assayas (born 25 January 1955) is a French film director, screenwriter and film critic.

Olivier Assayas
Assayas in 2010
Born (1955-01-25) 25 January 1955
OccupationFilm director, screenwriter, film critic
Years active1977–present
Maggie Cheung
(m. 1998; div. 2001)
Partner(s)Mia Hansen-Løve (2009–2017)

Life and career

Assayas was born in Paris, France, the son of French director/screenwriter Raymond Assayas, alias Jacques Rémy (1911–1981). His father was of Turkish-Jewish origin who had settled in Italy, while his mother was of Protestant Hungarian origin.[1][2][3][4] Assayas started his career in the industry by helping his father. He ghostwrote episodes for TV shows his father was working on when his health failed. In a 2010 interview, Assayas stated that his main political influences when growing up were Guy Debord and George Orwell.[5] Speaking of the 1968 May uprising to overthrow General de Gaulle, Assayas in the same interview stated: "I was defined by the politics of May '68, but for me May '68 was an anti-totalitarian uprising. People seemed to forget that at the occupied Odéon theater, you had crossed flags-black and red, and I was on the side of the black element."[6]

He made his debut in 1986, after directing some short films and writing for the influential film magazine Cahiers du cinéma.

Assayas's film Cold Water was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival.[7]

His biggest hit to date has been Irma Vep, starring Hong Kong star Maggie Cheung, which manages to be a tribute both to French director Louis Feuillade and to Hong Kong cinema.

While working at Cahiers du cinéma, Assayas wrote lovingly about European film directors he admires but also about Asian directors. One of his films, HHH: A Portrait of Hou Hsiao-hsien, is a documentary about Taiwanese filmmaker Hou Hsiao-hsien.

He married Hong Kong movie actress Maggie Cheung in 1998. They divorced in 2001, but their relationship remained amicable, and in 2004 Cheung made her award-winning film Clean with him.

He met actress-director Mia Hansen-Løve when Hansen-Løve, seventeen at the time, starred in Assayas's 1998 feature Late August, Early September, but "[they] didn't get together until [she] was 20".[8] They separated in 2017.

He directed and co-wrote the acclaimed 2010 French television miniseries Carlos, about the life of the terrorist Ilich Ramírez Sánchez. Venezuelan actor Édgar Ramírez won the César Award for Most Promising Actor in 2011 for his performance as Carlos.

In April 2011, it was announced that he would be a member of the jury for the main competition at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.[9]

His 2012 film, Something in the Air, was selected to compete for the Golden Lion at the 69th Venice International Film Festival.[10] Assayas won the Osella for Best Screenplay at Venice.[11] His 2014 film Clouds of Sils Maria was selected to compete for the Palme d'Or in the main competition section at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.[12] Sils Maria won the Louis Delluc Prize and garnered six César Award nominations including Best Film, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay. The film won a César Award for Best Supporting Actress for American actress Kristen Stewart.[13][14] In 2016, Assayas won Best Director Award (Cannes Film Festival) for Personal Shopper, which also starred Kristen Stewart.[15]

On June 29, 2017, it was announced that Assayas would preside over the 2017 70th anniversary Locarno Film Festival.[16]

Style and influences

In an interview with Nick Pinkerton of Reverse Shot, Assayas talked about his influences:

That radicality in cinema involved just being outside of the world of modern images, and the key to it was the work of Robert Bresson, who has been by far the most important influence in my work, and intellectually it's been the influence of Guy Debord—basically, you know, it's been Debord-Bresson, Bresson-Debord, the things that've always defined my framework, the way I look at the world.[17]


Year Title Credited as Notes
Director Screenwriter
1978 Nuit féline Yes Short film
1979 Copyright Yes Short film
1980 Rectangle - Deux chansons de Jacno Yes Short film
1980 Scopitone Yes Yes Short film
1982 Étoiles et toiles Yes TV series documentary
1982 Laissé inachevé à Tokyo Yes Yes Short film
1984 Winston Tong en studio Yes Short documentary
1985 Rendez-vous Yes
1985 Passage secret Yes
1986 L'Unique Yes
1986 Scene of the Crime Yes
1986 Disorder Yes Yes
1987 Avril brisé Yes
1989 Winter's Child Yes Yes
1990 Filha da Mãe Yes
1991 Paris Awakens Yes Yes Prix Jean Vigo
1993 A New Life Yes Yes
1994 Cold Water Yes Yes
1994 Tous les garçons et les filles de leur âge... Yes Yes TV series
1996 Irma Vep Yes Yes
1997 Cinéma, de notre temps Yes Yes TV series documentary (Episode: HHH - Un portrait de Hou Hsiao-hsien)
1998 Man Yuk: A Portrait of Maggie Cheung Yes Documentary short
1998 Late August, Early September Yes Yes
1998 Alice and Martin Yes
2000 Sentimental Destinies Yes Yes Nominated—Cannes Film Festival-Palme d'Or
2002 Demonlover Yes Yes Nominated—Cannes Film Festival-Palme d'Or
2004 Clean Yes Yes Nominated—Cannes Film Festival-Palme d'Or
2006 Paris, je t'aime Yes Yes Segment: "Quartier des Enfants Rouges"
2006 Metric Yes Video documentary (idea)
2006 Noise Yes Documentary
2007 Boarding Gate Yes Yes
2007 To Each His Own Cinema Yes Yes Segment: "Recrudescence"
2007 Stockhausen / Preljocaj Dialogue Yes TV Movie documentary
2008 Eldorado Yes TV Movie documentary
2008 Summer Hours Yes Yes Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Foreign Language Film
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Foreign Language Film
National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Foreign Language Film
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Foreign Language Film
Toronto Film Critics Association Award for Best Foreign Language Film
2010 Carlos Yes Yes Globes de Cristal Award for Best Television Film or Television Series
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Director
Satellite Award for Best Miniseries
Nominated—César Award for Best Director
Nominated—European Film Award for Best Director
Nominated—Lumières Award for Best Film
Nominated—Lumières Award for Best Director
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special
2012 Something in the Air Yes Yes Venice Film Festival-Golden Osella for Best Original Screenplay
Venice Film Festival-Fondazione Mimmo Rotella Award
Nominated—Venice Film Festival-Golden Lion
2014 Clouds of Sils Maria Yes Yes Louis Delluc Prize
Nominated—Cannes Film Festival - Palme d'Or
Nominated—César Award for Best Film
Nominated—César Award for Best Director
Nominated—César Award for Best Original Screenplay
2016 Personal Shopper Yes Yes Cannes Film Festival - Best Director
2017 Based on a True Story Yes Co-written with Roman Polanski
2018 Non-Fiction Yes Yes Associated with Lý Nhã Kỳ[18]
2019 Wasp Network Yes Yes


  1. "Olivier Assayas Interview". Outside In Tokyo.
  2. Chouaki, Yasmine (1 June 2012). "2. Michka Assayas (rediffusion)". RFI. Retrieved 1 October 2012.
  3. "Michka Assayas Ecrivain et journaliste français". Evene. Retrieved 1 October 2012.
  4. "Olivier Assayas • Great Director profile • Senses of Cinema". www.sensesofcinema.com.
  5. White, Rob "Interview with Olivier Assayas" pages 74-77 from Film Quarterly, Volume 64, Issue # 2, Winter 2010 page 75.
  6. White, Rob "Interview with Olivier Assayas" pages 74-77 from Film Quarterly, Volume 64, Issue # 2, Winter 2010 page 77.
  7. "Festival de Cannes: Cold Water". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 31 August 2009.
  8. Morris, Octavia (27 June 2010). "The film that changed my life: Mia Hansen-Løve". guardian.co.uk. London. Retrieved 25 September 2010.
  9. "The Jury of the 64th Festival de Cannes". Cannes. 20 April 2011. Retrieved 20 April 2011.
  10. "Venezia 69". labiennale. Archived from the original on 28 July 2012. Retrieved 26 July 2012.
  11. "Official Awards of the 69th Venice Film Festival". labiennale. Archived from the original on 12 September 2012. Retrieved 9 September 2012.
  12. "2014 Official Selection". Cannes. Retrieved 17 April 2014.
  13. Keslassy, Elsa (16 December 2014). "Olivier Assayas' 'Sils Maria' Wins Louis Delluc Prize".
  14. César Award for Best Supporting Actress
  15. Tartaglione, Nancy (22 May 2016). "Ken Loach's 'I, Daniel Blake' Takes Palme D'Or; Director Joins Double-Winners Club – Cannes".
  16. "Olivier Assayas to Preside Over Locarn Film Festival". 29 June 2017. Retrieved 29 June 2017.
  17. Pinkerton, Nick. "Another interview with Olivier Assayas". Reverse Shot.
  18. Lý Nhã Kỳ thân thiết với chồng cũ của Trương Mạn Ngọc Hương Bùi Thứ Ba, ngày 12/12/2017 14:04 PM (GMT+7

Further reading

  • Olivier Assayas, A Post-May Adolescence. Letter to Alice Debord, FilmmuseumSynemaPublikationen Vol. 17, Vienna: SYNEMA - Gesellschaft für Film und Medien, 2012, ISBN 978-3-901644-44-3
  • Kent Jones (Ed.), Olivier Assayas, FilmmuseumSynemaPublikationen Vol. 16, Vienna: SYNEMA - Gesellschaft für Film und Medien, 2012, ISBN 978-3-901644-43-6
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