Audrey Tautou





Actress

Born August 9, 1978, in Beaumont, France.

Addresses:

Agent —c/o Claire Blondel, Artmedia 20, Avenue Rapp, 75001, Paris, France. E–mail — .

Career

Actress in films, including: Casting: Archi–dégueulasse, 1998; La vieille barrière, 1998; Vénus beauté (institut), 1999, aka Venus Beauty Institute, 2000; Triste à mourir, 1999; Épouse–moi, aka Marry Me 2000; Voyous voyelles, 2000, aka Pretty Devils, 2002; Le Libertin, aka The Libertine, 2000; Le battement d'ailes du papillon, 2000, aka Happenstance, 2001; Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain, aka Amélie, 2001; Dieu est grand, je suis toute petite, 2001, aka God Is Great, I'm Not, 2002; À la folie … pas du tout, aka He Loves Me … He Loves Me Not, 2002; L' auberge espagnole, 2002, aka The Spanish Apartment, 2003; Dirty Pretty Things, 2002; Les marins perdus, aka Lost Seamen, 2003; Pas sur la bouche, 2003; Nowhere to Go But Up, 2003; Un long dimanche de fiancailles, aka A Very Long Engagement, 2004. Television appearances include: Coeur de cible (movie), 1996; La vérité est un villain défaut (movie), 1997; Bébés boum (movie), 1998; Chaos technique (movie), 1998; Boiteux: Le baby blues (movie), 1999.

Awards:

Best Young Actress, Jeune Comedien de Cinema Festival, 1998; Cesar Award for Most Promising Actress, for Vénus beauté (institut), 1999.

Audrey Tautou

Sidelights

French actress Audrey Tautou rose from being completely unknown to become a film sensation not just in her native France, but also in the United States and around the world, as a result of her work in the film Amélie. The film became the highest–grossing French film ever released in the United States. For her work in the film, Tautou (pronouced toe–TOO) won a Cesar Award, the French equivalent of the American Academy Award.

Born in Beaumont, France, and raised in rural Montlucon, the young Tautou was very interested in monkeys and spent her childhood dreaming of becoming a primatologist, but as she grew older, her mother told Steven Rea in the Courier–Mail, she was "more interested in being the monkey, rather than taking care of them." She became interested in theater and performing, acting out the lives of others.

When she was 17, Tautou took an acting course at Cours Florent in Paris. At first, she was intimidated by the city, and particularly by the huge number of other aspiring actresses, all of whom seemed to be taller and more beautiful than she was. However, a friend pointed out that this was because she was living on the same block as the Elite modeling agency. In 1998, Tautou won the Best Young Actress award in the ninth Jeune Comedien de Cinema Festival, held in Bezier, France, for her work in the film Vieille barrière. Director Tonie Marshall noted the award and, impressed by the young actress, gave her a role in her 1999 film Vénus beauté (institut). At first, Tautou thought the director had dialed the wrong number when Marshall called the actress to offer her the role. In the film, Tautou played an impressionable hairstylist who falls in love with a much older man. She won a Cesar award for Most Promising Actress, the French equivalent of the American Academy Award, for her work in the film.

Director Jean–Pierre Jeunet was impressed by Tautou's performance in Vénus beauté (institut), as well as by her fairylike appearance. Although Jeunet originally wanted English actress Emily Watson for his new film Amélie, Watson refused the role for unspecified reasons. Casting about for another actresss, Jeunet noticed Tautou's face on a billboard advertising Vénus beauté (institut), and decided she was right for the role. He told the Courier–Mail 's Rea, "She was amazing during the [screen] test, exactly like she is in the film. It wasn't necessary to direct her."

In Amélie, Tautou played the title character, a Montmartre waitress who finds an old box of childhood treasures hidden under the floorboards of her apartment. She returns the box to its original owner and observes from a distance as his life is changed by the reunion with his beloved belongings. Struck by this transformation, Amélie comes up with more plans to change other people's lives through quirky actions and gifts, always done anonymously; most of the changes are positive, if the people deserve it, and a few are negative—also well–deserved. All is well until she meets a man, Nino, and eventually realizes she must transform her own life in the same way she has altered those of other people.

In Movie City News, a reporter quoted film critic Roger Ebert, who called the film "a delicious pastry of a movie, a lighthearted fantasy in which a winsome heroine overcomes a sad childhood and grows up to bring cheer to the needful and joy to herself." He described Tautou as "a fresh–faced waif who looks like she knows a secret and can't keep it." Tautou had little dialogue in the film, but this did not prevent her from being deeply expressive in the role. As Paul Fischer wrote at Dealmemo.com , "One of the many unique facets of the film is watching Tautou's visual expressiveness. With relatively minimal dialogue, the actress speaks with her face. It's an intricate, delicate performance.…" Tautou explained to Fischer, "When I play a character, I try to feel the same kinds of feelings as the character, depending on her different situations. And so, those feelings come via my face." She credited the director for the film's artistry; she told Fischer, "To me, Jean–Pierre is a genius. The only thing I gave for this role was my face and voice, because his universe is so precise and so extraordinary.…" She also joked to Fischer that the role was uncomplicated because she did not have much dialogue: "It was easier because I don't have to learn as many lines."

In the film, Jeunet paired Tautou with Mathieu Kassovitz as Nino. Kassovitz is a French actor who had also received a Cesar award for Most Promising Actor. Jeunet told the Courier–Mail 's Rea that the two actors had "beautiful chemistry" and audiences seemed to agree, packing movie houses and bringing in more than $78 million between April and December of 2001. At the Edinburgh and Toronto Film Festivals, the movie won the People's Choice Award, and was considered a potential contender for Best Foreign Film in that year's Academy Awards in the United States, although ultimately it did not win that honor. Moviegoers, however, showed their love for the film, as the real–life Montmartre cafe where Tautou's fictional character supposedly worked was mobbed by customers; so was a spice shop featured in the film. "People come into the cafe," Tautou told the Courier–Mail 's Rea. "They take pictures, they take pictures with the owner, some people even steal menus for souvenirs."

As a result of the film's success, Tautou found that she could no longer walk down the street without being recognized by fans. She jokingly told a People reporter that she realized she had made it big when she was in line at the airport: "The hostess was very nasty. When she saw me, she had this face as if she was watching the Virgin Mary." However, she told the Courier–Mail 's Rea that she understood why the film had made such an impact on viewers: "It's a film that makes people happy and we all need happiness in our lives, especially now." Interestingly, despite her sudden fame, Tautou has not been badgered by the press as much as she might have been in other countries. This is because French law requires that before publishing a photograph, the photographer must have the approval of its subject. Tautou told Carlo Cavagna of Aboutfilm.com , "It lets the paparazzi take the picture, but if they publish this picture, you have the choice to sue the newspaper. So me, I always sued them."

Tautou subsequently appeared in several films, including God is Great, I'm Not, He Loves Me … He Loves Me Not, and The Spanish Apartment, as well as four others. In Dirty Pretty Things, directed by Stephen Frears. Tautou played Senay, a young Turkish woman who is in England illegally, and who is struggling to make ends meet by working in a hotel. Actor Chiwetel Ejiofor played Okwe, a Nigerian illegal immigrant, who drives a cab when he is not working as an overnight clerk in the hotel. Together, they witness the criminal activity of their corrupt boss, who rents out empty hotel rooms for illegal activities; because they fear being deported, they keep quiet about this until his schemes threaten their lives.

For the role, Tautou not only had to learn to speak English, but also had to learn to speak it with a Turkish accent as well as to hide her French accent. She told the Movie City News, "It took an enormous amount of work.… As part of my preparations, I asked to meet some Turkish women, so I could learn the rhythms of their speech." Her speech coach, Penny Dyer, taped the conversations with these women and played them over and over. After this, they went over the entire script, highlighting every vowel and consonant with different–colored markers, so that Tautou would know how to pronounce them. She noted, "The most difficult thing for me was not knowing if I was saying something right, or not, because I knew so little English to begin with." Tautou spent only three weeks preparing for the role, rehearsing each scene shortly before it was filmed. She also commented that because of her success in the role, as well as her dark hair and eyes, many observers of her work think she has a non–French ethnic origin, that she might be part–Turkish, or that she "could be from North Africa or parts of Asia, or Italy and Spain," she told Movie City News. "But, as far as I know, I'm 100–percent French."

Part of Tautou's success in the role of Senay may have come from her compassion for people like her character. She told Aboutfilm.com 's Cavagna, "When you don't have any identity, any money, any passport, any work, you are nothing. There's many people who sleep on sidewalks and in their countries they were doctors, lawyers. This is very common." As an example, she cited the life of one of the cast members in the film, a woman who had been an actress in her home country and who came to London 20 years ago. Despite her acting background, she worked as a cleaning person for two decades until she got the chance to act again in Dirty Pretty Things.

Tautou teamed with director Jeunet again to produce A Very Long Engagement. The film, produced in France, included a role played by American actress Jodie Foster, who speaks French in the film. Tautou stars as Mathilde Donnay, a stubborn young woman who sets out to find out the truth about her soldier fiance, who disappeared at the end of World War I. A Very Long Engagement was scheduled for release in 2004.

Although Tautou did not rule out working in the United States on American films, she admitted to having turned down several offers from Hollywood. She told Aboutfilm.com 's Cavagna, "When you don't speak English, you need to be brave to do a movie in English, because you think, 'Why I am going to do a movie in a foreign language? I'm going to [stink]. Where is the interest?'" In addition, according to a profile at Internet Movie Database, Tautou noted that she would be choosy about accepting such roles if she ever did take one, accepting only those that met her standards: "I certainly don't want to be in Thingy Blah Blah 3, if you know what I mean." She told Aboutfilm.com 's Cavagna that she wasn't interested in her life as a career in the material sense, and that the American movie scene tended to overemphasize money: "You don't need to earn 20 million dollars. But, I think that if you do an American movie it's important to earn some money, but in a stupid way, to be respected." For herself, she said, "I'm interested in this work only because of the meaning I can make. After each experience, you grow up, you get enriched and you don't know how you're going to be in six months, you don't know what you're going to want, what you're going to need."

Sources

Periodicals

Courier–Mail (Brisbane, Australia), December 1, 2001, p. M12.

People, August 25, 2003, p. 125.

Online

"An Interview with Audrey Tautou," Movie City News, http://www.moviecitynews.com/Interviews/tautou.htm (November 17, 2003).

"Audrey Tautou, Amelie Interview," Dealmemo.com , http://www.dealmemo.com/Interview/Audrey_Tautou_Amelie.htm (November 17, 2003).

"Biography for Audrey Tautou," Internet Movie Database, http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0851582/bio/ (November 17, 2003).

"Profile and Interview: Audrey Tautou," Aboutfilm.com , http://www.aboutfilm.com/features/tautou/feature.htm (November 17, 2003).

Kelly Winters



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