Juliette Binoche is a French actress, artist and dancer. She has appeared in more than 50 feature films, been recipient of numerous international awards, and has appeared on stage and in movies across the world. Coming from an artistic background, she began taking acting lessons during adolescence. After performing in several stage productions, she began acting in films by auteur directors Jean-Luc Godard (Je vous salue, Marie, 1985), Jacques Doillon (La Vie de famille, 1985) and André Téchiné, who made her a star in France with the leading role in his 1985 drama Rendez-vous. Her sensual performance in her English-language debut The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988), directed by Philip Kaufman, launched her international career.
She sparked the interest of Steven Spielberg, who offered her several parts including a role in Jurassic Park which she declined, choosing instead to join Krzysztof Kieślowski in Trois couleurs Bleu (1993), a performance for which she won the Venice Film Festival Award for Best Actress and a César. Three years later Binoche gained further acclaim in Anthony Minghella's The English Patient (1996), for which she was awarded an Academy Award and a BAFTA for Best Supporting Actress in addition to the Best Actress Award at the 1997 Berlin International Film Festival. For her performance in Lasse Hallström's romantic comedy Chocolat (2000), Binoche was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress.
During the 2000s she maintained a successful career, alternating between French and English language roles in both mainstream and art-house productions. In 2010, she won the Best Actress Award at the Cannes Film Festival for her role in Abbas Kiarostami's Copie conforme making her the first actress to win the European "Best Actress Triple Crown" (for winning best actress awards at the Berlin, Cannes and Venice film festivals).
Throughout her career Binoche has intermittently appeared on stage, most notably in a 1998 London production of Luigi Pirandello's Naked and in a 2000 production of Harold Pinter's Betrayal on Broadway for which she was nominated for a Tony Award. In 2008 she began a world tour with a modern dance production in-i devised in collaboration with Akram Khan. Often referred to as "La Binoche" by the press, her other notable performances include: Mauvais sang (1986), Les Amants du Pont-Neuf (1991), Damage (1992), Le hussard sur le toit (1995), Code inconnu (2000), Caché (2005), Breaking and Entering (2006), Le Voyage du ballon-rouge (2007), Camille Claudel 1915 (2013), Sils Maria (2014) and L'attesa (2015).
“I don’t look back on the past because I like to live in the present.
I know this makes some people think I probably never cared,
but I need my freedom and I like to keep moving.”
Binoche was born in Paris, the daughter of Jean-Marie Binoche, a director, actor, and sculptor, and Monique Yvette Stalens, a teacher, director, and actress. Her father, who is French, also has one eighth Portuguese-Brazilian ancestry; he was raised partly in Morocco by his French-born parents. Binoche’s mother was born in Częstochowa, Poland. Her maternal grandfather, Andre Stalens, was born in Poland, of Belgian (Walloon) and French descent, and Binoche’s maternal grandmother, Julia Helena Młynarczyk, was of Polish origin. Both were actors who were born in Częstochowa; during the Nazi occupation they were imprisoned at Auschwitz because they were considered to be intellectuals.
When her parents divorced in 1968, four-year-old Binoche and her sister, Marion, were sent to a provincial boarding school. During their teens, the Binoche sisters spent their school holidays with their maternal grandmother, not seeing either parent for months at a time. Binoche has stated that this perceived parental abandonment had a profound effect on her.
She was not particularly academic and in her teenage years she began acting at school in amateur stage productions. At 17, she directed and starred in a student production of the Eugène Ionesco play, Le Roi se Meurt. She studied acting at the Conservatoire National Supérieur d’Art Dramatique (CNSAD), but quit after a short time as she disliked the curriculum. In the early 1980s, she found an agent through a friend and joined a theater troupe with which she toured France, Belgium and Switzerland under the pseudonym Juliette Adrienne. Around this time she began lessons with acting coach Vera Gregh.
Her first professional screen experience was as an extra in the three part TF1 television series Dorothée, danseuse de corde (1983) directed by Jacques Fensten, which was followed by a similarly small role in the provincial television film Fort bloqué (1983) directed by Pierrick Guinnard. Following this Binoche secured her first feature film appearance with a minor role in Pascal Kané’s Liberty Belle (1983). Her role required just two days on set, but was enough to inspire Binoche to pursue a career in film.
Binoche’s early films would see her established as a French star of some renown. In 1983, she auditioned for the female lead in Jean-Luc Godard’s’ controversial Je vous salue, Marie (1985), a modern retelling of the Virgin birth. Godard requested a meeting with Binoche having seen a photo of her taken by her boyfriend of the time. She has said that she spent six months on the set of the film in Geneva, although her role in the final cut is contained to only a few scenes. Further supporting roles followed in a variety of French films: Annick Lanoë’s Les Nanas (1985) was to give Binoche her most substantial role to date, playing opposite established stars Marie-France Pisier and Macha Meril, in a mainstream comedy. However, she has stated that the experience was not particularly memorable or influential. She gained more significant exposure in Jacques Doillon’s critically acclaimed La Vie de famille (1985), which cast her as the volatile teenage step-daughter of Sami Frey’s central character. This film was to set the tone of her early career. Doillon has commented that in the original screenplay the character was written to be 14 years old, he was so impressed with Binoche’s audition that he changed the character’s age to 17 to allow her take the role. In April 1985, Binoche followed this with another supporting role in Bob Decout’s Adieu blaireau (1985), a ‘policier’ thriller starring Philippe Léotard and Annie Girardot. Adieu blaireau failed to have much impact with critics or audiences.
It was to be later in 1985 that Binoche would fully emerge as a leading actress with her role in André Téchiné’s Rendez-vous (1985) She was cast at short notice when Sandrine Bonnaire, who had been originally cast, had to abandon the film due to a scheduling conflict. Rendez-vous premiered at the 1985 Cannes Film Festival, winning Best Director. The film was a sensation and Binoche became the darling of the 1985 festival. Rendez-vous is the story of a provincial actress, Nina (Binoche), who arrives in Paris and embarks on a series of dysfunctional liaisons with several men, including the moody, suicidal Quentin (Lambert Wilson). However it is her collaboration with theatre director Scrutzler, played by Jean-Louis Trintignant, which comes to define Nina. In a review of Rendez-vous in Film Comment, Armond White described it as “Juliette Binoche’s career defining performance”.
In 1986, Binoche was nominated for her first César for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her performance in the film. Following Rendez-vous, she was unsure of what role to take next. She auditioned unsuccessfully for Yves Boisset’s Bleu comme l’enfer and Robin Davis’s Hors la loi, but was eventually cast in Mon beau-frère a tué ma soeur (1986) by Jacques Rouffio opposite the popular French stars Michel Serrault and Michel Piccoli. This film was a critical and commercial failure. Binoche has commented that Rouffio’s film is very significant to her career as it taught her to judge roles based on the quality of the screenplay and her connection with a director, not on the reputation of other cast members. Later in 1986, she again starred opposite Michel Piccoli in Leos Carax’s Mauvais sang (1986). This film was a critical and commercial success, leading to Binoche’s second César nomination. Mauvais sang is an avant-garde thriller in which she plays Anna the vastly younger lover of Marc (Piccoli) who falls in love with Alex (Denis Lavant), a young thief. Binoche has stated that she, “discovered the camera”, while shooting this film.
In August 1986, Binoche began filming Philip Kaufman’s adaptation of Milan Kundera’s novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988), portraying the young and innocent Tereza. Released in 1988, this was Binoche’s first English language role and was a worldwide success with critics and audiences alike. Set against the USSR’s invasion of Prague in 1968, the film tells the story of the relationships a Czech surgeon, Tomas (Daniel Day-Lewis), has with his wife Tereza and his lover Sabina (Lena Olin). Binoche has stated that at the time her English was very limited and that she relied on a French translation to fully grasp her role while learning her lines phonetically. After this success, Binoche decided to return to France rather than pursue an international career. In 1988, she filmed the lead in Pierre Pradinas’s Un Tour de manège, a little-seen French film opposite François Cluzet. She has stated that her attraction to this film was that it gave her the opportunity to work with close friends and family. Pradinas is the husband of her sister Marion Stalens who was set photographer on the film and appeared in a cameo role. In the summer of 1988, Binoche returned to the stage in an acclaimed production of Anton Chekhov’s La Mouette directed by Russian director Andrei Konchalovsky at Théâtre De L’odéon in Paris.
Later that year she began work on Léos Carax’s Les Amants du Pont-Neuf (1991). The film was beset by problems and took three years to complete, requiring investment from three producers and funds from the French government. When finally released in 1991, Les Amants du Pont-Neuf was a critical success. Binoche won a European Film Award as well as securing her third César nomination for her performance. In the film Binoche portrays an artist who lives rough on the famous Parisian bridge where she meets another young vagrant played by Denis Lavant. This iconic part of the city becomes the backdrop for a wildly passionate love story and some of the most visually arresting images of the city ever created. The paintings featured in the film were Binoche’s own work. She also designed the French poster for the film that features an ink drawing of the eponymous lovers locked in embrace. During a break in filming in 1990, Binoche spent five days shooting Mara (1991) for Mike Figgis, based on Henry Miller’s Quiet Days in Clichy. This 30-minute film was part of HBO’s anthology film Women & Men 2 (1991). The film became somewhat contentious when, according to Mike Figgis, HBO altered it once he had completed it. The film premiered on HBO in the US on 18 August 1991.
At this point, Binoche seemed to be at a crossroads in her career. She was recognised as one of the most significant French actresses of her generation. However, the long production of had forced her to turn down several significant roles in international productions including La Double Vie de Veronique by Krzysztof Kieślowski, Cyrano de Bergerac by Jean-Paul Rappeneau, Nuit et Jour by Chantal Akerman and Beyond the Aegean, an aborted project with Elia Kazan. Now Binoche chose to pursue an international career outside France.
The 1990s saw Binoche cast in a series of international films that were critical and commercial successes, winning her praise and awards. This period saw her persona develop from that of a young gamine to a more melancholic, tragic presence. Critics suggested that many of her roles were notable for her almost passive intensity in the face of tragedy and despair. In fact Binoche has nicknamed her characters from this period as her “sorrowful sisters”. Following the long shoot of Les Amants du Pont-Neuf, Binoche relocated to London for productions of Wuthering Heights (1992) and Damage (1992), both of which considerably enhanced her international profile. Yet, from a professional and personal point of view, both films were significant challenges for Binoche; being cast opposite Ralph Fiennes’s Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, instead of English actresses Helena Bonham Carter and Kate Beckinsale, was immediately contentious and drew derision from the British press, unimpressed that a uniquely English role had been given to a French actress. The film had its world premiere at the 1992 Edinburgh International Film Festival. Reviews were poor, with Binoche being cynically dubbed “Cathy Clouseau” and being derided for her “franglais” accent. Both Binoche and director Peter Kosminsky distanced themselves from the film, with Binoche refusing to do any promotion for the film or to re-dub it into French.
Damage, a UK and French co-production, is the story of a British conservative minister played by Jeremy Irons who embarks on a torrid affair with his son’s fiancée (Binoche). Based on the novel by Josephine Hart and directed by veteran French director Louis Malle, Damage seemed to be the ideal international vehicle for Binoche. However the production was wrought with difficulties and dogged by rumours of serious conflict. In an on-set interview, Malle stated that it was the “most difficult” film he had ever made, while Binoche commented, “the first day was one big argument”. Damage opened in the UK late in 1992 and debuted early in 1993 on US screens. Reviews were somewhat mixed. For her performance, Binoche received her fourth César nomination.
In 1993, she appeared in Krzysztof Kieślowski's Trois couleurs Bleu (1993) to much critical acclaim The first film in a trilogy inspired by the ideals of the French republic and the colors of its flag, Bleu is the story of a young woman who loses her composer husband and daughter in a car accident. Though devastated she learns to cope by rejecting her previous life in favour of conscious "nothing"; rejecting all people, belongings and emotions. Trois couleurs Bleu premiered at the 1993 Venice Film Festival, landing Binoche the Best Actress Prize. She also won a César, and a nomination for the Golden Globe. Binoche has said her inspirations for the role were her friend and coach Vernice Klier who suffered a similar tragedy, and the book The Black Veil by Anny Duperey which deals with the author's grief at losing her parents at a young age. Binoche made cameo appearances in the other two films in Kieślowski's trilogy, Trois Couleurs Blanc (1994) and Trois Couleurs Rouge (1994). Around this time, Steven Spielberg offered her roles in Jurassic Park and Schindler's List. She turned down both parts. After the success of Trois couleurs Bleu, Binoche took a short sabbatical during which she gave birth to her son Raphaël in September 1994.
In 1995, Binoche returned to the screen in a big-budget adaptation of Jean Giono’s Le hussard sur le toit (1995) directed by Jean-Paul Rappeneau. The film was particularly significant in France as it was, at the time, the most expensive film in the history of French cinema. Le hussard sur le toit was a box-office success around the world and Binoche was again nominated for a César for Best Actress. This role, as a romantic heroine, was to color the direction of many of her subsequent roles in the late 1990s. In 1996, Binoche appeared in her first comedic role since Mon beau-frère a tué ma soeur a decade before; Un Divan à New York (1996) was directed by Chantal Akerman and co-starred William Hurt. This screw-ball comedy tells the story of a New York psychiatrist who swaps homes with a Parisian dancer. The film was a critical and commercial failure. Trois couleurs Bleu, Le hussard sur le toit and Un Divan à New York all gave Binoche the opportunity to work with prestigious directors she had turned down during the prolonged shoot of Les Amants du Pont-Neuf.
Her next role, in The English Patient, reinforced her position as an international movie star. The film, based on the novel by Michael Ondaatje and directed by Anthony Minghella, was a worldwide hit. Produced by Saul Zaentz, producer of The Unbearable Lightness of Being, the film reunited Juliette Binoche with Ralph Fiennes, Heathcliff to her Cathy four years previously. Binoche has said that the shoot on location in Tuscany and at the famed Cinecittà Studios in Rome was among the happiest professional experiences of her career. The film, which tells the story of a badly burned, mysterious man found in the wreckage of a plane during World War II, won nine Academy Awards, including Best Supporting Actress for Juliette Binoche. With this film, she became the second French actress to win an Oscar, following Simone Signoret’s win for Room at the Top in 1960. After this international hit, Binoche returned to France and began work opposite Daniel Auteuil on Claude Berri’s Lucie Aubrac, the true story of a French Resistance heroine. Binoche was fired from the film six weeks into the shoot due to differences with Berri regarding the authenticity of his script. Binoche has described this event as being like “an earthquake” to her.
Next Juliette Binoche was reunited with director André Téchiné for Alice et Martin (1998), the story of a relationship between an emotionally damaged Parisian musician and her younger lover who hides a dark family secret. The film failed to find an audience in France, although it was critically acclaimed in the UK and the US. In February 1998 Binoche made her London stage debut in a new version of Luigi Pirandello’s Clothe the Naked retitled Naked and adapted by Nicolas Wright. The production, directed by Jonathan Kent, was very favourably received. Following this acclaimed performance, she returned to French screens with Les Enfants du Siècle (1999), a big budget romantic epic, in which she played 19th-century French proto-feminist author George Sand. The film depicted Sand’s affair with the poet and dandy Alfred de Musset played by Benoit Magimel. This lavish costume drama was filmed on location in Paris and Venice and featured couture costumes by the renowned fashion designer Christian Lacroix. Late in 1999 Binoche took a break from acting when she welcomed a daughter Hana.
The following year saw Binoche return in four contrasting roles, each of which enhanced her reputation. La Veuve de Saint-Pierre (2000) by Patrice Leconte, for which she was nominated for a César for Best Actress, was a period drama which saw Binoche appear opposite Daniel Auteuil in the role of a woman who attempts to save a condemned man from the guillotine. The film won favourable reviews, particularly in the US where it was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film.
Next she appeared in Michael Haneke’s Code inconnu (2000), a film that was made following Binoche’s approach to the Austrian director. The film premièred in competition at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival. This critically acclaimed role was a welcome change from playing the romantic heroine in a series of costume dramas. Later that year, Binoche made her Broadway debut in an adaptation of Harold Pinter’s Betrayal for which she was nominated for a Tony Award. Staged by the Roundabout Theatre Company and directed by David Leveaux, the production also featured Liev Schreiber and John Slattery. Back on screen, Binoche was the heroine of the Lasse Hallström film Chocolat (2000) adapted from the best selling novel by Joanne Harris. For her role Binoche won a European Film Audience Award for Best Actress and was nominated for an Academy Award and a BAFTA. Chocolat is the story of a mysterious stranger who opens a chocolaterie in a conservative French village in 1959. The film was a worldwide hit.
Between 1995 and 2000, Binoche was the advertising face of the Lancôme perfume Poême, her image adorning print campaigns photographed by Richard Avedon and a television advertising campaign, including an advert directed by Anthony Minghella and scored by Gabriel Yared. By the end of this period and following roles in a number of prestige productions, critics were wondering if Binoche was typecast as the tragic, despairing muse. In a feature article entitled The Erotic Face in the June 2000 edition of British film criticism magazine Sight and Sound, Ginette Vincendeau pondered Binoche’s persona; Vincendeau suggested that the fixation of successive directors upon her face had led to an erasure of her body, and to her being perceived only as a romantic icon rather than a versatile actress.
Following the success of Chocolat, the early 2000s saw Binoche internationally recognized as an A-list movie star. However, her persona seemed to be somewhat fixed following a series of period roles where she played the always-stoic heroine facing tragedy and desolation. Keen to try something new, Binoche returned to French cinema in an unlikely role; Décalage horaire (2000) opposite Jean Reno saw Binoche play a dizzy beautician. The film, directed by Daniele Thompson, was a box-office hit in France and saw Binoche once again nominated for a César for Best Actress. Décalage horaire is the light-hearted story of a couple who meet at an airport during a strike. Initially the pair despises each other, but, over the course of one night, they find common ground and maybe even love. This playful spirit continued when Binoche featured in a 2003 Italian television commercial for the chocolates Ferrero Rocher. The advertisement played upon her Chocolat persona featuring Binoche handing out the chocolates to people on the streets of Paris.
In a more serious vein, Binoche travelled to South Africa to make John Boorman’s In My Country (2004) opposite Samuel L. Jackson. Based on the book Country of My Skull by Antjie Krog, the film examines The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) hearings following the abolition of Apartheid in the mid-1990s. Although the film premiered at the prestigious 2004 Berlin International Film Festival, it received much criticism for the inclusion of a fictional romantic liaison and for its depiction of black South Africans in only supporting roles. Despite the negative reception, Binoche was extremely enthusiastic about the film and her connection with Boorman. Her sister, Marion Stalens, also travelled to South Africa to shoot a documentary, La reconciliation?, which explores the TRC process and follows Binoche’s progress as she acts in Boorman’s film. Next, Binoche re-teamed with Michael Haneke for Caché. The film was an immediate success, winning best director for Haneke at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival, while Binoche was nominated for a European Film Award for Best Actress for her role. The film tells the story of a bourgeois Parisian couple, played by Binoche and Daniel Auteuil, who begin to receive anonymous videotapes containing footage shot over long periods, surveying the outside of their home. Caché went on to feature in the number one position on the “Top 10 of the 2000s” list published by The Times at the end of the decade.
Binoche’s next film, Bee Season (2005), based on the celebrated novel by Myla Goldberg, cast her opposite Richard Gere. The film was not a success at the box office and for many critics, the film, although intelligent, was “distant and diffuse”. Bee Season depicts the emotional disintegration of a family just as their daughter begins to win national spelling bees. Mary (2005) featured Binoche in a somewhat unlikely collaboration with the controversial American director Abel Ferrara for an investigation of modern faith and Mary Magdalene’s position within the Catholic Church. Featuring Forest Whittaker, Matthew Modine and Marion Cotillard, Mary was a success, winning the Grand Prix at the 2005 Venice Film Festival. Despite these accolades and favourable reviews, particularly from the cultural magazine Les Inrockuptibles, Mary failed to secure a distributor in key markets such as the US and the UK.
The Cannes Film Festival in 2006 saw Binoche feature in the anthology film Paris, je t’aime (2005) appearing in a section directed by the Japanese director Nobuhiro Suwa. Suwa’s Place des Victoires is the story of a grief-stricken mother who manages to have a final brief moment with her dead son. The segment also features Willem Dafoe and Hippolyte Girardot. Paris, je t’aime was a popular success, taking over $17 million, at the world box-office. In September 2006, Binoche appeared at the Venice Film Festival to launch Quelques Jours en Septembre, written and directed by Santiago Amigorena. Despite an impressive cast including John Turturro, Nick Nolte and up-coming French star Sara Forestier, the film was a failure. Quelques Jours en Septembre is a thriller set between 5 and 11 September 2001, in which Binoche plays a French secret service agent, who may, or may not have information relating to impending attacks on the US. The film was the recipient of harsh criticism from the press for its perceived trivialization of the events of 11 September 2001. While promoting the film in the UK, Binoche told an interviewer she believed the CIA and other government agencies must have had foreknowledge of the 11 September attacks, as depicted in the film.
Next Binoche traveled to the 2006 Toronto Film Festival for the premiere of Breaking and Entering (2005), her second film with Anthony Minghella in the director’s chair, based on his first original screenplay since his break-through film Truly, Madly, Deeply (1991). In Breaking and Entering, Binoche played a Bosnian refugee living in London, while Jude Law co-starred as a well-to-do businessman drawn into her life via an act of deception. In preparation for her role, Binoche travelled to Sarajevo where she met women who had survived the war of the 1990s. Lushly photographed by Benoît Delhomme, Breaking and Entering portrays intersecting lives amongst the flux of urban renewal in inner-city London. Despite the fact that Binoche was praised for her performance, the film did not ring true for critics and failed to find an audience. In a review in Variety, Todd McCarthy writes that, “Binoche, physically unchanged as ever, plays Amira’s controlled anguish with skill”. Breaking and Entering also featured Robin Wright, Vera Farmiga, Juliet Stevenson, Rafi Gavron and Martin Freeman.
Although Binoche began the decade on a professional high with an Academy Award nomination for Chocolat, she struggled at the beginning of the 2000s to secure roles that did not confine her to the tragic, melancholic persona developed in the 1990s. Despite the huge success of Caché, other high profile films such as In My Country, Bee Season and Breaking and Entering failed critically and commercially, Binoche seemed to be at a crossroads in her career.
2007 was the start of a particularly busy period for Binoche, one that would see her take on diverse roles in a series of critically acclaimed international movies giving her film career a new impetus, as she shed the restrictions that seemed to have stifled her career in the early part of the decade. The Cannes Film Festival saw the premiere of Le Voyage du ballon-rouge (2007) by the Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien. It was originally conceived as a short film to form part of a 20th anniversary tribute to the Musée D’Orsay, to be produced by Serge Lemoine president of the museum. When that idea failed to find sufficient funding, Hou developed it into a feature-length film and secured the necessary financing. The film was well received by international critics and went on to debut around the world early in 2008. Paying homage to Albert Lamorisse’s 1957 short Le Ballon Rouge, Hou’s film tells the story of a woman’s efforts to juggle her responsibilities as a single mother with her commitment to her career as a voice artist. Shot on location in Paris, the film was entirely improvised by the cast. The film was number one on the influential critic J. Hoberman’s “Top 10 List” for 2008 published in The Village Voice.
Disengagement (2007) by Amos Gitai premiered out-of-competition at the 2007 Venice Film Festival. Co-starring Liron Levo and Jeanne Moreau, Disengagement is a political drama charting the story of a French woman, of Dutch/Palestinian origin, who goes in search of a daughter she abandoned 20 years previously on the Gaza Strip. She arrives in Gaza during the 2005 Israeli disengagement. The film won the prestigious Premio Roberto Rossellini and was critically acclaimed, particularly by the eminent Cahiers du Cinema. However the film proved more controversial in Israel where state television station Channel 1 withdrew financial support for the film citing the “left-wing nature of Gitai’s films”.
In stark contrast, Peter Hedges co-wrote and directed the Disney-produced Dan in Real Life (2007), a romantic comedy featuring Binoche alongside Steve Carell. It was released in October 2007, becoming a popular commercial success in the US, before debuting around the world in 2008. The film grossed over $65 million at the worldwide box-office. Dan in Real Life is the story of a widowed man (Carell) who meets, and instantly falls for, a woman (Binoche), only to discover she is the new girlfriend of his brother. The film also features Dane Cook, Emily Blunt and Diane Weist.
Back in France, Binoche was seen to popular and critical success in Paris (2008) directed by Cédric Klapisch. Paris is Klapisch’s personal ode to the French capital and features an impressive ensemble of French talent, including Romain Duris, Fabrice Luchini and Mélanie Laurent. Paris was one of the most successful French films internationally in recent years, having grossed over $22 million at the world box office. Binoche and Klapisch had originally met on the set of Mauvais sang in 1986, where Klapisch was working as a set electrician.
Also in France, l’Heure d’été (2008), directed by Olivier Assayas, is the critically acclaimed story of three siblings who struggle with the responsibility of disposing of their late mother’s valuable art collection. The film premièred in France in March 2008 and had its US debut at the 2008 New York Film Festival, before going on general release. Widely acclaimed, the film was nominated for the Prix Louis Delluc in France and appeared on numerous US “Top 10 lists”, including first place on David Edelstein’s “Top 10 of 2009” list in New York Magazine, and J.R. Jones’s list in the Chicago Reader. l’Heure d’été also features Charles Berling, Jérémie Renier and Édith Scob.
In the autumn of 2008, Binoche starred in a theatrical dance production titled in-i, co-created with renowned choreographer Akram Khan. The show, a love story told through dance and dialogue, featured stage design by Anish Kapoor and music by Philip Sheppard. It premièred at the National Theatre in London before embarking on a world tour. Writing in The Australian, John McCallum wrote that, “Binoche has a radiant presence as an actor, her dancing is relaxed and naturalistic”, while The Sunday Times in the UK commented that, “Binoche’s physical achievement is incredible: Khan is a master mover”. The production was part of a ‘Binoche Season’ titled Ju’Bi’lations, also featuring a retrospective of her film work and an exhibition of her paintings, which were also published in a bilingual book Portraits in Eyes. The book features ink portraits of Binoche as each of her characters and of each director she had worked with up to that time. She also penned a few lines to each.
In April 2006 and again in December 2007, Binoche travelled to Tehran at the invitation of Abbas Kiarostami. While there in 2007, she shot a cameo appearance in his film Shirin (2008) which he was shooting at the time. Binoche’s visit proved controversial when two Iranian MPs raised the matter in parliament, advising more caution be exercised in granting visas to foreign celebrities that might lead to “cultural destruction”. In June 2009 Binoche began work on Copie conforme (2010) directed by Kiarostami. The film was an Official Selection in competition at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival. Binoche won the Best Actress Award at the festival for her performance. The film went on general release in France on 19 May 2010 to very positive reviews. Her win at the 2010 Cannes Film festival made Binoche the first actress to win the European “best actress triple crown”: Best Actress at Venice for Trois couleurs Bleu, Best Actress at Berlin for The English Patient and Best Actress at Cannes for Copie conforme.
The September 2010 UK release of Copie conforme was overshadowed when French actor Gérard Depardieu made disparaging comments about Binoche to the Austrian magazine Profil, “Please can you explain to me what the mystery of Juliette Binoche is meant to be?” he said. “I would really like to know why she has been so esteemed for so many years. She has nothing – absolutely nothing!” In response, while promoting Copie conforme in the UK, Binoche spoke to movie magazine Empire saying, “I don’t know him. I understand you don’t have to like everyone and you can dislike someone’s work. But I don’t understand the violence [of his statements]... I do not understand why he is behaving like this. It is his problem.” Copie conforme proved to be controversial in Kiarostami’s homeland when Iranian authorities announced on 27 May 2010 that the film was to be banned in Iran, apparently due to Binoche’s attire; Deputy Culture Minister Javad Shamaqdari is quoted as saying, “If Juliette Binoche were better clad it could have been screened but due to her attire there will not be a general screening.”
Following the success of Copie conforme, Binoche appeared in a brief supporting role in The Son of No One (2011) for American writer and director Dito Montiel. The film also stars Channing Tatum, Al Pacino and Ray Liotta. The Son of No One premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival to fairly negative reaction. Anchor Bay Entertainment acquired the film for distribution in the US and other key territories arriving in selected US cinemas on 4 November 2011. According to film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, The Son of No One is Juliette Binoche’s least critically successful film, with only 18% of critics giving it a positive review.
In June 2010, Binoche started work on Elles (2012) for Polish director Malgoska Szumowska. Elles, produced under the working title Sponsoring, is an examination of teenage prostitution with Juliette Binoche playing a journalist for ELLE. The film was released in France on 1 February 2012 where it was met with mixed reviews. On 12 January 2011, Variety announced that Juliette Binoche would star in La Vie d’une autre (2012) loosely based on the novel by Frédérique Deghelt. Released in France on 15 February 2012, the film is the directorial debut of the French actress Sylvie Testud and co-stars actor/director Mathieu Kassovitz. The film is the story of Marie (Binoche) a young woman who meets and spends the night with Paul (Kassovitz). When she wakes up, she discovers that 15 years have passed. With no memory of these years she learns she has acquired an impressive career, a son and a marriage to Paul that seems headed for divorce. The film met with generally mixed reviews in France.
On 17 February 2011, Screendaily announced that Binoche had been cast in David Cronenberg’s film Cosmopolis (2012) with Robert Pattinson, Paul Giamatti, Mathieu Amalric, and Samantha Morton. Binoche appeared in a supporting role as a New York art dealer, Didi Fancher, who is having an affair with Pattinson’s Eric Packer. The film, produced by Paulo Branco, began principal photography on 24 May 2011 and was released in 2012, following a competition slot at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. Cosmopolis received mixed reviews from critics. August 2012 saw the French release of À cœur ouvert opposite Edgar Ramirez and directed by Marion Laine. Based on the novel Remonter l’Orénoque by Mathias Énard, the film is the story of the obsessive relationship between two highly successful surgeons. The film depicts the impact of an unexpected pregnancy and alcoholism on their relationship. The second film directed by Laine, À cœur ouvert met with tepid reviews in France and poor box office receipts.
The 2013 Berlin International Film Festival saw the release of Bruno Dumont’s Camille Claudel 1915 (2013), a drama which recounts three days during the thirty years French artist Camille Claudel (Binoche) spent in a mental asylum despite the fact that she had not been diagnosed with any malady. The film examines Claudel’s fight to maintain her sanity and her rejection of her innate creativity whilst awaiting a visit from her brother, the poet Paul Claudel. The film received excellent reviews with Binoche in particular gaining excellent reviews for her performance. The film won Best Film at the 2013 Brussels European Film Festival as well as scoring nominations for France’s prestigious Prix Louis Delluc and a Best Actress nomination for Juliette Binoche in the Lumiere Awards.
Following this Binoche completed work on A Thousand Times Good Night (2013)for Norweigan director Erik Poppe in which she plays a war photographer who struggles to balance the dangers of her profession with her family life. Appearing opposite Nicolaj Coster-Waldau, Binoche was lauded for her convincing performance. A Thousand Times Good Night won several significant awards including the Grand Prix at the 2013 Montréal International Film Festival and the Founder’s Award at the Chicago International Film Festival in the same year.
The romantic dramedy Words and Pictures (2013)with Clive Owen from veteran director Fred Schepisi was premiered at the 2013 Toronto Film Festival. Set in a New England prep school, Binoche and Owen star as an Art teacher and an English teacher pitted against each other in competition between her students’ pictures and his students’ words. Despite being praised for their performances, Words and Pictures failed to find approval from critics and had only a lackluster theatrical run. The film features original artwork that was created by Binoche for her role.
Unexpectedly, Binoche next made a short appearance in Gareth Edwards’s Godzilla (2014), which was theatrically released in May 2014. In response to surprise at her involvement in a studio blockbuster, Binoche confirmed that she accepted the role after receiving a letter from Edwards in which he referred to her as “The Queen of Acting”. The film won positive reviews and was a box-office success around the world.
The 2014 Cannes Film Festival saw Binoche reunite with Olivier Assayas, director of l’Heure d’été, for Clouds of Sils Maria (2014). The film written especially for Binoche following her approach to Assayas requesting he create a film with strong female characters. Clouds of Sils Maria also featured Kristen Stewart and Chloë Grace Moretz. Reaction to the film and the central performances was very strong with Binoche and Stewart in particular being lauded. Juliette Binoche was nominated for the César Award for Best Actress for her performance as a European actress who faces a personal crisis when, in middle age, she is offered a role in the play that made her famous at 18. This time she is to play the older manipulative woman. As she ponders age and fame and rehearses her scenes she begins to unravel emotionally.
In February 2015 at Grand Théâtre de Luxembourg, Binoche premiered her latest stage role, the titular character in Ivo Van Hove’s staging of Sophocle’s Antigone based on a new translation by Canadian poet Anne Carson. The production moved to Théâtre de la Ville in Paris and the Barbican in London before headlining the 2015 Edinburgh Festival and moving on to New York. Reviews were largely positive. The play was broadcast on television as part of the BBC Ancient Greece season.
February 2015 also saw the launch of Endless Night directed by Isabel Coixet which opened the Berlin Film Festival. The film tells the story of American high society wife Josephine Peary who follows her famed husband, the explorer Robert Peary, to the Arctic Circle hoping to join his expedition to the North Pole. Conditions are much more extreme than she ever imagined and Peary ends up stranded in a remote cabin with an Inuit woman played by Rinko Kickuchi. Reaction to the film was negative and sales agent Elle Driver removed the film from their slate. A significantly re-edited version of the film was launched by Metro International and released in Spain in November 2015 to more favourable reviews. For her role, Juliette Binoche was nominated for a Best Actress Goya Award, the Spanish equivalent of the Oscars.
Later in 2015, Binoche travelled to the Venice Film Festival for the world premiere of L’attesa (2015) opposite French actress Lou de Laâge and directed by first time helmer Piero Messina. L’attesa is the story of a French woman living as a recluse in Sicily following the death of her son. The arrival of the son’s ex-girlfriend interupts the woman’s grief and her refusal to tell the girl of her son’s death allows her to assume that he is still living. Critically acclaimed in Italy and in the world media, L’attesa gives Binoche the opportunity to once again exhibit her gift for the portrayal of grief and loss. For her role in L'attesa, Juliette Binoche was nominated for a Donatello Award for Best Actress.
Patricia Riggen's film The 33 saw Juliette Binoche take on the role of Maria Segovia sister to Dario Segovia, one of the Chilean miners who spent 66 days trapped underground. The film also stars Antonio Banderas, Rodrigo Santoro and Gabriel Byrne and is the exhilarating real-life account of the 2010 Chilean mining disaster.
The 2015 Cannes Film Festival saw the première of Ma Loute by Bruno Dumont who previously directed Juliette Binoche in the critically acclaimed Camille Claudel 1915. Ma Loute, also starring Fabrice Luchini and Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, is a burlesque comedy based in the Slack Bay region of Northern France. Set in 1910, the film tells the unusual story of two families linked by an unlikely romance. Ma Loute won much praise from French critics and was a popular success at the French box office.