Family & Companions
Though French actress Emmanuelle Béart claimed a César award for 1987's "Manon of the Spring" and an additional seven nominations between 1985 and 2001, she frequently drew more acclaim for her striking beauty and sensual screen presence. Béart made her screen debut as an adolescent in 1976, but did not truly pursue her craft until meeting Robert Altman during a visit to Canada. She soon returned to France, where she earned her César for "Manon" and began her screen career in earnest. Béart's comeliness would frequently prove a stumbling block in her pursuit of quality roles; more often than not, she took roles in minor films that hinged on her face and body. However, by 2001, she had amassed numerous César nominations and critically acclaim for emotionally intense turns in "Un Coeur en Hiver" ("The Heart in Winter") (1992) and "Nelly and Mr. Arnaud" (1995). Béart's commitment to French cinema sacrificed her chances at American stardom, but left the international film community with an exceptional body of work over the course of nearly four decades, which cemented her standing as one of France's most accomplished actresses.
Born Emmanuelle Béhart-Hasson on Aug. 14, 1965 on the French Riviera, she was the daughter of Guy Béart, a popular French poet and singer of Spanish-Swiss-Russian extraction, and Geneviève Galéa, a Greek-Maltese-Croatian mode. Béart's parents divorced when she was just nine months old, and she was raised with her five siblings in a small town in Provence. She found it difficult to find a place within a formal education environment, and was expelled from several different schools during her adolescence. During this period, she also fell in love with acting after seeing Romy Schneider in the film "Mado" (1976). She made her own film debut that same year in the post-apocalyptic drama "Tomorrow's Children." Three years later, Béart headed to Montreal at age 15 to become an au pair for a family friend. There, she also completed her education at Collège International Marie de France, and by chance met director Robert Altman, who wanted to cast her in an upcoming film. The feature was never produced, but he encouraged Béart to pursue acting. She soon returned to France, where she studied acting and landed her first substantive role in erotic filmmaker David Hamilton's "First Desires" (1983). Two years later, she earned a César nomination for her co-starring turn with actor Daniel Auteil in the comedy "L'amour en douce" ("Love on the Quiet") (1985). They soon became an onscreen couple, and eventually married in 1993, producing a daughter, Nelly, before divorcing in 1998.
Béart's breakout role came with Claude Berri's "Manon des Sources" ("Manon of the Spring") (1986), a sequel to "Jean de Florette" (1986). Béart played the title role in "Manon," an uninhibited young shepherd who sought revenge on wealthy landowner Yves Montand for his part in her father's death. The picture not only won her a César for Best Supporting Actress, but also established her as a star and international sex symbol. Following the success of "Manon," Béart worked steadily in European film, and even made her American film debut in "Date with an Angel" (1987), a dire comedy-fantasy in which she played a wounded angel pursued by a lovelorn Michael E. Knight. The picture underscored most casting directors' impression of her as a purely physical talent, and Béart fought to land more substantive roles throughout her career.
She found several worthy showcases for her abilities, most notably as an addict in "Les enfants du désorde" ("Children of Chaos") (1989), which earned her another César nod, as did her turn as a model who inspired artist Michel Piccoli to complete his long-gestating masterpiece in Jacques Rivette's "La Belle Noiseuse" ("The Beautiful Troublemaker") (1991). Béart's best screen role outside of "Manon" was undoubtedly "Un Coeur en Hiver" ("The Heart in Winter") (1992), Claudè Sautet's drama about a love triangle between Béart's high-strung violinist, an emotionally withdrawn music shop owner (Auteil) and his partner (André Dussollier). Her powerful performance earned yet another César nomination, but the film marked a brief period of decline for Béart, who treaded water in middling features until 1995, when she partnered with Michel Serrault for Sautet's "Nelly and Mr. Arnaud."
Critics praised her turn as Nelly, a woman trapped in an unhappy marriage whose life becomes infinitely more complicated after collaborating with businessman Serrault on his memoirs. Béart earned another César nomination for the film, and quickly followed it with "Une femme francaise" ("A French Woman") (1995) as a newlywed swept up in numerous affairs while her husband (Auteil) is imprisoned in a POW camp. Though not a financial success, the picture won her the Best Actress award from the Moscow Film Festival. After a minor, inconsequential turn as Jon Voight's wife in Brian De Palma's "Mission: Impossible" (1996), she abandoned future attempts to break into the American market and focused her energies on French cinema. Béart continued to earn laurels for her film appearances, most notably in Olivier Assayas' "Sentimental Destinies" (2000), which earned her another César as a woman whose beauty spurred minister Charles Berling to leave his pulpit, and François Ozon's offbeat musical comedy "8 Women" (2002), which paired her with some of France's leading actresses of the last five decades, including Catherine Denueve, Isabelle Huppert, Fanny Ardant and Ludivine Sagnier.
Béart also became deeply involved with social causes, including UNICEF and opposition to France's growing anti-immigration sentiment. In 2003, she made headline for her nude appearances in an issue of Elle magazine, which became its biggest-selling issue to date. That same year, her companion of several years, producer Vincent Meyer, committed suicide. She rebounded with performances in such acclaimed features as "The Witnesses" (2007), about the emergence of the AIDS crises in Paris circa 1984 before moving into a string of features for television in 2011 and 2012.
By Paul Gaita
Cast (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Feature acting debut, "Demain les Momes"
Moved to Montreal, Canada at age 15 to work as an au pair
French TV acting debut, "Raison Perdu"
Made film debut in a leading role in "L'Amour en douce"
French theater debut, "La Repetition"
American film debut, "Date with an Angel"
Hired as spokesperson for Christian Dior
Co-starred opposite Tom Cruise in "Mission: Impossible"
Played the middle of three sisters in the comedy-drama "La Buche"
Cast as Gilberte in Raul Ruiz's superlative realization of Proust's "Time Regained"
Had leading role in "Les Destinees sentimentales"
Was featured in Francois Ozon's "8 Femmes"
Cast in Jacques Rivette's "The Story of Marie and Julien"
Starred as widowed mother of two trying to flee Paris, in the WWII drama "Strayed"
Starred as a prostitute in "Nathalie" also starring Gerard Depardieu
Co-starred in the André Téchiné directed, "The Witnesses/Les Témoins"