Irene Jacob

Irene Jacob

Birth name: Irène Marie Jacob
Born: July 15, 1966
Age: 57
Birthplace: Suresnes, France
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Irène Marie Jacob (born 15 July 1966) is a French-born Swiss actress considered one of the preeminent French actresses of her generation. Jacob gained international recognition and acclaim through her work with Polish film director Krzysztof Kieślowski, who cast her in the lead role of The Double Life of Véronique and Three Colors: Red. She came to represent an image of European sophistication.


Early life

Irène Jacob was born in Suresnes, Hauts-de-Seine, a western suburb of Paris. The youngest child with three older brothers, she was raised in a highly educated and intellectual family and environment: her father, Maurice Jacob, was a physicist; her mother, a psychologist; one brother, Francis Jacob, a musician; and two brothers, scientists. In 1969, at the age of three, Irène moved with her family to Geneva, Switzerland, where she became interested in the arts.

My family was very shy with feelings and never spoke about them, but we evolved a little bit. I think part of the reason I was attracted to theater was because I wanted to be close to stories because they could help me relate to my family.

Jacob developed an interest in performing after seeing the films of Charlie Chaplin. "They took my heart", she has recalled. "They made me laugh and cry, and that was exactly what I was waiting for in a film: to awaken me to my feelings."

She made her stage debut in 1977 at the age of 11. She attended the Geneva Conservatory of Music and earned a degree in languages (she speaks fluent French, English, German, and Italian). She also studied at the Dramatic Studio in London, England. In 1984, she moved to Paris, where she studied acting at the prestigious Rue Blanche (the French national drama academy).

Film career

In 1987, Jacob returned to Paris, where the 21-year-old drama student obtained her first movie role in the Louis Malle film Au revoir, les enfants, playing the part of a piano teacher. She followed her film debut with six additional French movies—mostly minor roles—in four years.

In 1991, Polish film director Krzysztof Kieślowski cast her in the lead role of his film The Double Life of Véronique, the allegorical story of two young women, one in Poland and the other in France, both of whom are played by Jacob. For her performance, Jacob won the Best Actress Award at the Cannes Film Festival.

From 1992 to 1993, despite numerous offers from Hollywood that came in the wake of her success—including the lead role in Indecent Proposal—Jacob focused on smaller French films.

In 1994, Jacob again earned international acclaim as the protagonist in Kieślowski's Three Colors: Red, which received three Academy Award nominations for Best Director, Best Cinematography, and Best Original Screenplay. The film was also named Best Film or Best Foreign Film by the National Board of Review, New York Film Critics Circle Awards, National Society of Film Critics Awards, and Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards. It received César Award nominations for Best Film, Best Actor (Jean-Louis Trintignant), Best Actress (Irène Jacob), Best Director (Krzysztof Kieślowski), Best Writing (Krzysztof Kieślowski and Krzysztof Piesiewicz). The New York Times included the film in its list of "The Best 1000 Movies Ever Made."

An introvert by nature, Jacob has the remarkable ability to express the emotional turmoil of her characters with very few words. This was very evident in her performance in Three Colors: Red, the third part of Kieślowski's trilogy. Jacob described her unique experience working with the Polish film director:

The camera was really like a microscope. Krzysztof was always very close and very precise in his directions. It was not something he talked about beforehand; he would only work on the set. He liked to rehearse just before a take, if at all.

Her performance in Three Colors: Red gained huge international recognition, bringing many offers from major American motion-picture studios. But again, Jacob retreated from the growing interest and fame and took nine months off, spending most of her time reading Tolstoy, Balzac, Singer, and several autobiographies.

From 1995 to 1999, Jacob made a series of American and European films that met with varying degrees of commercial and critical success. In 1995, she appeared in six films, including Victory, with Willem Dafoe and Sam Neill; Michelangelo Antonioni's Beyond the Clouds; and Oliver Parker's adaptation of William Shakespeare's Othello, in which Jacob spoke all of her lines in English for the first time on film. In the following years, she made several moderately successful American films, including Incognito (1997); U.S. Marshals (1998), starring opposite Wesley Snipes and Tommy Lee Jones; The Big Brass Ring (1999), with William Hurt; and the entertaining History Is Made at Night (1999), with Bill Pullman and Bruno Kirby.

Beginning in 2000, Jacob's film career slowed down, and after a series of independent—mostly European—films, she revived her theatre career. In 2000, she played the title character in Madame Melville opposite Macaulay Culkin in London's West End, which was crucial to her further development as an actress. She continues to make films.


Year Title Role Notes
1987 Au revoir, les enfants Mlle Davenne English: Goodbye, Children
1988 La Bande des quatre Marine English: The Gang of Four
1989 Erreur de jeunesse Anne
1989 Les Mannequins d'osier Marie
1989 Nick chasseur de têtes Television program
1990 La Veillée Johanna English: The Van Gogh Wake
1991 Le Secret de Sarah Tombelaine Sarah English: The Secret of Sarah Tombelaine
1991 The Double Life of Véronique Weronika/Véronique French: La Double vie de Véronique
Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Actress
César Award Nomination for Best Actress
Sant Jordi Best Foreign Actress Award
1992 Le Moulin de Daudet Mme Daudet English: Daudet's Windmill
1992 Enak Lucille Spaakv
1993 Claude Beatrice English: Trusting Beatrice
1993 The Secret Garden Mrs. Lennox/Lilias Craven
1993 Predskazaniye Lyuda English: The Prediction
Nika Award Best Actress Nomination
1994 Three Colors: Red Valentine Dussaut French: Trois couleurs: Rouge
César Award Nomination for Best Actress
BAFTA Award Nomination for Best Actress
1995 Victory Alma
1995 Fugueuses Prune English: Runaways
1995 Beyond the Clouds The girl French: Par-delà les nuages
1995 All Men Are Mortal Regina
1995 Faire un film pour moi c'est vivre
1995 Othello Desdemona
1997 Incognito Prof. Marieke van den Broeck
1998 Jack's potes
1998 U.S. Marshals Marie Bineaux
1998 American Cuisine Gabrielle Boyer French: Cuisine américaine
1999 Cuisine chinoise Patricia
1999 The Big Brass Ring Cela Brandini
1999 My Life So Far Aunt Heloise
1999 History Is Made at Night Natasha Scriabina/Anna Belinka Also known as Spy Games
2000 L'Affaire Marcorelle Agneska English: The Marcorelle Affair
2001 Letter from an Unknown Woman Rose French: Lettre d'une inconnue
Television film
2001 Londinium Fiona Delgrazia English: Fourplay
2002 Mille millièmes Julie The Landlords
2003 La Légende de Parva Voice of La mère de Parva
2003 Nés de la mère du monde Clara Sidowski Television film
2004 The Pornographer: A Love Story
2004 Automne Michelle English: Autumn
2004 Nouvelle-France Angélique de Roquebrune English: Battle of the Brave
2006 La Educación de las hadas Ingrid English: The Education of Fairies
2007 The Inner Life of Martin Frost Claire Martin
2007 Nessuna qualità agli eroi Anne English: Fallen Heroes
2008 The Dust of Time Eleni Directed by Theo Angelopoulos
2009 The French Kissers Aurore's mother French: La mère d'Aurore
2010 Rio Sex Comedy Irène
2014 L'Art de la fugue Mathilde
2014 Dying of the Light Michelle Zuberain
2015 Ella Maillart - Double Journey Ella Maillart voice over
2015 Sayonara


  • 1991 Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Actress for The Double Life of Véronique
  • 1992 César Award Nomination for Best Actress for The Double Life of Véronique
  • 1993 Sant Jordi Best Foreign Actress Award for The Double Life of Véronique
  • 1994 Nika Award Best Actress Nomination for Predskazaniye
  • 1995 César Award Nomination for Best Actress for Three Colors: Red
  • 1995 BAFTA Award Nomination for Best Actress for Three Colors: Red
  • 2002 Camerimage Krzysztof Kieślowski Special Award

[ Source: Wikipedia ]

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