Born: July 15, 1966
Birthplace: Suresnes, France
Irène Marie Jacob (born 15 July 1966) is a French-Swiss actress known for her work with Polish film director Krzysztof Kieślowski. She won the 1991 Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Actress for the Kieślowski film The Double Life of Véronique, and was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for his 1994 film Three Colors: Red. Her other film appearances include The Secret Garden (1993), Beyond the Clouds (1995), U.S. Marshals (1998), and Eternity (2016).
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).
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.— Irène Jacob, The Guardian
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 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. In 2016 Jacob began appearing as a featured character in Season 3 of the Showtime series The Affair.
|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|
|Les Mannequins d'osier||Marie|
|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|
|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 Award for Best Foreign Actress
|1992||Le Moulin de Daudet||Mme Daudet||English: Daudet's Windmill|
|1993||Claude||Beatrice||English: Trusting Beatrice|
|The Secret Garden||Mrs. Lennox/Lilias Craven|
|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
|Beyond the Clouds||The girl||French: Par-delà les nuages|
|All Men Are Mortal||Regina|
|Faire un film pour moi c'est vivre|
|1997||Incognito||Prof. Marieke van den Broeck|
|U.S. Marshals||Marie Bineaux|
|American Cuisine||Gabrielle Boyer||French: Cuisine américaine|
|The Big Brass Ring||Cela Brandini|
|My Life So Far||Aunt Heloise|
|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
|Londinium||Fiona Delgrazia||English: Fourplay|
|2002||Mille millièmes||Julie||The Landlords|
|2003||La Légende de Parva||Voice of La mère de Parva|
|Nés de la mère du monde||Clara Sidowski||Television film|
|2004||The Pornographer: A Love Story|
|Battle of the Brave (Nouvelle-France)||Angélique de Roquebrune|
|2006||The Education of Fairies||Ingrid|
|2007||The Inner Life of Martin Frost||Claire Martin|
|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|
|Dying of the Light||Michelle Zuberain|
|Salaud, on t'aime||Printemps Kaminsky|
|2015||Ella Maillart - Double Journey||Ella Maillart||voice over|
|The Affair||Juliette Le Gall|
|Capitaine Marleau||Sister Maryse||TV Series (1 Episode)|