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People In Film | Mélanie Laurent

Mélanie Laurent | A Natural Beginner

Mike Mills, the writer-director of Beginners, had not envisioned the role of Anna––the quirky, unconventional love interest of Ewan McGregor's Oliver––being played by a French actress. However, Mills asked Mélanie Laurent to audition for the part––and subsequently rewrote the role, tailoring it to her. “Mike Mills saw a clip of a performance that I made on YouTube, and sent me a script which is like a mix of Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry,” Laurent told Kaleem Aftab in an interview in The Independent. “He asked me to send an audition tape ...Because I'm crazy and I didn't want to just say my lines, I made a short film in which a dog talks and contained all the lines and did a voice over. Mike Mills called me and said, 'You just made my movie.' Two weeks after that I was in Los Angeles with Ewan McGregor.”

Mélanie Laurent | In the Beginning…

Mélanie Laurent in I'm Fine, Don't Worry

Interviewers always comment on Mélanie Laurent's bubbly enthusiasm and confidence, something she ascribes to a loving and supportive family and what she calls a “perfect childhood.” The daughter of a ballerina and an actor (her father is the voice of Ned Flanders in the French version of The Simpsons), she grew up with show business in her blood. Still, it wasn’t until she was in her mid-teens, when she was spotted by legendary French film star Gérard Depardieu, that she took a real interest in acting: “[He] saw me and said, 'Hey, do you want to be in the movies?' I said 'Why not,' and the next week his assistant called me." Shortly afterwards, Laurent was cast by Depardieu in a film he himself directed, The Bridge (1999). Laurent subsequently had a string of smaller roles in French movies until 2006, when she won Most Promising Actress at the César Awards (France's equivalent of the Oscars) for her highly acclaimed portrayal of an anorexic girl in Philippe Lioret’s I'm Fine, Don't Worry.

Mélanie Laurent | Inglourious Glory

While already an emerging star in France, Mélanie Laurent came to global attention with Quentin Tarantino’s 2009 World War II movie Inglourious Basterds. Laurent plays the film's heroine, Shoshanna Dreyfus, a Jewish refugee who is plotting to kill Hitler when he attends a premiere at the Parisian movie theater she manages. Laurent won the role the hard way, fighting her way through five rounds of auditions, and outlasting much more well-known and experienced actresses in the process. In the end, her performance proved that she was the right choice for the role. In his review for the San Francisco Chronicle, film critic Mick La Sallewrote: “Because Shosanna is hiding her identity, the role is largely internal, yet through French actress Mélanie Laurent's remarkable performance, we can always see the emotion beneath the composed surface - the terror and the sadness, as well as an annihilating rage almost bordering on madness.”

Mélanie Laurent | Acting is Only the Beginning

While Mélanie Laurent is currently an extremely in-demand actress, she is far from resting on her laurels. Her director on Beginners, Mike Mills, described her as “the most on-fire jazz improviser,” a very apt description given that music is another creative passion. Summer 2011 sees not only the release of Beginners but also of En T’Attendant, Laurent's first album, on which she collaborates with Irish singer-songwriter Damien Rice. "He taught me everything about being a musician,” she tells the Irish Herald. Of course, she also told Screencrave that working with directors, like Quentin Tarantino and Mike Mills, have made her want to be a director,  “because that is the best job ever.” In 2008, Laurent wrote and directed the short film De moins en moins and contributed a segment to the anthology film X Femmes, and she is currently planning her first full-length feature as director.

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