An international star of extraordinary, almost otherworldly beauty, French actress Juliette Binoche was born March 9, 1964, in Paris. The daughter of a sculptor/theater director and an actress, Binoche studied acting at the National School of Dramatic Art of Paris. After graduation, she followed in her mother's footsteps and became a stage actress, occasionally taking small parts in French feature films. Binoche first earned recognition in 1985 for playing a modernized, teenaged version of the Virgin Mary in Jean-Luc Godard's controversial Je Vous Salue, Marie (Hail Mary). The actress became a bona fide French star the same year with an acclaimed performance in André Téchiné's Rendez-Vous. Though she was the darling of the 1985 Cannes Film Festival, Binoche did not gain true international acclaim until she played Tereza in Philip Kaufman's The Unbearable Lightness of Being in 1988.
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In the meantime, Binoche become involved with Leos Carax, a then-hot young filmmaker who cast her in a lead role in his chilling Mauvais Sang (Bad Blood). While involved with Carax, Binoche appeared in his Les Amants du Pont-Neuf (Lovers on the Bridge), a film they began in 1988 but did not finish until 1991 due to financial difficulties. She and Carax parted ways two years later after Binoche's great success starring opposite Jeremy Irons in Louis Malle's Damage (1992). The same year, the actress appeared with future English Patient co-star Ralph Fiennes in a new film version of Wuthering Heights, and followed that with the lead role in Krzysztof Kieslowski's Blue (1993). (She also appeared briefly in the trilogy's other installments, Red and White.)
Following her work in that acclaimed film, Binoche took time off to have a son and did not return to her career until 1995 with Le Hussard sur le Toit (The Horseman on the Roof). In 1996, Binoche earned further international recognition with a Best Supporting Actress Oscar (as well as a host of other awards) for her role in The English Patient. Returning to her native France amidst a golden haze of critical acclaim, Binoche appeared in the same year's Un Divan à New York (A Couch in New York), a romantic comedy in which she starred opposite William Hurt. In 1998, she again collaborated with director Téchiné, this time on the romantic drama Alice et Martin.
Revered as near royalty by the French press (who often simply refer to her as "La Binoche") and a beloved star worldwide, Binoche's remarkable second wind found her popularity soaring and her screen presence more powerful than ever. Binoche's daring and intense performance as 19th-century literary icon George Sand in the misguided drama The Children of the Century (1999) indeed impressed audiences and critics, though the film itself failed to live up to expectations. Of course, it wouldn't take long before Binoche was cast in a film whose quality would match her ample talent, and The Widow of Saint-Pierre (2000) would serve as just that cinematic endeavor. Not only did the redemption-themed drama perform smashingly at the international box office, but it also found its star honored with a César nomination for Best Actress.
A collaboration with notorious feel-bad filmmaker Michael Haneke resulted in the intersecting lives drama Code Unknown (2000), though that role was ultimately overshadowed by Binoche's captivating performance in that same year's arthouse hit Chocolat. Cast opposite Johnny Depp as the free-spirited owner of a chocolate shop located in a small French town, the dedicated actress actually prepared for the role by learning to make chocolate at a popular Paris sweetshop. The film was an international runaway hit, and the beloved starlet was nominated for best actress awards across the globe. Following a lighthearted performance opposite French icon Jean Reno in the romantic comedy Jet Lag (2002), Binoche appeared with American star Samuel L. Jackson in director John Boorman's politically oriented drama Country of My Skull in 2004. Binoche maintained her status as one of the most respected actresses in the world by appearing in the well-regarded thriller Cache. She also co-starred with Richard Gere in the drama Bee Season. In 2006 she would appear alongside other stars as Jude Law, Robin Wirght Penn, and Ray Winstone in Anthony Minghella's drama Breaking & Entering.
Binoche took on a starring role as Suzanne, a voice actress in a puppet theater and mother to a young boy in the award-winning drama Flight of the Red Balloon (2007), and found success once more with a co-starring part in filmmaker Peter Hedges' comedy Dan in Real Life (2007). The actress played another mother figure in 2008's Paris, a critically lauded romantic drama following a group of friends who find themselves at a crossroads in matters of love, health, and career. Binoche played yet another starring role Certified Copy, which followed the relationship between a British author and a French art-gallery owner (Binoche). 2012 found Binoche co-starring with Paul Giamatti and Keira Knightly for David Cronenberg's sci-fi thriller Cosmopolis, and in another lead role for the drama Open Heart. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi