Mélanie Laurent (born 21 February 1983) is a French actress, director, singer and writer. She is best known to international audiences for her role as Shosanna Dreyfus in Quentin Tarantino's 2009 film Inglourious Basterds, for which she won Best Actress from the Online Film Critics Society and the Austin Film Critics Association.
Mélanie Laurent was born in Paris, the daughter of Annick, a ballerina, and Pierre Laurent, a voiceover actor (who dubs the character Ned Flanders in the French version of The Simpsons). Laurent is Jewish, and has both Ashkenazi and Tunisian Sephardic ancestry. A grandfather survived deportation by the Nazis. Her maternal grandparents were film poster editors. She grew up in the 9th arrondissement of Paris and was immersed from birth in the arts.
Her career began when Gérard Depardieu, seeing her while she watched her best friend's father working on the set of Asterix and Obelix, asked her if she wanted to be in movies. Laurent replied 'Why not?' and next week his assistant called her. Depardieu gave Laurent a part when she was 16 in The Bridge, a drama he starred in and co-directed with Fréderic Auburtin.
Laurent has appeared in 20 films between 1999 and 2009. Playing a depressed 19 year-old who longed for her lost twin brother, she starred in Philippe Lioret's I'm Fine, Don't Worry (2006), for which she won a César Award for Most Promising Actress. In 2006, Laurent and Belgian actor Jérémie Renier were awarded France's Romy Schneider and Jean Gabin Prizes for "most promising actor and actress."
In 2008, Laurent directed and wrote De moins en moins, which was nominated for Best Short Film at the 61st Annual Cannes Film Festival. It is a 7-minute film about a patient who, in front of her psychiatrist, "remembers less and less". Laurent also directed À ses pieds, an erotic short film aired on the French television channel Canal+ on 25–26 October 2008, as part of a series of such shorts, called X Femmes, shot by female directors with the goal of producing erotica from a female point of view.
Laurent was scheduled to direct her first play, Mi-cuit cœur pistache (the name of a dessert she particularly likes) in January 2009 at the Théâtre Marigny in Paris. She had to abandon the project during the preparations and rehearsals when she was cast as Shosanna Dreyfus in the Quentin Tarantino film Inglourious Basterds, a French-language role for which she had to learn to speak English for a few scenes. Her then-partner Julien Boisselier, as well as Marie Denarnaud, Mélanie Doutey and Louise Monot were to act in the production while short movie clips were to be projected on stage, some of them shot at the nightclub Le Baron, which Laurent used to frequent during the writing period.
Laurent also had planned another feature film, Putain de pluie!, whose script she co-wrote with Morgan Perez and which she intended to direct, produced by Alain Attal's Productions du Trésor. Originally set for filming in the spring of 2009, it was postponed because of her work on Inglourious Basterds. Knowing that she could speak French and had already acted in French in one of the short films in Paris, je t'aime she offered the first role to Natalie Portman, who declined because of the language of the script. Laurent played the part of the violinist in Radu Mihăileanu's Le Concert—she called it "a smart movie and a popular movie, and I'm glad because French people wanted to watch a movie with classical music."
Mélanie Laurent was the hostess of the opening and closing ceremonies of the 64th Cannes Film Festival.
Maxime Simoëns, a French designer, calls Laurent his muse for his fashion house based in Paris.
Laurent was in a long-term relationship with fellow French actor Julien Boisselier. She describes recording artist Damien Rice and filmographer Quentin Tarantino as two "masters" in terms of their art. With Rice she is recording her first album between Woodstock, New York and his home in Ireland. Living in his home in Ireland inspired her to maintain a compost heap and eat organic food.
Laurent has visited a Climate Defenders Camp in the peatlands of the Indonesian Rainforest with Greenpeace activists. She is also one of the Climate Ambasadors for Kofi Annan's Global Humanitarian Forum "Tck Tck Tck" Campaign.
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