The winsome star of Amélie, the most successful French film of all time, turned 40 last year, so it feels like a good moment to consider whether she has shaken off that label of Hepburnesque cuteness that she brought so memorably to the screen in her breakthrough role.
When your parents name you after Audrey Hepburn and you grow up with the definitive gamine look, you could say the young actress was pre-destined to play roles like Amélie Poulain and later Coco Chanel. But Ms. Tautou is very much her own woman – when Hollywood came calling she swept past rival stars to grab the role of Sophie Neveu in the blockbuster movie of 2006, The Da Vinci Code. But since then she has forged her own path with numerous French movies, many of which haven’t seen international distribution but are worth checking out. Priceless saw her put on an accomplished performance as a Côte d’Azur femme fatale, and in The Very Long Engagement she perfectly captures the restlessness of young love. But not all her work hits the sweet spots: she appeared in The Odyssey, about underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau, which received mixed reviews.
In interviews she refuses to play the stereotypical ambitious actress – she is quintessentially French: independent, spirited and in search of the best life, not the best career. And more power to her.
10-Second CV: A screen star’s life in one take
Name: Audrey Justine Tautou
Born: Beaumont, Puy-de-Dome, France. 9 August, 1976
Early career: Tautou had comic ability from a young age and attended a Parisian theatre summer course before studying literature at the Sorbonne. She won Best Young Actress Award in 1998 at the Jeune Comedién de Cinéma in Béziers and a Best New Actress César in Venus Beauty (1999). When Emily Watson dropped out of Amélie, director Jean-Pierre Jeunet cast Tautou.
I know the face… Anne Fontaine’s Coco Before Chanel (2009) is lit up by Tautou’s portrayal of the fashion icon, and watch Dirty Pretty Things (2002) to admire Tautou’s role as a Turkish immigrant caught up in a cruel money-making scheme.
Where will we see her next? Despite rumours of quitting movies, Tautou is in fact still very active in French cinema – 2016 saw her cast in Remise de Peine, a third collaboration with director Pierre Salvadori.
C’est pas vrai! Tautou was the 2009 face of Chanel No. 5 perfume. She’s been nominated 19 times for various international film awards and won ten.
From France Today magazine