French American actress, singer and director Arielle Dombasle has acted in more than a hundred TV and film projects since entering show business in 1978. First attracting notice as Mercy Chant in Roman Polanski's Academy Award winning “Tess” (1979), she gained further attention in Eric Rohmer's “Pauline at the Beach” (1983), Hervé Palud's “Little Indian, Big City” (1994), Alain Robbe-Grillet's “The Blue Villa” (1995), Arthur Joffé's “Let There Be Light” (1998) and the Christian Clavier and Gérard Depardieu starring vehicle “Asterix and Obelix vs. Caesar” (1999). She was nominated for a Cesar Award for her scene stealing role of Sophie in “L'ennui” (1998). More recently, Dombasle is recognized by French TV viewers as the star of the TV films “Sissi, l'impératrice rebelle” and “Milady” (both 2004). In the U.S., the Hartford, Connecticut-born actress is perhaps best known as Maxine in the TV miniseries “Lace” (ABC, 1984) and the 1985 installment “Lace II” and for guest starring in the popular series “Miami Vice” (1986). Other Hollywood credits include the motion pictures “The Boss' Wife” (1986) and “Try This One for Size” (1989), the TV miniseries “Sins” (1986) and the TV series “Red Shoe Diaries.” Dombasle also directed the films “Chassé-croisé” (1982) and “The Novice” (1988) as well as the documentary “La traversée du désir” (2009). As a singer, the former student of the Conservatoire Musique de Paris has released five albums named “Liberta,” (2000), “Extase” (2002), “Amor Amor” (2004), “C'est si bon” (2006) and “Glamour à mort” (2009) and several singles.
The recipient of the Honorary Award from the 2004 Luchon International Film Festival is set to return to Hollywood cinema with “King Shot” (2010), opposite Nick Nolte. She is also scheduled to have a supporting role in the Mexico set drama “El Baile de San Juan” (2010).
Dombasle is currently married to French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy. She is Jewish and speaks fluent French, Spanish and English.
Childhood and Family:
Arielle Dombasle was born Arielle Sonnery de Fromental on April 27, 1958, in Hartford, Connecticut, to Jean-Louis Sonnery de Fromental, a silk manufacturer, and Francion Garreau-Dombasle. After the death of her mother in 1964, she and her brother, Gilbert Sonnery, were raised by their maternal grandparents in Mexico. Her grandfather, Maurice Garreau-Dombasle, was the French ambassador to Mexico. Arielle also spent part of her childhood at Chateau de Chaintré, her family's estate near Saumur, Maine et Loire. She graduated from the Conservatoire Musique de Paris.
After divorcing Philippe Albou, Arielle married French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy (born on November 5, 1948) on June 19, 1993. Her husband has two children from previous marriages.
The Blue Villa
Arielle Dombasle made her feature film acting debut in “Perceval le Gallois” (1978), which was written and directed by Eric Rohmer. Based on a novel by Chrétien de Troyes, the film was nominated for César Awards for Best Cinematography and Best Sound and won Critics Award Best Film at the 1980 French Syndicate of Cinema Critics. The same year, she also broke into French television with a small role in the four part miniseries “Mazarin,” directed by Pierre Cardinal. She also released a single titled “Cantate 78.”
Within a year of her debut, Dombasle landed the supporting role of Mercy Chant in the English language film “Tess” (1979), which starred Nastassja Kinski, Peter Firth and Leigh Lawson and was directed by Roman Polanski. An adaptation of the 1891 novel “Tess of the d'Urbervilles” by Thomas Hardy, the romantic drama was a success and earned several awards and nominations at the Academy Awards, Golden Globe and Cesar Awards.
In the early 1980s, Dombasle could be seen in several movies and TV films such as “Ligeia” (1981, as Lady Ligeia Fell), Shuji Terayama's “Les fruits de la passion/Fruits of Passion” (1981, opposite Isabelle Illiers and Klaus Kinski), “La princesse lointaine” (1981), “Le beau mariage/A Good Marriage” (1982, with Eric Rohmer), and Alain Robbe-Grillet's “La belle captive/The Beautiful Prisoner” (1983) among others. In 1982, she stepped behind the camera to make her directorial debut with “Chassé-croisé,” a film she also starred in and wrote. She also composed the music and sang in the film.
However, Dombasle did not score her breakthrough role until she was cast as Marion in Rohmer's dramatic comedy “Pauline à la plage/Paulina at the Beach” (1983). The film won awards at the 1983 Berlin International Festival, including the FIPRESCI Prize and Silver Berlin Bear for Best Director, a 1984 Boston Society of Film Critics for Best Film and the 1984 Critics Award for Best Film at the French Syndicate of Cinema Critics. The next year, Dombasle made her American TV debut in the ABC drama film “Lace” (1984), portraying Maxine Pascal. Costars of the film included Bess Armstrong, Brooke Adams, Phoebe Cates and Anthony Higgins. She went on to reprise her role in the 1985 sequel “Lace II.”
In 1986, Dombasle was cast in the CBS miniseries “Sins,” based on Judith Gould's 1982 novel of the same title and starring Joan Collins and Timothy Dalton as Helena Junot and Edmund Junot, respectively. The same year, she gained further notice in America with her guest role in the hit series “Miami Vice” (1986), where she portrayed Callie Basset. After playing the supporting role of Marguerite Barnac in Claude Faraldo's “Flagrant désir/A Certain Desire,” alongside Sam Waterston, Marisa Berenson and Lauren Hutton, she starred with Daniel Stern and Christopher Plummer in the Hollywood comedy film “The Boss' Wife” (1986), which was written and directed by Ziggy Steinberg (also 1986). She next worked with Pierce Brosnan, Eric Idle, Julia Nickson, Peter Ustinov, Jack Klugman, Roddy McDowall, and Darren McGavin in the Emmy nominated TV miniseries “Around the World in 80 Days” (1989, as Lucette), with Simon Dutton in the TV film “The Saint: Wrong Number” (1989) and Michael Brandon and David Carradine in the independent film “Try This One for Size” (1989), directed by Guy Hamilton. She also played Emma Calve in the TV miniseries “L'or du diable” (1989), supported Jeff Goldblum and Miranda Richardson in the Spanish mystery movie “El sueño del mono loco” (1989, played Marion Derain) and starred as Renata in the French TV film “Incognito” (1989). Dombasle returned to the director's chair to helm “Les pyramides bleues” (1988), which she also starred in with Omar Sharif and wrote the script with Nelson E. Breen and Catherine Winter.
Dombasle also performed in several stage productions throughout the 1980s, including “La Fugue” (1980), “La Petite Catherine de Heilbronn” (1981) and “Retour à Florence” (1985), which was directed by Jean-Claude Brialy, Eric Rohmer and Simone Benmussa, respectively. She was later reunited with Simone Benmussa in a 1990 production of “L'absolu Naturel” (1990). Arielle returned to stage to act in the productions “L'As-tu revue” (opera, 1991, helmed by Olivier Bénezech), “Le Jugement Dernier” (1992, directed by Jean-Louis Martinelli), “Absalon-Colonna” (opera, 1994, helmed by Sergio Vatolo), “La Belle et la toute petite bête” (2003, directed by Jérôme Savary) and “Don Quichotte contre l'Ange Bleu” (2008, also directed by Jérôme Savary).
Dombasle focused her energy on her screen career during the 1990s and was seen in the TV movies “Moi, général de Gaulle” (1990), “L'homme au double visage” (1990), “La mare aux crocodiles” (1992), the Clive Donner directed thriller “Terror Stalks the Class Reunion (1992, with Kate Nelligan, Jennifer Beals and Geraint Wyn Davies), “L'annamite” (1995), “Opération Bugs Bunny” (1997), “Ivre mort pour la patrie” (1998), the TV miniseries “Deserto di fuoco” (1997) and appeared in episodes of Showtime's “Red Shoe Diaries” (1994, as Celeste) and “Maigret” (1997). On the big screen, she portrayed Loretta in Ilan Duran Cohen's “Lola Zipper” (1991), Sandra in Patrick Mimouni's “Villa Mauresque” (1992), which was nominated for a Golden Leopard at the 1992 Locarno International Film Festival, the adult Miroslava in Alejandro Pelayos' 1993 drama of the same name, which scored success at Mexico's 1993 Ariel Awards, the 1993 Bogota Film Festival, the 1993 Havana Film Festival and the 1994 Premios ACE, Leda in Raoul Ruiz's “Fado majeur et mineur” (1994) and Charlotte in Hervé Palud's “Un indien dans la ville/Little Indian, Big City” (1994, starred Thierry Lhermitte) before enjoying another breakthrough with her portrayal of Sarah La Blonde in Dimitri de Clercq and Alain Robbe-Grillet's masterpiece “Un bruit qui rend fou/The Blue Villa” (1995, opposite Fred Ward). She went on to offer notable performances in Arthur Joffé's “Que la lumière soit/Let There Be Light” (1998), Cédric Kahn's “L'ennui” (1998, as Sophie) and Claude Zidi's “Astérix et Obélix contre César/Asterix and Obelix vs. Caesar” (1999). Her performance in “L'ennui” earned a 1999 César nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Other film credits included “Mécaniques célestes” (1995), “Raging Angels” (1995, with Sean Patrick Flanery, Diane Ladd and Monet Mazur), “Three Lives and Only One Death” (1996), “Le jour et la nuit” (1997), “Le temps retrouvé, d'après l'oeuvre de Marcel Proust/Marcel Proust's Time Regained” (1999) and “Les infortunes de la beauté” (1999).
After releasing three more singles, Dombasle released a debut album titled “Liberta” in 2000. It was followed by “Extase” in 2002, “Amor Amor” in 2004 and “C'est si bon” in 2006. She also released the singles “Odysseus” (2000) and “Où Tu Veux” (2007).
On the acting front, Dombasle landed roles in such films as “Les eléphants de la planète Mars,” “Les faux-fuyants” (TV), “The Libertine,” “Vatel,” “Amazone,” “30 Years” (all 2000), “Gamer,” “Les âmes fortes/ Savage Souls” (both 2001), “Deux/Two,” “Hideous Man,” a U.K. short directed, written and narrated by John Malkovich (both 2002), “Lovely Rita” (2003), “Albert est méchant,” “Le genre humain - 1ère partie: Les parisiens,” “Quand je serai star” (all 2004), “Le courage d'aimer” (2005), Anne Fontaine's “Nouvelle chance” (2006, starred as Bettina Fleischer), “L'homme de ta vie” (2006, TV) and Alain Robbe-Grillet's “Gradiva (C'est Gradiva qui vous appelle)/It's Gradiva Who Is Calling You” (2006). She also had title roles in the made for TV films “Sissi, l'impératrice rebelle” and “Milady” (both 2004).
2008 found Dombasle playing the supporting role of Astrid in the biography film “Sagan,” starring Sylvie Testud as Françoise Quoirez dite Sagan, was featured as Déléguée Mexicaine in Michel Houellebecq's “La possibilité d'une île/Possibility of an Island,” which premiered the 2008 Locarno Film Festival on August 9, 2008, and appearing in an episode of “X Femmes” called “Le bijou indiscret,” which she also directed. The following year, she released a new album called “Glamour à mort” and the single “Extra-terrestre.” She also directed the documentary film “La traversée du désir” (2009).
Multi talented Dombasle will play Virreina in the history film “El Baile de San Juan” (2010), directed and written by Francisco Athié, and appear in “King Shot” (2010), which was written and helmed by Alejandro Jodorowsky. Costars of the latter film include Nick Nolte, Asia Argento, Marilyn Manson and Udo Kier.
Luchon International Film Festival: Honorary Award, 2004