The Double Life of Veronique
One of the greatest French actresses of her generation, Irene Jacob, with her classic beauty and attentive, almost gloomy style of acting, has created a reputation for herself as a cinematic representative of European sophistication. First making an impression as a piano instructor in Louis Malle’s high-profile Au Revoir Les Enfants/Goodbye, Children (1987), the dark-haired player achieved international prominence with her dual role of Veronika/Veronique in director Krzysztof Kieslowski’s La Double Vie de Véronique/The Double Life of Veronique (1991), for which she won a Cannes Film Festival Award and a Sant Jordi Award, as well as a César nomination. Jacob cemented her worldwide status with her portrayal of a lovely, but lonesome, Swiss model in Trois Couleurs: Rouge/Three Colours: Red (1994), which again was helmed by Kieslowski. The role also brought the actress a BAFTA nomination and a César nomination. Jacob is also known to the American public for playing roles in such movies as U.S. Marshals (1997), The Big Brass Ring (1999), The Pornographer: A Love Story (2004) and more recently, The Inner Life of Martin Frost (2007).
Childhood and Family:
Irene Marie Jacob was born on July 15, 1966, in Suresnes, France, to a well-educated and scholarly family. Her father is a physicist and her mother is a psychologist. The youngest child, she has three brothers, one is a musician and the other two are scientists.
At age three, Irene relocated with her family to Geneva, Switzerland, where she developed a love for the arts and got her first stage performance when she was 11. She then studied drama at the Geneva Conservatoire and later, at the prominent Rue Blanche (the French national drama academy) in Paris. She also spent a time honing in on her craft at the Dramatic Studio in London, England. Irene, who speaks four languages: English, French, Italian and German, earned a degree in Languages.
Three Colours: Red
France-born, Switzerland-raised Irene Jacob was working in theater when she was discovered by French director Louis Malle, who handed her the notable supporting role of a piano teacher, Mlle Davenne, in the Oscar-nominated film Au Revoir Les Enfants/Goodbye, Children (1987). After the favorable debut, she appeared in small roles in a string of movies, including playing Marine in director Jacques Rivette’s acclaimed drama, La bande des quatre/The Gang of Four (1989) and Marie in the based-on-novel romance Les Mannequins d’osier (1989), and made her television miniseries debut that same year with “Nick chasseur de têtes.”
In 1991, Jacob experienced a massive break when Polish director Krzysztof Kieślowski had her play the dual role of the Polish Veronika and the French Véronique, two women who lead different but permanently interrelated lives, in his psychological drama, La Double Vie de Véronique (The Double Life of Veronique). For her good acting, she was handed a Cannes Film Festival for Best Actress and a Sant Jordi for Best Foreign Actress. Additionally, the role also brought her a Best Actress César nomination. The accomplishment subsequently shot the beautiful actress to stardom.
Jacob was flooded with offers to star in numerous Hollywood films after her 1991 success. After starring with Steve Buscemi and Mark Evan Jacobs in her first American vehicle, the romantic comedy Trusting Beatrice (1991), she decided to concentrate her talents on small French films. She appeared as Johanna in The Van Gogh Wake (1993), portrayed the heroine’s wretched mother in Agnieszka Holland’s moving and commended The Secret Garden (1993) and costarred as Lyuda in The Prophecy, for Russian director Eldar Ryazanov, before rejoining Kieslowski for 1994’s Trois Couleurs: Rouge/Three Colours: Red. In the final segment of Kieslowski’s Three Colors trilogy, Jacob starred as a Swiss fashion model who meets a mocking aging former judge (played by Jean-Louis Trintignant) after she hit his dog. She earned a BAFTA and a César nomination for her bright work in the film.
After Three Colours: Red, Jacob worked with many European filmmakers. She acted in Oliver Parker’s Othello (1995), Mark People’s Victory (1995, with Willem Defoe and Sam Neill), Wim Wenders and Michelangelo Antonioni’s Par-Dela Les Nuages (1995) and Hugh Hudson’s My Life So Far (1999, opposite Colin Firth and Rosemary Harris), to name a few. She sporadically appeared in American films, like the Tommy Lee Jones action U.S. Marshals (1997, as Wesley Snipes’ girlfriend) and George Hickenlooper’s political drama The Big Brass Ring (1999).
2000 saw Jacob restart her theater career when she took on the title role in “Madame Melville” at the London West-End where she acted with Macaulay Culkin. The performance contributed to her career’s growth. She went on to star in such international movies as The Marcorelle Affair (2000), Letter from an Unknown Woman (2001, TV), Fourplay (2001), The Landlords (2002), Autumn (2004) and The Education of Fairies (2006). She also costarred with Martin Donovan for an American independent drama, The Pornographer: A Love Story (2004), helmed by Alan Wade.
Recently, Jacob played the supporting role of Claire Martin in director-writer Paul Auster’s The Inner Life of Martin Frost (2007), alongside Sophie Auster and Michael Imperioli. British moviegoers will see the actress appear in the Jane Spencer-directed comedy Bob’s Not Gay. Jacob and Spencer also collaborated for the romantic science fiction film South of Hope Street. The film will be released in Switzerland.
- Krzysztof Kieslowski: 2002
- Sant Jordi: Best Foreign Actress (Mejor Actriz Extranjera), Double vie de Véronique, La, (aka. The Double Life of Veronique), 1993
- Cannes Film Festival: Best Actress, Double vie de Véronique, La, (aka. The Double Life of Veronique), 1991