Call it the battle of two Meryls. In one corner, there’s the record-breaking queen of American cinema, Meryl Streep. Her opponent? The so-called “Meryl Streep of France,” Isabelle Huppert. And on Feb. 26, the two will battle it out for the Best Actress honor at the 89th annual Academy Awards.
But who is Isabelle Huppert, and how did she seemingly become an overnight film sensation in her 60s? (Spoiler alert: there was nothing “overnight” about it.) Here are eight things you need to know about the actress.
- She’s been in the acting game for a long time. Although the current buzz around Huppert is regarding her Oscar nominated turn in Elle as a businesswoman on the hunt for her rapist, the 63-year old made her silver screen debut 40 years ago, starring in the French film, La Dentellière.
- You might be saying her name wrong. Fight the urge to rely on American English phonetics. It’s pronounced: “EE-zah-bell EU-pair.”
- She works. A lot. Since getting her start, Huppert has appeared in more than 100 films, and has worked with industry legends including Claude Chabrol and Curtis Hanson. Elle wasn’t her only movie last year — she also appeared in Things to Come from French director Mia Hansen-Love.
- She’s no stranger to awards. This may be her first Academy Award nomination, but she’s been nominated for France’s equivalent award, the César, 16 times (with one win for 1995’s La Cérémonie). She also has the distinct honor of being the actress who has had the most films (18 as of last year) compete in the Cannes Film Festival, and she’s won that festival’s prestigious Best Interpretation Award twice — something only four actresses have ever done.
She’s repping France hard. Huppert is one of 13 French actresses to ever receive an Oscar nomination, and she’s one of just seven to be nominated for a French-language performance.
- She’s famous for her work on stage and screen. Not only does Huppert have a fruitful career on screen; she’s also a veteran stage actress, earning six nominations for the Molière Award, France’s equivalent of the Tony. Makes sense: she studied theater at the Versailles Conservatoire, and later spent time at the Rue Blanche theater school and the Conservatoire National d’Art Dramatique.
- She has a busy family life, too. Huppert has been married to writer, director, and producer Ronald-Ariel Chammah since 1982, and he directed her in the 1987 film, Le Milan Noir (Black Milan). The cinematic duo have three children together: Lolita, Lorenzo, and Angelo. At least one of them caught the acting bug (or gene): Lolita has appeared in three films with her mom.
- She’s busier than ever. She’s currently filming the Benoît Jacquot film, Eva, and has six other films set to premiere this year (including Madame Hyde, which is loosely based on The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.