Emmanuelle Béart: A Life in the Spotlight
May 09, 2011
Destined to become a star, French actress Emmanuelle Béart captured the hearts of audiences with her beauty, genuineness, and utter dedication to bringing every character she has played to life in ways that draw you in and immerse you in its joys and woes every time. Béart’s life has been a journey of creative and humanitarian undertakings that will forever keep her in the spotlight.
Daughter of French singer and poet Guy Béart, Emmanuelle Béart was only a young teen when the dazzling world of movie-making enraptured her. A beautiful but also grueling path, Béart was up to every challenge that her acting career presented her with. Putting her heart and soul into every character she played, Béart saw far beyond the glitz and glamour of stardom, and into the very essence of the human soul.
On a recent visit to Lebanon, Béart sat down with Today’s Outlook for an exclusive one-on-one, revealing much about her personal life, beliefs and aspirations, as well as her career, and giving us valuable insights into the dedication and determination it requires to become a successful actor, mother, and humanitarian.
Is this your first trip to Lebanon?
It is. It was very important for me to make this trip because Lebanon holds a special place in my heart. My father was born in Cairo, and he grew up in Lebanon, so, in a way, we have a family history; an old, but strong, sense of belonging that my father cultivated in me. My father is a singer and he came during the civil war to sing at Martyrs’ Square. It was a crazy thing to do but it also needed a lot of courage, which, I believe, came from his deep attachment to Lebanon. As a child, I remember him telling me that Lebanon was the most beautiful country in the world; I hoped that one day I would have the chance to see it. So, when I was called to come to Beirut, I was so proud and excited to tell my father the news!
After a successful career as an actress, would you advise your children to follow in your footsteps?
I don’t think that parents can make such decisions for their children; no-one took the decision on my behalf. In fact, my parents did not favor the choice I made. I have to help my children grow, in their own space, and develop their own unique personality, so they can become what is in their being, which is in constant evolution. This said, my children have not chosen to engage in an acting career; my daughter is studying to be a lawyer, my first son is a surgeon, and my second is only 22 months old! I don’t believe that parents should influence the nature, identity, or will of their children. As parents, we are obliged to support our children in their journey and, most importantly, provide them with a lot of love. We have to accept their different ideas and their individuality, the notion that they are their own person. I remember my son once said to me “Mom, I do not have to think like you”, I told him: “No, you have an obligation not to.”
Emmanuelle Béart in Mission Impossible
What about the young generation of aspiring actors?
To be in this business one must be determined, courageous, and patient. It is really hard to offer much advice because for me it has been a love story; I started by chance but I continued out of love. I often met great directors who awakened in me a profound desire to continue walking this path and I personally believe it’s the best job in the world. It gives you the opportunity to experience different social, cultural, and religious identities; you also get to travel the world, and I have spent my life doing so. No other job can offer you such a profound insight into the human soul. Magnificent as it is, this career is also extremely hard and demanding. The challenge is in making your mark and choosing the movies you want to make.
How do you balance your professional life with your personal life?
This was always natural to me. I always explained to my family that my career is a part of my life and I love it. I do not like the idea that women who have a family need to sacrifice their careers and stay at home and suppress their desires. By the same token, I cannot do this job without my family; they are my roots, my structure, and the anchor that keeps me grounded. I have managed to balance a job and motherhood, quite like most women do today. I believe every woman faces this challenge of juggling her roles as wife, mother, and career woman. This is not something only actresses face, but also every working woman.
Which of your movies has meant the most to you?
It is impossible to choose; it is like asking a mother to choose her favorite among her children. I cannot choose because with every director I had uncharted territories to discover, a new world. It would not be fair to make a choice because every character I have brought to this world with my own feelings and personal portrayal has been a unique endeavor every time, and that makes it difficult to favor one or a few among them all.
How important is the relationship between two actors off-set in making their interaction on-set a success?
Their relationship off-set is of little importance, although a good one certainly is a plus. What does matter is the on-set chemistry and understanding of the roles they are playing. You can have a somewhat cold relationship off-set and manage a better scene than with a co-actor that you are friendly with or close to in real life.
Béart during the Cannes Film Festival
Would you consider writing a script about a subject that moves you?
I would like to do that. At the moment I am not ready, but one day for sure. I would like to have my own perception and my own ideas of a vital issue depicted in a movie - without me taking a role in it.
Is there anything that you would change in your life, any regrets?
No. I believe that my path has been a beautiful one. If I had to pinpoint something, my sort of regret would pertain to the fact that I didn’t expand my journey to different cinematographic cultures; perhaps I should have been more open to working with foreign directors, in foreign movies or settings.
What does the participation of an actress in international film festivals add to her experience?
I think the most beautiful way we can travel is by representing our art and our means of expression. It is also a part of my life; this is how I have had the chance to travel the world and give people an idea about my own work.
In the movie Bye Bye Blondie you played a very interesting role; how would you describe it?
It is not easy to describe the role I played; it was quite a profound experience. I can only tell you that I met with the writer Virginie Despentes, a feminist with a strong character, and she helped me grow as a person with her insight and thinking. I also read one of her books called King Kong Theory which is a bible to me now.
You have had many contributions on the humanitarian level; how did that start?
I do not know any other way of life. Even before I was famous, I was involved in several causes. I remember selling pins for children who were up for adoption after their parents had died of AIDS. I was not known back then and people would buy the pins from me as I made my case, which I presented with solid arguments. This was the start for me. I then worked on several other causes with UNICEF. We were engaged in different countries and involved in many causes, such as water extraction, child-soldiers in Sierra Leone, malnutrition in Vietnam, AIDS in Kenya, to name only a few. It was a huge mission that required a lot of dedication, perception, and understanding of the subjects I was dealing with. Given the different roots in our family, and the education my parents raised me upon, assuming a humanitarian role is an evident reality to me. I am a citizen of the world with a French identity.
You always wear Elie Saab couture. When did you first start and how do you describe his style?
I started wearing Elie Saab couture 20 years ago; he knows how to sculpt a dress onto a woman’s body. He has a very corporal connection with his fabrics that I always find the dress I am looking for.
What do de Grisogono jewelry and Elie Saab couture mean to you?
Elie Saab and de Grisogono have been my choice for a long time and for different important events in my career. I hold a lot of respect for these two Lebanese icons with whom I have worked with often since fashion and jewelry are my daily bread. I believe that de Grisogono is a real creator; his unique jewelry cannot pass unnoticed - it makes a statement being simple as it is. As for Elie Saab who I really adore, you can see how sheer and simple his couture can be and this is what I go for. So, it could not happen that I come to Beirut and not pay tribute to both men.