Sophie Marceau

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Sophie Marceau's most high-profile role to date has been the villainous Elektra King in James Bond's 1999 adventure The World Is Not Enough. In her homeland of France, however, the sultry actress has long been more national darling than public enemy.

Sophie first found fame when she was plucked from obscurity by director Claude Pinoteau to star in his 1980 teen comedy La Boum.. A few years later, at the age of just 16, she picked up a prestigious César award for her performance in the film's sequel, La Boum II.

Establishing herself as one of the country's hottest new talents was quite a coup for the young woman, who grew up a truck driver's daughter in the Parisien suburb of Gentilly. The sudden switch from working class schoolgirl to silver screen siren must have come as a shock to the aspiring starlet, but Sophie has never been one to shy away from a challenge.

She tasted controversy at the tender age of 18 when she fell in love with the French-Polish director Andrzej Zulawski. The fact that he was 24 years her senior raised more than a few eyebrows, but that didn't stop the pair beginning a romance that would last 16 years and produce a son, Vincent, who was born in 1995.

The actress would go on to become her country's leading female movie star, giving award-winning turns in critically-acclaimed flicks such as Chouans! and La Fidelité. She also popped up in a number of Tinseltown productions, most notably Mel Gibson's Highland epic Braveheart, but making her name internationally was never her first priority.

"I know I don't push enough," she admits. "I don't stick to the phone, asking for jobs. I guess I was spoiled, starting young, but I think if people are interested in working with you they'll find you."

Taking on new challenges and exploring fresh fields of creativity has always been more interesting to Sophie than fame for the sake of fame. After her relationship with Zulawski broke down in 2001, the pretty brunette decided to take control behind the camera by directing her first feature-length movie.

The largely autobiographical Parlez-Moi d'Amour was roundly applauded by the critics and garnered yet more silverware for the actress. Following the story of a mother-of-three whose relationship with her jealous foreign husband disintegrates, the filmmaker made no bones about it being a highly personal project.

She has since opened a new chapter in her private life, too. After striking up a romance with American producer Jim Lemley, whom she first met while filming Anna Karenina in 1996, Sophie became a mother for the second time.

These days she is relishing the freedom that comes with writing and directing her own productions. And although her fans can rest assured she has no intention of turning her back on the silver screen, it seems likely we will be hearing a great deal more from Sophie the scribe. "It's so attractive, too attractive," she explains. "Your writing becomes more real than your reality. Acting is contained - you act for three months, then leave it - but writing is the act of creation."
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