Emmanuelle Riva Biography

Theater Actress, Film Actor/Film Actress, Film Actress, Actress (1927–)
French actress Emmanuelle Riva first attracted international attention with the 1959 film Hiroshima Mon Amour. She later received an Academy Award nomination for 2012's Amour.


Born in France in 1927, actress Emmanuelle Riva first worked as a seamstress before launching her career as a performer. She studied acting in Paris, making her first stage appearance there in 1954. Five years later, Riva starred in antiwar film Hiroshima Mon Amour. More film roles soon followed, including Thrse (1962). Riva devoted much of her time to stage work rather than films for much of her career. In 2012, however, she made a triumphant return to the big screen with Amour. Riva received an Academy Award nomination for her work on this drama.

Early Life and Career

With a career that spans more than 60 years, French actress Emmanuelle Riva started out performing in local productions as a child. She grew up in the French countryside and worked as a seamstress for several years before deciding to pursue her dream of becoming an actress. Riva went to Paris to study her craft, making her stage debut there in 1954.

In 1959, Riva made an international splash in one of her first film roles in Hiroshima Mon Amour. She plays an unnamed actress who becomes involved with a Japanese man in the film. A classic example of French New Wave cinema, the movie was directed by Alain Resnais and written by Marguerite Duras. Riva made several more films around this time, most notably 1961's Lon Morin, Priest and 1962's Thrse.

Later Success

While she still continued to appear in films, Riva focused largely on theatrical work during the 1970s and 1980s. She also explored interests outside of acting, publishing several collections of poetry over the years. She continued to work sporadically on the big screen into the 1990s. Riva took a small role in Blue (1993), the first installment in Krzysztof Kieslowski's critically acclaimed Three Colors trilogy. Riva also appeared in another supporting part in Venus Beauty Institute (1999) with Audrey Tautou.

Riva landed what may prove to be the greatest role of her career in her 80s. She co-starred with Jean-Louis Trintignant in Michael Haneke's heartbreaking drama Amour (2012). The film explores the relationship of an elderly couple after Riva's character suffers a stroke and begins to decline. Riva decided to sleep on the movie set to preserve her energy for this challenging role. "So at night, it was just me and the security guard and a guard dog. I hardly move in my part, so when filming was done for the day, I needed to move and dance, and there I could do it," Riva told the Hollywood Reporter.

All of Riva's efforts paid off handsomely. She has received numerous glowing reviews for her performance in Amour, which won the top prize at the 2012 Cannes film festival. Riva made history the following January when she became the oldest woman ever nominated in the Academy Award's best actress category. "I feel like I'm in sort of a fairy tale. I did not expect such a success. I was living my life by the moment," she told USA Today.

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