An actress whose classic beauty and thoughtful, almost melancholic style of acting have established her as a cinematic representative of European sophistication, Irène Jacob is one of the preeminent French actresses of her generation. First becoming known through her association with Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski, who cast her as his heroine in both La Double Vie de Véronique and Trois Couleurs: Rouge, Jacob has gone on to work with a number of well-known directors on both sides of the Atlantic.
Born in Paris on July 15, 1966, Jacob moved to Geneva with her family when she was three years old. The daughter of a psychologist mother and physicist father, she made her stage debut in Switzerland at the age of 11. She went on to study drama at the Geneva Conservatoire and the prestigious Rue Blanche (the French national drama academy) in Paris and also trained for a time in London. It was while she was working in the theatre that Jacob was spotted by director Louis Malle, who cast her in his Au Revoir Les Enfants (1987) -- her first screen role. In 1991, after making a few more French films, Jacob shot to stardom as the lead of Kieslowksi's La Double Vie de Véronique (The Double Life of Véronique). Cast in a dual role as the Polish Veronika and the French Véronique, two women who lead different but indelibly interconnected lives, Jacob drew raves for her performance and won the Cannes Festival's Best Actress Award.
Although she was subsequently flooded with offers to star in a number of American films -- including Indecent Proposal -- Jacob largely focused her talents on small French films, again earning international plaudits in 1994 as the protagonist of Kieslowski's Trois Couleurs: Rouge. Much of her work since then has been for a variety of European directors, including Oliver Parker (for Othello, 1995, which required her, as Desdemona, to read all of her lines in English), Wim Wenders and Michelangelo Antonioni (for Par-Dela Les Nuages, 1995), and Hugh Hudson (for My Life So Far, 1999). Jacob has appeared in the occasional American film, most notably George Hickenlooper's The Big Brass Ring (1999), a political drama that cast her as a journalist on the prowl for campaign scandal.