An elegant brunette with strong, striking features, actress Fanny Ardant has been touted by at least one publication as France's answer to Katharine Hepburn. Since first gaining international attention in her starring role opposite Gérard Depardieu in François Truffaut's La Femme d'à côté (1981), Ardant has become recognized as one of France's most popular and well-respected actresses.
The daughter of a calvary officer, Ardant was born in Saumur, Maine-et-Loire, on March 22, 1949. She grew up in Monaco, where her father's position allowed the family to be on familiar terms with the royal household. After an upbringing marked by frequent visits with Princess Grace, Ardant relocated to Aix-en-Provence to study political science. Her interests gradually turned toward acting, and after taking drama classes from Jean Périmony, she made her professional debut in a 1974 stage production of Corneille's Polyeucte.
Ardant's first dose of acclaim came with her performance in the made-for-TV drama Les dames de la côte (1979). Shortly thereafter, she began her association with Truffaut, which would lead to both excellent work in La Femme d'à côté and Vivement dimanche! (1983) and a relationship that lasted until Truffaut's death in 1984 and produced one daughter, Joséphine.
Ardant's work continued to flourish after Truffaut's death, and she cemented her reputation with serious, passionate roles in a number of dramatic films. She did particularly strong work in Un amour de Swann (1984), Le Colonel Chabert (1994), Ridicule (1996) -- which featured her in a delightfully nasty turn as the acidic noblewoman Madame de Blayac -- and Gabriel Aghion's Pédale douce (1996), a broad comedy in which Ardant's uncharacteristic comic turn won her the 1997 Best Actress César. Ardant again explored her humorous side for Aghion in his Le Libertin (2000), co-starring alongside such well-respected colleagues as Vincent Pérez, Michel Serrault, and Josiane Balasko.
Ardant has also maintained a career on the stage, appearing in productions of Strindberg's Miss Julie, Molière's Don Juan, and Roman Polanski's highly praised 1997 adaptation of Master Class, which featured the actress as Maria Callas.