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Willem Dafoe, born in 1955, is an actor with more than 80 titles to his name from a career spanning over three decades. In 1985 he starred in 'To Live and Die in L.A.' and the following year in Oliver Stone's 'Platoon' (1986), the latter earning him an Oscar nomination, which cemented his position as one of Hollywood's most talented character actors. He is known outside of the US for his collaborations with Lars von Trier.
He was a henchman in the underrated Timothy Dalton Bond vehicle 'License to Kill' (1989) and became better known thanks to his hilarious portrayal of Fenster in 'The Usual Suspects' (1995). He had also impressed – opposite Kevin Spacey for the first time – as an ambitious film exec in 'Swimming with Sharks' (1994). His Dr. Gonzo in Terry Gilliam’s take on Hunter S. Thompson’s 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas' (1998) somehow manages to outdo Johnny Depp’s most extreme excesses. But it is his sensitive portrayal of a Mexican cop staying afloat amidst the mire of police corruption and drug smuggling in Steven Soderbergh’s 'Traffic' (2000) that made him a star. It also won him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. He worked again with Soderbergh, playing the eponymous rebel and hero of the revolution in the filmmaker’s two-part epic 'Che' (2008). It is a stunning performance in a complex, intelligent and overlooked film. He is solid in '21 Grams' (2003), odd but amusing in 'Sin City' (2005), out of place in the big budget misfire 'The Wolfman' (2010) and amusing as The Collector in 'Guardians of the Galaxy' (2014). As Alejandro in 'Sicario' (2015), he offers up one of his finest roles. A mystery who is revealed as a monster, Del Toro nevertheless imbues his character with enough sympathy for us to initially side with him. It’s a masterclass in understated acting and evidence of Del Toro’s unique screen persona.
By any standards, French actor Anaïs Demoustier’s work rate since 2000 has been nothing short of industrious. She has appeared in over 40 features. Her break came with Michael Haneke’s dystopian 'Time of the Wolf' (2002). Subsequent roles in 'Belle épine' (2010) and 'The Snows of Kilimanjaro' (2011) increased her appeal. She broke through internationally with Malgorzata Szumowska’s 'Elles' (2011), playing one of two prostitutes studied by Juliette Binoche’s journalist. She also impressed in Claude Miller’s 'Thérèse' (2012). In François Ozon’s 'The New Girlfriend' (2014), she plays a young woman, best friend to a victim of cancer, whose attempts to console the woman’s widower find her discovering a surprising secret.
Judi Dench, born in 1934, has not only defied all of the traditional strictures dogging the employment of actresses of a 'certain age', but has done most of her screen work from her sixties onwards. Despite her small stature, she has never had problems playing the 'grande dame'; she can be flighty, romantic, and terrifying. She is a ten-time BAFTA winner and was appointed Dame of Order of the British Empire in 1988.
To describe Catherine Deneuve as an icon of French cinema is only to hint at her importance as an actor over the course of the last 60 years. To discuss every film is impossible, but each decade has produced roles that have indelibly marked her imprint on the medium, both in France and internationally. Deneuve shot to fame as the adorable shop assistant in Jacques Demy's blissfully romantic musical drama 'The Umbrellas of Cherbourg' (1964). Three years later, she would reunite with Demy, starring alongside her sister Françoise Dorléac and Hollywood legend Gene Kelly in the melodious 'Les Demoiselles de Rochefort' (1967). Between these sublime confections, she was a woman losing her mind in a London apartment in Roman Polanski's nightmarish 'Repulsion' (1965). She was both the object of sexual fantasy and a sexual fantasist in Luis Buñuel's 'Belle de Jour' (1968) and went on to work with the director again in 'Tristan' (1970), a film that even Alfred Hitchcock was speechless at. Deneuve won a new generation of admirers playing a centuries-old vampire in Tony Scott's feature debut 'The Hunger' (1983), while her award-winning performance in Regis Wagnier's '>Indochina' (1992) cemented her position as the grande dame of French cinema. Her roles in Leos Carax's 'Pola X' (1999) and Lars von Trier's Dancer in the Dark (2000) highlighted her willingness to tackle unconventional roles, while 'Potiche' offered her the rare opportunity to indulge in farce.
Robert De Niro, considered one of the greatest actors of his time, was born in New York in 1943. He gained recognition in 'Mean Streets' (1973) - the first of many collaborations with Martin Scorsese - followed by 'Taxi Driver' (1976), 'Raging Bull' (1980) for which he won an Oscar, and 'Goodfellas' (1990). He's starred in over 90 films over the course of his career. He also made his directorial debut with 'A Bronx Tale' (1993).
Born in France in 1948, Gérard Depardieu is one of the most prolific actors in film history, appearing in over 150 films since 1967. After his breakout film role came in ‘Going Places’ (1974), he appeared in a diverse mix of films, becoming a leading actor in the 80s and 90s. He is known for ‘Jean de Florette’ (1986), ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’ (1990), ‘La Vie en Rose’ (2007), and 'Welcome to New York (2014).
Andrea Arnold's 'Red Road' (2004) firmly established Katie Dickie as one of the country's most striking actors. She plays a CCTV operator whose past collides with the present when she sees a man walking the streets. Dickie has continued to appear in television dramas most notably 'He Kills Coppers' (2008), 'The Pillars of the Earth' (2010) and as Lysa Arryn in 'Game of Thrones' (2011-14). She was one of the ill-fated crew members in 'Prometheus' and excelled as a emergency call responder in the BAFTA-winning short 'Operator' (2015). Two recent roles, in 'Couple in a Hole' and 'The Witch' (both 2015) highlight her versatility and daring.
Lena Dunham was born in 1986 in New York. After high school, Dunham attended Oberlin college where she graduated with a degree in Creative Writing. In 2009, she released her first feature film 'Creative Nonfiction', which was followed by 'Tiny Furniture' (2010). In 2012, she gained a wider audience with her hugely popular HBO series 'Girls', which follows a group of 20-something women in New York City.
An art student who aspired to be a musician but was spotted in a Paris street by a casting director and subsequently pursued a successful acting career, Romain Duris is as much at home playing romantic leads as he is angst-driven rebels. The casting director approached him for a role in Cédric Klapisch’s 'Le Péril jeune' (1994) and he has continued working with the filmmaker, appearing in a further four films, often opposite Audrey Tautou. He also formed a fruitful partnership with Romany director Tony Gatlif, starring in 'Gadjo Dil'o (1997) and 'Exils' (2004). His international breakthrough was as a property owner’s henchman son who dreams of becoming a concert pianist in Jacques Audiard’s much admired 'The Beat That My Heart Skipped' (2005). 'Heartbreaker' (2010) and 'Populaire' (2012) highlight a lighter side to Duris’ screen persona, while 'The New Girlfriend' (2014) finds him breaking new ground in François Ozon’s smart, gender-bending comedy drama.