Emmanuelle Riva

"If by chance people would still offer me roles, I'd still like to do them. But if not, that's OK. I love life," says Emmanuelle Riva. "I love life to death. If I don't act in another film, who cares? I'm still alive and that feels great."

What might also feel great for the elegant Frenchwoman, if she were inclined to be impressed by accolades, is becoming the oldest actress ever nominated for an Oscar. She isn't.  

Fame has never held any allure for Emmanuelle, who attracted the Academy's attention with Amour, a tender yet unsentimental tale of a devoted elderly couple grappling with the aftermath of her character's stroke. 

"I’ve never wanted to be a star, never. I tried to do things that pleased me," says the octagenarian.

Born on February 24, 1927 in rural Lorraine, north eastern France, Emmanuelle describes herself as a "country girl". She started started her working life as a seamstress before trying her luck on the Paris stage.

Amour is not the first film to have critics throwing themselves at her feet. In 1959, she became a symbol of the New Wave cinema movement after starring in Hiroshima Mon Amour. Exploring the bitter legacy of the atom bomb, the drama charted an intense 36-hour affair between a French actress and a married Japanese architect. 

Her photographs of the blighted city were exhibited 50 years later.

Other intellectual, serious fare came her way. The reluctant star was a tormented widow looking for God in the 1961 film Léon Morin, Priest and Juliette Binoche's mother in Three Colours: Blue (1993). 

Then, she dropped out of sight to publish poetry. But having been "captivated" by her in Hiroshima Mon Amour, Austrian director Michael Haneke tracked her down for Amour.

"I immediately sensed that there was something extraordinary about the script," she said. "I sensed it intimately, without the least vanity. I knew I could do it." Her confidence was, it seems, spot on.
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