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Emmanuelle Riva - Biography

The Hollywood actress had a successful career...

Emmanuelle Riva wearing blue
16 January 2013
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Early career

Emmanuelle Riva was born Paulette Germaine Riva on 24 February 1927 in Cheniménil, France. The actress-to-be showed an early passion for acting and performed in plays at her local theatre.  Despite her talent, the star worked for years as a seamstress but applied to acting school after seeing an advert in her local paper. At 26, Emmanuelle moved to Paris to pursue acting despite her family's objections.

The star was born in France© Toni Anne Barson
The star was born in France

The actress made her professional debut in George Bernard Shaw's Arms and the Man in 1954. In 1957, she graced our screens for the first time in the TV series Énigmes de l'histoire.

Movie career

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. The actress passed away in 2017.

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