Breakout French talent takes the next step

Yvan Attal

Though he’s been a leading man since the early ’90s, Israel-born Attal recently kicked it up several notches with a nail-biting perf in Lucas Belvaux’s kidnapping drama “Rapt.” Alongside his dark turn as an unfaithful husband in Cedric Kahn’s “Regrets,” he’s proved he can take on difficult roles with relative finesse. “As an actor, you’ve got to immerse yourself completely,” Attal says. Next, the thesp-helmer (“My Wife Is an Actress”) plans to direct again, reteaming with spouse Charlotte Gainsbourg for romantic fantasy “Les Sabines.”

LOUISE BOURGOIN

Making the jump from Beaux-Arts student to TV weather girl to major actress may sound like a stretch, but 28-year-old Bourgoin did just that when she debuted opposite vet Fabrice Luchini in 2008’s “The Girl From Monaco.” She’ll soon be headlining Luc Besson’s E30 million ($40.9 million) creature feature “The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec,” whose months of prep she describes as “the best acting school imaginable.” Two other pics, “White as Snow” and “The Other World,” are due out this year.

GUILLAUME CANET

Both actor and filmmaker, Canet has proved he can successfully switch hats, most recently with the Hitchcockian “Tell No One.” “As a director, character development is something that fascinates me, and it’s come to influence the way I approach my acting,” he says. While starring alongside Keira Knightley in Massy Tadjedin’s upcoming couples drama “Last Night,” he is also finishing his latest directorial stab, “Little White Lies,” which he describes as a “generational film a la ‘The Big Chill.’

JEAN DUJARDIN

Initially a tube and Net phenom, the suave and goofy Dujardin exploded into the spotlight with 2005’s surfer spoof “Brice de Nice,” following that with Bond sendup “OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies,” portraying a martini-slurping, politically incorrect cross between Peter Sellers and Sean Connery. After last year’s ‘OSS’ sequel, he’ll be headlining a string of more serious works, including Nicole Garcia’s “A View of Love” and Bertrand Blier’s “The Clink of Ice.”

ROMAiN DURIS

Versatile, 35-year-old Duris has been the favored actor of helmer Cedric Klapisch since the mid-’90s, but he’s perhaps best known to U.S. auds for his brooding portrayal of Thomas Syre in “The Beat That My Heart Skipped.” After a physically taxing perf in “Persecution,” he’s moved to lighter fare with Pascal Chaumeil’s “Heartbreaker.” “Though it’s a comedy, we pushed to make the film as romantic as possible,” Duris says.

JULIE GAYET

After dozens of features and TV movies, the sprightly, 37-year-old Gayet has taken on several socially weighty projects. In “Eight Times Up,” she plays a divorced, unemployed mom scraping by in rural France. “It’s an extremely common phenomenon, but rarely seen in this semi-comic light” the actress says. In “Carre blanc,” she’s trapped in a ruthless future society. Gayet recently produced Sundance docu “Fix Me,” about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

VINCENT LINDON

“I’m Monsieur Tout-le-Monde,” quips 50-year-old Lindon. With more than 50 credits, the veteran actor may finally reach overseas auds with the Cesar-nommed “Welcome” and two-hander “Mademoiselle Chambon.” Prone to playing “everyday Joes who are driven to surpass themselves,” such as the schoolteacher-cum-gunslinger in “Anything for Her,” Lindon cites Gary Cooper and Spencer Tracy as influences. “They always played the same person, and that’s why people watched them.”

CHIARA MASTROIANNI

Daughter of legends Catherine Deneuve and Marcello Mastroianni, the 37-year-old actress has paved an eclectic career marked by collaborations with Gallic auteurs Christophe Honore and Arnaud Desple-chin. In Honore’s latest, “Making Plans for Lena,” she channels “A Woman Under the Influence”-era Gena Rowlands, proving she can play a character who’s both affecting and disturbing. “She’s driven to make some tough choices,” Mastroianni says, “but we’re all vulnerable like that at one point in our lives.”

TAHAR RAHIM

Recently awarded a lead actor Cesar for his riveting portrayal of Malik, the unlikely hero of Jacques Audiard’s prison thriller “A Prophet,” 28-year-old Tahar Rahim has been racking up awards in France and Europe for his powerhouse feature debut. How did the French-Algerian newbie do it? “Jacques kept telling me to question my character’s every action, every word,” Rahim explains. Following Kevin MacDonald’s Roman-era epic, “The Eagle of the Ninth,” he will play the lead in Chinese helmer Lou Ye’s Paris-set drama, “Bitch.”

LEA SEYDOUX

“A cross between Brigitte Bardot and Anna Karina,” according to Variety’s Alissa Simon, the striking Seydoux stole Christophe Honore’s “The Beautiful Person” in 2008. She’s since juggled smaller roles in major Hollywood productions (including “Inglourious Basterds” and the upcoming “Robin Hood”) as well as leading turns in auteur-driven films “Going South” and Amos Gitai’s upcoming “Roses a credit.” Undeterred by the casting process, where “you must make yourself desirable,” she sees each new project “as a chance to test herself.”

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