International Star You Should Know: Veerle Baetens

Belgian star of 'Broken Circle Breakdown' moves easily among film, TV and concert halls

Veerle Baetens


Although Antwerp-born Veerle Baetens (pronounced VERE-luh BAH-tuns) was already on the radar of most European casting directors for her work in TV and film, her incandescent turn as Elise, the bluegrass-singing mom whose daughter takes ill in Belgian foreign-language Academy Award nominee “The Broken Circle Breakdown,” brought her global attention, winning the thesp actress kudos at the 2013 European

Film Awards and the Tribeca Film Festival. “I have a daughter of my own, and playing this part … was special,” Baetens says.


“Broken Circle” helmer Felix Van Groeningen calls Baetens a “pitbull” as a thesp. “What strikes me most — apart from the fact that the camera loves her, and the fact that she is the hardest working actor I have ever met — is that she has the ability to grab the emotion of the scene almost immediately,” he says.


A mezzo-soprano who plays piano and guitar, the musical-theater-trained Baetens has her own Euro-pop band, Dallas. Before “Broken Circle,” she never thought about the film’s particular brand of American roots music, but she became a fan of the genre. “I especially love music with moving lyrics. That’s why I started to like bluegrass. The songs are so true and simple, and they touch your heart.” The soundtrack from “Broken Circle Breakdown” became a surprise bestseller in Belgium and France, and the group’s shows are a hot ticket.


Baetens, who speaks fluent Dutch, English and French, recently appeared in two episodes of the BBC’s historical drama “The White Queen” as Margaret of Anjou; she’s on Belgian movie screens in local hit drama “The Verdict,” which has grossed $4 million-plus; and she’s co-writing a screenplay, the subject of which, for now, is under wraps. “I would love to work anywhere in the world, as well as at home,” she says. “The White Queen,” she notes, was shot in English. “It felt very comfortable,” she says.


Baetens’ character in “Broken Circle Breakdown” is covered in tattoos, so the ink-free thesp sat for 2½ hours every day while removable art was applied to her body.