Marie-Josée Croze, actor (born 23 February 1970, in Montréal, QC). Jutra and Genie Award-winning actress Marie-Josée Croze struggled for many years in the Québec film industry before delivering breakthrough performances in Denis Villeneuve’s Maelström (2000) and Denys Arcand’s Les Invasions barbares (2003), for which she received the Best Actress prize at the Cannes Film Festival. With the beauty and charisma of a leading lady and the intensity and versatility of a character actor, she has built a successful and diverse international career, particularly in France, where she has lived since 2003.
Early Years and Career
Marie-Josée Croze grew up from the age of three in an adoptive family in Longueuil, near Montréal, with four siblings. A shy teenager, she first studied fine arts at Cégep du Vieux Montréal before mustering the courage to try a drama class, and eventually taking acting workshops at Espace La Veillée (now Théâtre Prospero).
After a couple of small parts in television, she made her film debut in Gilles Carle’s little-seen La Postière (1992), and then played the role of a sexy French Canadian teenager parading around the beaches of the Sunshine State in Geroge Mihalka’s box office hit La Florida (1993). In spite of her memorable appearance in this successful film, Croze went for several years without working before finally landing supporting parts in TV movies and series.
Maelström and Les Invasions barbares
She landed her breakthrough role in Denis Villeneuve’s Maelström (2000). Hoping to find an actress with a quality similar to German star Nastassja Kinski for the leading role of Bibiane—the gorgeous, guilt-ridden fashion designer who desperately seeks to make amends for her elusive sins—Villeneuve auditioned dozens of Québecois actresses before finding his “Kinski québécoise” in Croze’s compellingly gentle blue eyes, subtle intensity and repressed sensuality. A romantic exercise in existentialist magical realism, Maelström became an art-house hit in North America and Europe and garnered multiple awards, including Genie and Jutra Best Actress awards for Croze.
Atom Egoyan was so impressed with Croze’s performance in Maelström that he cast her in Ararat (2002), his film on the Armenian genocide. Though Croze had to audition for Denys Arcand's Les Invasions barbares (2003), the seasoned filmmaker and the young actress quickly recognized their common affinity for accuracy. To construct her role of the junkie, Natalie, Croze conducted thorough research on drug abuse and observed several heroine addicts. Her meticulous and nuanced rendition of this intelligent and sensitive, bitter and cynical character earned her, among other prizes, the prestigious award for Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival. Considering her role a supporting one, and thinking she couldn’t win, Croze had returned to Montréal and learned she had won the award while being interviewed on a live TV talk show.
Recognition at Cannes brought Croze international fame and made her a hot commodity in Hollywood and the European film industry. After a somewhat unremarkable role in the Angelina Jolie vehicle Taking Lives (2004), she gained notoriety for her performance as a doomed assassin in Steven Spielberg’s Munich (2005) and worked with Julian Schnabel in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007).
But it is in France where she has enjoyed the most success, appearing in such films as Guilaume Canet’s international hit Ne le dis à personne (2006), Julie Lopes-Curval’s Mères et filles (2009) alongside Catherine Deneuve, Zabou Breitman’s Je l'aimais (2009) opposite Daniel Auteuil, and Nicole Garcia’s Un balcon sur la mer (2010) with Jean Dujardin. In 2010, Croze became the first Canadian to receive the Romy-Schneider Award for the most promising upcoming actress in the French film industry.
In 2014, she appeared in a number of high-profile films, including John Michael McDonagh’s dark comedy Calvary, Wim Wenders’ 3-D drama Every Thing Will be Fine co-starring Rachel McAdams and Charlotte Gainsbourg, Un illustre inconnu (2014) opposite Mathieu Kassovitz, and her return to Québec cinema in Denys Arcand's Deux nuits (2014).
Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Maelström), Genie Awards (2000)
Best Actress (Maelström), Prix Jutra (2001)
Best Actress (Maelström), Vancouver International Film Festival (2001)
Best Actress (Les Invasions barbares), Cannes Film Festival (2003)
Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Les Invasions barbares), Genie Awards (2003)
Best Actress (Les Invasions barbares), Prix Jutra (2003)
Most Promising Upcoming Actress, Romy Schneider Award (2010)