Isabelle Huppert can finally add the words “Academy Award Nominee” before her name, after decades as one of the most acclaimed actresses in her native France with over 100 credits to her name. She is the Meryl Streep of the Césars (the French Oscars) with a record 15 nominations and one win. She could add an Oscar bookend for her heralded performance in “Elle,” a daring psychological thriller by Dutch filmmaker Paul Verhoeven.
Huppert portrays a woman with a dark past playing a dangerous and provocative game of cat and mouse with the man that brutally raped her. “Elle” was France’s submission for Best Foreign Language Film, but missed the cut when the academy’s shortlist of nine films was announced late last year. Despite that snub, the actors branch nominated Huppert, who has been riding a wave of critical support this Oscar season. She has dominated the precursors prizes, winning with both the New York and Los Angeles scribes and then pulling off an upset at the Globes.
Huppert’s is the 40th foreign language performance nominated at the Oscars. Should she prevail on Feb. 26, she would join these seven past winners:
Sophia Loren was the first Oscar winner for a foreign language performance when she won Best Actress in 1961 for Vittorio De Sica’s Italian classic “Two Women” (1961)
Robert De Niro won Best Supporting Actor in 1974 for playing Vito Corleone in “The Godfather Part II,” in which he spoke Italian in the flashbacks to the title character’s early life.
Roberto Benigni won Best Actor for his starring role in “Life is Beautiful” in 1998. This was yet another Italian-language performance in a film that also won Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Original Score.
Benicio Del Toro won Best Supporting Actor in 2000 for Steven Soderbergh’s “Traffic.” Like De Niro, he won for his role in an American film, playing a Mexican cop whose dialogue was in Spanish.
Marion Cotillard won Best Actress in 2007 for her role as Edith Piaf in “La Vie En Rose,” the first French-language performance to prevail.
Penelope Cruz won Best Supporting Actress in 2008 for her work in Woody Allen’s “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” the second Spanish-language performance to claim an Oscar.
Christoph Waltz took home his first Best Supporting Actor award in 2009 for his German/French language performance in Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds.”
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