Changing lives on celluloid

By Sheryl Garratt ( China Daily ) Updated: 2014-08-23 07:45:02

We meet in the bar at Claridge's in London. Binoche has come over from Paris to do the interview because, she explains, this is a film she wants to support.

She loves to travel. When she was 16 she hitchhiked around Poland during the Solidarity uprising, to discover her roots (her maternal grandparents were Polish). She has walked to Machu Picchu, seen glaciers in Patagonia, and recently had a three-week break with friends in Antarctica. She has somehow combined this with a prolific acting career and bringing up two children. She has never publicly named the fathers of her children, but Raphael's father is usually reported to be Andr Halle, a professional scuba diver whom she met during the troubled three-year shoot of her 1991 film Les Amants du Pont-Neuf. Her daughter, Hana, 14, is said to be by Benoit Magimel, her co-star in the 1999 film Les Enfants du Sicle.

"The way I resolved it at the beginning was to take my children wherever I was going, until my daughter was 6, and her father didn't want me to take her with me. Then, when my son was 10, I thought I had to ask him if he wanted to travel around with me, or whether he'd like to stay at home with his father, his friends and his normal activities - and he wanted to stay at home, mostly."

Her own childhood was difficult. Her parents split up when she was 4, and she and her older sister, Marion, were packed off to boarding school. She was unhappy there and has often said that acting was a way of replacing the family she felt she lacked as a child. At the age of 15 she decided to complete her education at a school specialising in drama, moving to Paris, where she lived with her sister, who was then 17.

She finished school and took drama classes at night, working as a cashier in a department store to get by. Her mother, a drama teacher, couldn't afford to help out, and her father, a director of masked theatre, had gone to live in Colombia. "I was lucky to have a very nice first boyfriend!" she says, laughing. She managed to get a few theatre parts, a couple of days' shooting on some TV dramas, then small roles in films, including Hail Mary with Jean-Luc Godard, before finally getting a break in 1985 with Rendez-vous, which won the Best Director award at Cannes for Andr Tchin.

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