Sophie Marceau, one of the brightest French actresses, was born Sophie Danièle Sylvie Maupu in a poor neighbourhood of elegant Paris on 17 November 1966, the second child of Benoît Maupu, a truck driver and Simone Morisset, a salesperson in a small private store. Her parents divorced, when she was only nine and she grew up with her mother and brother in the Paris suburb, far from the studio spotlights. Soon her mother realized that her hazel eyed daughter with dark brown hair is not a diligent student. Since her early days, she was a loner, always absorbed in her dreams, forgetful about her homework and often used to walk alone aimlessly after school hours, shunning the company of her friends.
As the mother sensed that her daughter would hardly shine in academics, she decided to find a different way and took Sophie to a modelling agency. Although Sophie never thought of entering the entertainment industry, she took her first lesson of acting in the programmes arranged by the agency. She learned how to keep posture, move gracefully and pose in front of a camera; she also picked up some acting bases. Apart from cinematography, Sophie Marceau also debuted on the theatre stage, participated in Jean Anouilh’s modern interpretation of the Greek myth, Eurydice and won the Moliere Award for Best Female Newcomer. Apart from that, she also played the lead part in Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion. Later, Sophie stated that she initially visited and trained in working with Cours École Florent Drama faculty.
During that time, Françoise Menidrey, the casting director for the French director, Claude Pinoteau, informed several modelling agencies that he was looking for a young actress, a new face, for a movie about teenagers. Even though Sophie had her photos taken at the agency, she was not at all hopeful about the outcome. However, she got the opportunity to be auditioned for the role and after reviewing the rushes of the dozens of girls who appeared for the audition, Sophie got the nod for the role of the schoolgirl Vic Beretton and Alain Poiré, the director of the Gaumont Film Company, signed her for a long-term contract. The movie, La Boum (The Party 1980) was a tremendous success, not only in France, but also in several other European countries. She also appeared to play the same role in the sequel film La Boum 2 (1982) and was awarded the Cesar award for Most Promising Actress, for her performance in the film.
In the same year, in 1982, only at the age of 16, Sophie Marceau took a huge risk when she bought back her contract with Gaumont for one million French Francs, even though she had to borrow most of the money. Even, before that, the young talent rejected the main role in a soon-to-be controversial film, Beau-pere (1981), directed by Bertrand Blier, as a teenage girl who seduces her step-father for a sexual relationship. Instead, she focused on more dramatic roles and appeared in the historical drama Fort Saganne (1984), alongside Catherine Deneuve and Gérard Depardieu and also appeared as Julie, in Joyeuses Pâques (Happy Easter 1984). Although her roles in the films were not important, they made Sophie one of the most popular figures in France.
In the next year, she appeared as Marie in the romantic film, L'amour Braque (Mad Love 1985), directed by the Polish director, Andrzej Żuławski, with whom she would have a long term romantic relationship in the near future and also played the role of Noria, in the romantic crime drama Police (1985), starring Gérard Depardieu. After that, Sophie Marceau was cast in the flick Descente aux enfers (Descent Into Hell 1986) and two years later, starred in the romantic comedy L'Étudiante (The Student 1988). In the same year, she also got featured in the historical adventure film Chouans (1988), directed by Philippe de Broca, for which she won the Cabourg Award and was named Best Romantic Actress at the International Festival of Romantic Movies. Her only film in the next year was My Nights Are More Beautiful Than Your Days (1989), the story of the doomed passion of two mortally ill people, directed by her then-boyfriend Andrzej Zulawski.
Sophie Marceau made her American film debut in the French-American comedy Pacific Palisades (1990), portraying the role of Bernadette, a woman from Paris, followed by La note bleue (1991), her third film directed by Andrzej Zulawski, depicting the last days of the acclaimed Polish composer Frédéric Chopin. After that, the talented French beauty appeared in a couple of less dramatic films namely Fanfan (1993) and La fille de d'Artagnan (Revenge of the Musketeers 1994) Although the films received mixed reviews, they became popular and fared well at the box office. However, she achieved international recognition for portraying the role of Princess Isabelle in the American epic historical war drama film Braveheart (1995), directed by Mel Gibson, who also played Sir William Wallace, a late-13th century Scottish warrior. In the same year, she also appeared in Beyond the Clouds (1995), an Italian-French-German film, consisting of four stories of romantic love and illusion, directed by the famous Italian film director Michelangelo Antonioni, which was his final feature-length film before his death in 2007.
Sophie Marceau continued her string of successful films with William Nicholson's period romance film Firelight (1997), in which she appeared as Elisabeth Laurier, a Swiss governess who agreed to bear a child for an English landowner in return for money needed to pay her father's debts, but despite their deal, they developed a deeply passionate connection during their lovemaking by firelight. In the same year, she also appeared in Véra Belmont's light comedy Marquise (1997), filmed in France and the leading character in Bernard Rose's Anna Karenina (1997), filmed in Russia. After a gap of a year, she played Hippolyta in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1999), a romantic fantasy film, based on the play of the same name by William Shakespeare and also portrayed the role of the villainous Bond girl Elektra King in The World Is Not Enough (1999), with Pierce Brosnan as the James Bond. In the next year, Sophie teamed up again with Andrzej Zulawski to star in his drama film Fidelity (2000) and appeared as Clélia, a talented photographer who became romantically involved with an eccentric and erratic children's book publisher while resisting intently the sexual advances of another photographer. She won the Cabourg Romantic Film Festival Award for Best Actress for the second time, for her performance in the film.
The subsequent important roles played by Sophie Marceau include, a widowed nurse in Nelly (2004), an undercover police agent in the romantic thriller Anthony Zimmer (2006), the troubled daughter of a murdered movie star in Trivial (2007), a member of the French Resistance in the historical drama Female Agents (2008), a struggling single mother in the comedy film LOL (Laughing Out Loud 2008) and a troubled wife and mother of two children in the thriller Don't Look Back (2009), also starring Monica Bellucci. Apart from acting, Sophie Marceau also directed several films and was named Best Director at the Montreal World Film Festival for her directorial debut, Speak To Me of Love (2002).
In her personal life, she fell love at 18 and had a long relationship with Polish director Andrzej Zulawski, 26 years her senior, from 1985 to 2001. She gave birth to their son, Vincent in July 1995 and six years later, separated from Zulawski and began a six-year relationship with American producer Jim Lemley, with whom she had a daughter, Juliette, in 2002. Beginning in 2997, she also had a close relationship with Christopher Lambert, her co-star in Trivial and Cartagena, which ended after seven years as they announced their separation on 11 July 2014. In July 2016, the James Bond girl fell under the spell of the starred chef and restaurant owner Cyril Lignac and the pair seemed to be happy, until they abruptly decided to separate within 10 months.
Sophie Marceau has appeared on more than 300 magazine covers worldwide, which include Vogue, Madame Figaro and Elle. She has also been the face of numerous luxury brands like Dior and Guerlain. Apart from that, she is a classically trained cellist and authored a semi-autobiographical novel, Menteuse. She was chosen to represent France as the Ambassador of Charm in East Asia where she enjoys great popularity.