A cool, innocent-looking leading lady with honey-colored hair and an unflappable, world-weary gaze in her green eyes, Isabelle Huppert made her screen debut at age 16 and had appeared in over 15 films by the age of 21, including a small role as a bored teenager who runs off with the vagabond threesome in Bertrand Blier's road movie "Going Places" (1974). Her roles as the guileless, victimized main character of Claude Goretta's "The Lacemaker" (1977) and as the casual murderess "Violette Noziere" (1978) demonstrated an enviable dramatic range and propelled her into international stardom. In the early 1980s, Huppert earned a reputation for using her influence to help non-commercial projects get off the ground; such films included Jean-Luc Godard's "Every Man for Himself" (1980), Joseph Losey's "The Trout" (1982) and sister Caroline Huppert's "Sincerely, Charlotte" (1984). Huppert has continued to work with non-mainstream directors such as Diane Kurys ("Entre Nous" 1983) as well as established international figures such as Claude Chabrol ("Story of Women" 1988; "Madame Bovary" 1991). In 1997, she worked with New Wave icon Chabrol a fourth time in "Rien ne va plus", playing a con artist.
Raised as the youngest of five daughters in an affluent family, Huppert announced at age 13 her intention to be an actor. By 1971, she had played her first screen role in Nina Companeez's "Faustine et le Bel Ete". The next year, she was Romy Schneider's younger sister in "Cesar and Rosalie" and made her English-language debut in "Rosebud" (1974), directed by Otto Preminger. Her performance as a madwoman in "Aloise" (also 1974) garnered much praise at the Cannes Film Festival. Not yet 20, Huppert was considered one of France's leading thespians. Her decidedly different turn as a simple provincial heroine, a country girl ruined by a summer romance. in "The Lacemaker" (1977) won her a BAFTA award. The following year, Huppert earned the Best Actress honors at Cannes for her effective portrayal of "Violette", a 1930s French woman who casually killed her father and sensationalized France. The actress found herself in the midst of controversy in 1979 when the insistence by Michael Cimino to cast her as the female lead in "Heaven's Gate" was one of the earlier uproars between the director and the studio in what proved to be one of the biggest box office disasters in Hollywood history. In demand internationally, Huppert never wanted to abandon the film industry in her native land, and when she starred in "Story of Women" for Chabrol in 1988, it was hailed as her French "comeback", earning her some of the best reviews of her career. In 1995, she was again directed by Chabrol in "Le Ceremonie" playing a shy local postmistress in a French village. Huppert starred in "Elective affinities" (1996), which looked at couples swapping, and was a sensuous Madame Curie in "Les Palmes de M. Schutz" (1997). One of her more intriguing roles was as a former nun writing pornography in Hal Hartley's "Amateur" (1994). Huppert has not sought work on TV, but did do the voice of the mistress heard by Ted Danson in the NBC miniseries version of "Gulliver's Travels" (1996).
Huppert continued to act steadily in French films for he next several years. Appearing in "La Vie moderne" (1999), "La Fausse suivante" (2000) which was based on Marivaux's play and "Les Destinees sentimentales" (2000) among many others. In 2002, she appeared in "8 Femmes" with Catherine Deneuve and also received a fair amount of attention in the U.S. press with the release of the crime thriller, "Merci pour le chocolat." Her biggest splash in the U.S. followed shortly thereafter when her film "The Piano Teacher" (2002), in which she plays a sexually alientated music intructor who embarks on a dark journey into sado-masichism with a love-struck young man, garnered rave reviews and earned her several critical awards and nominations internationally. She also had a plumb role in writer-director David O. Russell's "existential comedy" "I [Heart] Huckabees" (2004) as the nemesis of a pair of existential detectives (Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin) who threatens to bring their confused client (Jason Schwartzman) under her sway.