On January 31st Jean Reno returns with the DVD and Blu-ray release of Marseille mafia thriller 22 Bullets. Reno is one of those acting talents that manage to make the successful move from a domestic non-English speaking film industry to Hollywood. We take a look at other some of the other actors to find second-language success in Hollywood.
Javier Bardem stormed onto the Hollywood A list after a compelling performance as sociopathic Anton Chigurh in the Coen Brothers’ No Country For Old Men. Coming from a long line of Spanish film royalty, Bardem moved from Spanish TV to film before landing a role in Collateral. For his latest role Bardem teamed up with Babel director Alejandro Gonzalez Innarittu to play a struggling father in Biutiful (in cinemas January 28th). His performance in Biutiful has triggered widespread critical acclaim, as well as huge admiration from fellow thespians such as Sean Penn and Julia Roberts.
A superstar in Hong Kong since the late 1970s, Jackie Chan built a cult following in the West with the advent of home video, meaning that his fans were able to get hold of his death defying antics in classics such as Police Story and Drunken Master on VHS. He had an abortive attempt to crack the States in the mid 80s, but flops such as The Protector and The Big Brawl neutered his style and he was reduced to a cameo alongside Burt Reynolds in The Cannonball Run. It was in the late 1990s though that the American set Rumble In The Bronx was a break through hit at the US box office, and then starring alongside Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour series, and Owen Wilson in Shanghai Noon and its sequel turned him into an international icon.
Cotillard was already a star in France, appearing in respectable fare such as Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s A Very Long Engagement, and mainstream domestic hits like the Taxi franchise. She even found time to hop across the pond to appear in Tim Burton’s Big Fish. But it was her turn as French singer and cultural icon Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose which turned her into an international superstar. Cotillard won critical acclaim from across the world, winning a BAFTA, a Cesar Award and most significantly an Academy Award for Best Leading Actress, the first time that award has ever been presented for a French speaking role. She is now firmly established on the Hollywood A-list, having appeared with Johnny Depp in Public Enemies and alongside Leonardo Di Caprio in Inception.
After working as a model in her native Italy, Monica Bellucci began acting on Italian TV before moving in to film. Bellucci made her American film debut in Bram Stoker’s Dracula before going on to feature in the Matrix sequels, Shoot Em Up and, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and, most recently, The Whistleblower.
Making his name in theatre, Ken Wantanabe became a household name in Japan playing a variety of roles in television samurai period dramas. He was only really known in the West for his role in cult comedy Tampopo, until he was unveiled to American audiences in the Tom Cruise vehicle The Last Samurai. He has since become a mainstay of any Hollywood attempt to do anything set in the land of the rising sun, appearing in Memoirs Of A Geisha and Clint Eastwood’s Letters From Iwo Jima, but it was when he hooked up with Christopher Nolan that he really hit his stride, going toe to toe with the Dark Knight in Batman Begins and playing Leonardo DiCaprio’s sinister employer in Inception.
Having began his career in 1996’s Pusher, Mads Mikkelsen soon went to establish himself as one of Denmark’s finest and best known actors. In his homeland Mikkelsen found great success in such films as Shake It, Flickering Lights and cannibal comedy The Green Butchers. Mikkelsen’s best known role is probably the part of Le Chiffre in Casino Royale but he has also starred in Hollywood’s King Arthur, Valhalla Rising and the upcoming Three Musketeers.
Penelope Cruz began her on screen career starring in advertisements as a toddler. By her teenage years she featured on Spanish TV before making the move into film. Her role as Hermana Rosa in All About My Mother earned her critical acclaim and international recognition. Cruz has now established herself as one of Hollywood’s leading ladies having starred alongside the likes of Jonny Depp in Blow, Matt Damon in All The Pretty Horses, Tom Cruise in Vanilla Sky and current spouse Javier Bardem in Vicky Cristina Barcelona (main photo).
Mexican-born Hayek started her acting career in Mexican TV playing Teresa in the hugley popular soap opera with the same name. Hayek moved to LA in the early 90’s and went on to star in such films as Quentin Tarantino’s From Dusk Till Dawn, teen horror The Faculty, Dogma and most recently Adam Sandler’s Grown Ups.
Quentin Tarantino originally wrote the role of Col. Hans Landa for Leonardo DiCaprio, but he instead picked an actor in his 50s, who was a familiar face on German television but unknown to the rest of the world. Many were shocked, but Waltz’s performance as the terrifying but strangely funny Nazi was universally acknowledged at the best thing about Inglorious Basterds, and it was no surprise when he walked away with an Oscar for his troubles. He’s now been cast in the big screen versions of both The Green Hornet and The Three Musketeers, unsurprisingly playing the bad guy in both.
Although having settled in France at 17, Moroccan born Jean Reno heads a strong line-up of successful French based actors in Hollywood that includes such talents as Vincent Cassell and Gerard Depardieu. Reno continues to make films in France and the US and although his resume includes such movies as The Da Vinci Code, Hotel Rwanda and Mission Impossible, Reno’s best known role is still in the titular role in 1995’s Leon. Recently Reno played retired Marseille Mafioso Charly Mattei in French action flick 22 Bullets.