Profile of Catherine Deneuve, Iconic French Actress

Catherine Deneuve in Belle de jour
Corbis via Getty Images / Getty Images

Catherine Deneuve (born Catherine Fabienne Dorléac on October 22, 1943) is an acclaimed French actress and model. She has earned 14 French Cesar Awards nominations – 13 of which were in the Best Actress category – and appeared in more than 100 movies. Deneuve's equally successful modeling career made her one of the most recognizable faces around the world.  

Fast Facts: Catherine Deneuve

  • Occupation: Actress
  • Born: October 22, 1943, in Paris, France
  • Key Accomplishment: Two-time winner of the French Cesar Award for Best Actress
  • Selected Films: The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964), Belle de Jour (1967), Tristana (1970), The Last Metro (1980), Indochine (1993)
  • Spouse: David Bailey (m. 1965-1972)
  • Children: Christian Vadim, Chiara Mastroianni
  • Notable Quote: "A woman has to be intelligent, have charm, a sense of humor, and be kind. It's the same qualities I require from a man."

Early Life

Catherine Deneuve was born to a family of actors in Paris, France during the period of German occupation. Her father, Maurice Dorléac, performed both on stage and in films, and her mother, Renée Simonot, held the position of "leading lady" at the Odeon Theatre for 28 years.

Deneuve made her film debut as a child actor in the 1957 movie Les Collégiennes. She subsequently appeared in Vice and Virtue directed by Roger Vadim, who is best known for bringing Brigitte Bardot to stardom.

Becoming a French Film Star

Catherine Deneuve's star began to rise in 1964, when she appeared as the female lead in the hit French musical The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. The film earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film and won the Cannes Film Festival's highest prize, the Palme d'Or.

Over the next few years, Denueve demonstrated diverse acting talent, appearing in the 1965 psychological thriller Repulsion directed by Roman Polanski and 1967's Belle de Jour directed by Luis Buñuel. She became known for her depiction of a cool, erotic persona and was soon an international success, with legendary directors like Francois Truffaut featuring her in their work.

International Acclaim

In 1969, Deneuve began making occasional appearances in American films. She co-starred with Jack Lemmon in 1969's The April Fools and with Burt Reynolds in 1975's Hustle. An appearance in the 1983 British-American vampire film The Hunger, co-starring David Bowie, earned Deneuve a broader base of fans.

In 1975, Deneuve earned her first nomination for Best Actress at the Cesar Awards for her performance in Le Sauvage. Five years later, she won her first Cesar for her appearance in Truffaut's The Last Metro, and her second for her appearance in Indochine, a film that also earned her an Academy Award.

Denueve's film career spans decades. She appeared in her 100th film in 2008 and has continued acting frequently since reaching that landmark. She appeared with Gerard Depardieu in 2010's Potiche and 2012's Asterix and Obelix: God Save Brittania as part of a French comedy adventure series. She also starred in 2017's The Midwife, which received extensive theatrical distribution in the U.S.

Modeling Career

Catherine Deneuve found success as a model throughout her career. In the 1970s, she became the face of the legendary perfume Chanel No. 5. She frequently appears in clothing designed by Yves Saint Laurent, and modeled for his skincare line in 1992. In 1985, Deneuve was chosen to represent the official face of Marianne, the French symbol of liberty. 

Much like her acting career, Denueve's modeling career has been long-lasting. In 2001, at age 58, Deneuve was chosen as the new face for L'Oreal Paris cosmetics. Louis Vuitton began featuring Deneuve in their advertising campaigns in 2007. 

Personal Life

Francoise Dorléac, Catherine Deneuve's sister, was also an actress. The two sisters appeared together in the 1967 film The Young Girls of Rochefort. Later that year, Dorléac died tragically in an automobile accident at age 25.

Deneuve was married to photographer David Bailey from 1965 to 1972. She has two children: actor Christian Vadim and actress Chiara Mastroianna. Both of Denueve's children have acted extensively; Mastroianna received a Cesar award for her first film role 1993's My Favorite Season.


Catherine Deneuve first became famous for her portrayals of mysterious, distant women. As her career progressed, she explored a wider range of characters, developing a reputation for her strength as an actress. Today, Deneuve is one of the best-known and most highly-regarded French actresses in cinematic history. 


  • Cesar Award for Best Actress (1981): The Last Metro
  • Cesar Award for Best Actress (1993): Indochine
  • Academy Award Nomination for Best Actress (1993): Indochine


  • Deneuve Catherine. The Private Diaries of Catherine Deneuve: Close Up and Personal. Pegasus Books, 2007.
  • Rafferty, Terrence. “Catherine Deneuve: That Perpetual Object of Desire, Unobscured.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 18 Feb. 2015.