Born: July 21, 1971
Date of Birth: July 21, 1971
The daughter of celebrated French singer/actor/composer/director Serge Gainsbourg and British singer/actress Jane Birkin, Charlotte Gainsbourg was born in London, England but raised in France. In 1980, her parents divorced.
Charlotte made her film debut at the age of 12 in Paroles et Musique (1984) opposite Catherine Deneuve (a friend of the family), but it was a French-language duet with her father the same year called "Lemon Incest" that brought her a great deal of public attention.
The music video featured the two of them lying on a bed, Charlotte in panties and a shirt, her father naked from the waist up. Serge earned criticism for exploiting his daughter, while Charlotte was criticized for her singing as she cracked her way through the song in a breathy, childish treble singing "Lemon incest, I love you more than anything...The love we will never make together is more rare, more troubling, more pure," while her father sang, "Delicious child, my flesh and blood, your kisses are so soft."
The French public was fascinated by Charlotte, as she continued to make films throughout her teenage years, winning a César as Most Promising Actress for her starring role as Charlotte in L'Effronté (1985); and at 14, teamed up with her father again for Charlotte Forever (1986). Serge wrote and directed the film, starred as her father in it and wrote a duet for himself and Charlotte as the theme song. The film was noted for her first nude scene.
Kung-Fu Master (1987) was based on a story by her mother, who starred in the film as a 40-year-old woman who has an affair with a 15-year-old boy. Charlotte's career didn't slow down in her twenties, as she acted with her cousin, Ned Birkin, in her first English-speaking role in The Cement Garden (1993), directed by her stepfather, who hired a voice language coach to help her with her English accent. She played herself in Grosse Fatigue (1994) opposite Roman Polanski and gained international attention as the somber but remarkably vulnerable Jane in the British production Jane Eyre (1996), opposite William Hurt's brooding Rochester.
Returning to French-language films, she played the title role in the thriller Anna Oz (1996) and the starring role in Love, Etc. (1996) followed by a starring role in the British thriller The Intruder (1999).
She received another César, this time for Best Supporting Actress, in La Buche (1999). In the Canadian-filmed TV mini-series Nuremberg (2000), she played opposite Alec Baldwin and Christopher Plummer.
Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu admitted to hiring her to play a role in 21 Grams (2003) because he was a fan of her father's, but her talent was evident as she shared a Phoenix Film Critics Society award for Best Ensemble acting with, among others, Benicio Del Toro, Sean Penn and Naomi Watts.
Charlotte continues to work steadily both in French and English in films such as The Science of Sleep, Prete-moi ta main, Nuovomondo and I'm Not There (all 2006). Also in 2006, she released her second album "5:55." Her first was "Charlotte Forever" in 1986, a French-language album comprised of songs written by her father. Although her father had once advised her not to get voice training, Charlotte finally went against her father's wishes and took singing lessons before recording her new album, comprised of English-language songs. The lessons paid off as her voice showed remarkable improvement from her earlier singing efforts. Most recently, she starred in the film Nymphomaniac: Volumes I and II (2014).
Gainsbourg, whose father was Jewish (he died of a heart attack in 1991), has a son (b. 1997) and a daughter (b. 2002) with Israeli-born actor Yvan Attal, whom she met in 1989 while filming Aux yeux du monde. They live in Paris. She does not speak publicly about her children because she doesn't want them thrust into the limelight as she was. In her spare time she enjoys playing the piano and drawing.