Cannes Film Festival 2023: how Virginie Efira went from TV presenter to essential star of French cinema

“In my childhood eyes, it was Hollywood, I dreamed of it.” Virginie Efira confides that she had stars in her eyes when she thought of the stars walking the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival. A climb of the steps that seemed inaccessible for the teenager born in Schaerbeek, in the suburbs of Brussels, daughter of a divorced oncologist and beautician, who collected images of models from the 1990s in her room. From now on, on the Croisette, it is part of the decor. She presents out of competition, Friday, May 26, Nothing to lose by Delphine Deloget, after Love and Forests by Valérie Donzelli, screened on Wednesday. But before being installed, Virginie Efira, 46, has come a long way. A look back at the pivotal moments of his career.

The springboard for tele-hook

Virginie Efira, then presenter on Belgian television, in Brussels, on March 1, 2004. (BENOIT DOPPAGNE / BELGA / AFP)

Virginie Efira has not always lived up to her acting dreams. “VSback home, there was worse than that, I wanted notoriety”she admits in The cross*. There were times when she found herself superficial, like when her father came across her model photos. A desire to please that led her to run (and be elected) “Miss Tequila”she says in The world*. If she fits in well Insas (National Higher Institute of Performing Arts), then at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels, she failed. Her destiny changes when she officiates as a waitress in a Brussels nightclub, where she is scouted by a television producer.

At the end of the 1990s, she presented “Mégamix”, a musical program broadcast on Club RTL and which met with great success in Belgium. Very quickly, the French channel M6 noticed her. “We felt a girl who did not take her head, instinctive, without waffle or artifice, who brought a breath of fresh air compared to the codes of French TV”trace in The Parisian* Yann Goazempis, former entertainment director of the group. Virgine Efira becomes one of the faces of the channel. The shows “Opération séduction” and “La Nouvelle Star” propelled her to stardom on the small French screen. Invited to climb the steps of the Festival for the first time, she takes her status as a presenter “and his naivety in the face”she says in Paris Match*. The next day, a daily newspaper published the list of those who had nothing to do there and my name was on it.”

The “French-style Cameron Diaz”

Belgian actress Virginie Efira and French actor François-Xavier Demaison, who starred together in "The chance of my life", before the César ceremony on February 27, 2010, in Paris.  (BERTRAND GUAY / AFP)

Virginie Efira never wanted to settle on the small screen. But she was there noticed for “his fantasy” by the director Philippe Lefebvre who offered him, in 2010, his first role in The Whistler. “We had to try something else, maybe miss. (…) I had no precise idea of ​​where I wanted to arrive, I wanted to look”explains the actress at Konbini. Then, Dominique Farrugia offered her the role of Angèle in Love is better with twowith Clovis Cornillac and Manu Payet. “We were looking for a French-style Cameron Diaz”remembers the former Nu in The Parisian .

These two roles open his “romantic comedies” period, crowned with certain successes such as My worst nightmare by Anne Fontaine, 20 years apart with Pierre Niney or A tall man by Laurent Tirard with Jean Dujardin. But there still, she does not want to be satisfied with it.

“Playing a woman who is simply described as ‘independent and clumsy’, I’ve done that before…”

Virginie Efira

In the “Sunday newspaper”

The decisive meeting with Justine Triet

French director Justine Triet and Belgian actress Virginie Efira on the steps of the Cannes Film Festival to present "Sybil"their second film together, on May 24, 2019. (STEFANIE REX / DPA-ZENTRALBILD / AFP)

Virginie Efira’s career owes its take-off to the program “Rendez-vous in unknown land”. In 2010, she took off for Mongolia with Frédéric Lopez. In front of her screen, director Justine Triet is looking for an actress for the script she is developing. She exudes a thing of loneliness and joy, describes the filmmaker in The world. EShe had done a lot of jobs, Miss Weather, waitress, animator, and had managed a lot of situations, contradictions, it made her unique, not invaded by her ego. This meeting will change everything. Virginie Efira plays Victoria in the film of the same name, a forty-something in the midst of an existential crisis. Shooting had allowed me to finally find meaning in this profession. I was participating in a film that came out of the pre-chewed stories and carried the look of a real author”she savors in The Sunday newspaper*.

“I hadn’t explored much of the dramatic register, the auteur films financed by the CNC which have reviews in ‘Libé’. I felt that it was not for me.”

Virginie Efira

In the world”

For the actress, Justine Triet “perceived my physical solidity. And also Belgium, the insecure girl who hasn’t really started yet. I wanted to do her film so much that I lied by saying that I had already saw his first film, The Battle of Solferinoand yet I don’t lie much.” With Victoria, I went from 30,000 to 600,000 entries. We both ended up in another world.”, specifies the director. The film is presented at the opening of La Semaine de la critique in Cannes, in 2016. This time, no one can find anything wrong with the presence of the former presenter of “La Nouvelle Star”.

The bulimia of filming

Belgian actress Virginie Efira, Dutch director Paul Verhoeven and Belgian-Greek actress Daphne Patakia for the presentation of "Benedetta" in Cannes, July 10, 2021. (VALERY HACHE / AFP)

After Victoria, Virginie Efira enters a whirlwind of filming. In seven years, there will be 16 films, some of which will be directed by big names in auteur cinema: Catherine Corsini, Rebecca Zlotowski, Alice Winocour, Albert Dupontel and Paul Verhoven. The Dutch filmmaker, after having directed it in Sheoffered him the title role of Benedetta, a mystical Italian nun who discovers sexuality within her convent in the 17th century. Her performance, in which she throws herself shamelessly, is hailed. She didn’t apprehend the shooting at all. She had no inhibitions or discomfort with nudity“, testifies Paul Verhoven in The Sunday newspaper*. Turn with the director of the mythical Basic Instinct makes him then measure the path travelled.

“When I presented the hit parade, I did not see how Paul Verhoeven could come into my existence.”

Virginie Efira

In “Paris Match”

Benedetta by Paul Verhoeven, An impossible love by Catherine Corsini See Paris again by Alice Winocour or even Police where she finds Anne Fontaine are strong choices, far from the lighter register of her debut. “VSe are more complex roles, and it is easier to play (them) than archetypes defined by two qualifying adjectives”notes the actress in The cross. A way too, according to Anne Fontaine in The Sunday newspaper*to affirm her position as an actress: I felt his legitimacy complex coming from television. But he’s a good muscle to transcend himself and that’s what gives him this determination to play more and more complex roles, the courage to try things like Benedetta.”

The consecration of the Caesars and the leap “into the unknown”

Belgian actress Virginie Efira and her companion, actor Niels Schneider, after the César ceremony in Paris, February 25, 2023. (EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP)

In February, his sixth César nomination is the right one. Crowned best actress for her role as a survivor of an attack in See Paris againshe laughs at his hyperactivity. “At the same time, I made 63 films this year, so arithmetically, I had given myself a bit of a chance”she smiled as she received her prize.

However, the reward has not changed the nature of the proposals it receives, nor the quantity. “I was still quite spoiled before. In any case in the cinema that interests me, which was not always with the widest audience, but which I liked”supports the actress on European 1. Because in reality, she was already spoiled for choice: a scenario with a woman between 30 and 45 no longer circulates “without Efira written in the margin” presses in The world producer Philippe Carcassonne. The cinema will however have to learn to do without it for some time: the actress, pregnant with her companion Niels Schneider, confirmed in Telerama* that her career was going to be put on hold by her pregnancy.

“This is the first time that I have no upcoming project, that I am faced with the unknown.”

Virginie Efira, actress

In “Telerama”

On her return, perhaps she will return to acting. After “having nurtured all possible complexes”she summarizes in Paris Matchshe is now aware that she is “valid”. And if, “regardless of (his) age”She was supposed to be “in trouble”she assures Teleramashe knows that Justine Triet “will come (her) to save”.

*Links followed by an asterisk lead to paid articles.

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