Her name might not ring a bell, but her face sure is familiar to Hollywood. Nora Arnezeder, the French actress recently seen in Netflix’s hit film Army of the Dead, is a rising star in the U.S. in 2023. Here are 10 reasons why we think she might just be France’s next big movie star in Hollywood, following in the footsteps of Audrey Tautou and Marion Cotillard.
1 - She went to zombie boot camp
A bit by accident, she seems to have become the go to-girl for physical action roles which involve a lot of running, jumping and some badass attitude all around. Although it’s not something she was especially going for, she admits that not taking herself too seriously and always looking to have fun on set led her to accept more and more of these action roles. Having experienced escaping serial killers and mercenaries in her previous films, she then landed her biggest film yet, Army of the Dead. The movie was directed by Zach Snyder, the mind behind Batman vs Superman, Man of Steel and Watchmen. Netflix had a lot of expectations for this big-budget movie and sent the main cast to a zombie boot camp! “We learned how to use weapons”, confessed Nora Arnezeder in her interview for TV5MONDE. In her zombie boot camp, the French actress also learned how to look and act scared, how to look badass, and how to say a lot through just the eyes, as zombie movies rarely let actors more than a few seconds to showcase many emotions. The boot camp clearly worked as you can see in Army of the Dead, as she is particularly efficient at killing zombies! She is almost unrecognizable in this latest role as she swapped her red lipstick and designer clothes for bleached hair and an all-black apocalypse style outfit in Zach Snyder’s horror flick.
2 - She was nominated for an Oscar at age 20
Well, not exactly her, but her work was, and more precisely her voice. In the movie Paris 36 (Faubourg 36), Nora Arnezeder found not only her breakout role but also a beautiful song to perform: “Loin de Paname”. The song was nominated for the Best Original Song at the 82nd Academy Awards. The category was eventually won by “The Weary Kind” from the film Crazy Heart with Jeff Bridges. “Her singing audition was impressive… But she was also so convincing when she was asked to play comedy”, said director Christophe Barratier when he cast a very young and inexperienced Nora for the role. “She’s the kind of person who is full of doubt right before a take, but once the scene starts, she lights up and is the center of attention”. This role truly launched her career, although it wasn’t her very first role. She had previously appeared in two French cop shows, Commissaire Valence and R.I.S. Police Scientifique, France’s remake of CSI. If you’re looking to stream the best of French TV and movies, subscribe now to the French channel TV5MONDE and the French streaming platform TV5MONDE+.
3 - She has been the co-star of Bradley Cooper, Ryan Reynolds and Elijah Wood
Nora Arnezeder was only 22 when she decided to pursue her career in Los Angeles rather than in Paris. “I was just a bit tired of the Parisian life, plus I already had an agent in LA”, said the French actress in an interview with TV5MONDE USA (watch below). Moving to California was far from the worst decision, as she landed a role for the first casting she was invited to in Hollywood. And this was no low-budget independent movie! Her first American role was in the 2012 action-film Safe House, alongside Ryan Reynolds and Denzel Washington. Acing one casting after the other, she then appeared in The Words, a romantic drama starring Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana and Olivia Wilde. The same year, she also had one of the main roles in the psychological horror film Maniac with Elijah Wood, written by the new French king of horror, Alexandra Aja (Piranha, The Hills Have Eyes, Horns, Crawl)
4 - She was the star of a French classic
Angélique, for anyone who is 60 and over in France, is the film of the sixties. This period movie was one of the biggest films of 1964 in France and in Europe and four sequels of Angélique were released over the next five years. So when it was announced that a remake of Angélique was in production, all eyes were on who was going to be the new lead, taking over Michèle Mercier - France’s sex-symbol of the 60’s with Brigitte Bardot. Nora Arnezeder was chosen for the role by director Ariel Zeitoun who said he loved the way she could internalize and pass on emotion without over-acting. Despite a big cast - Gérard Lanvin, Timer Sisley - the movie didn’t find its audience in the box-office. But the performance of Nora Arnezeder was praised by critics. “Nora Arnezeder is absolutely perfect, bringing back troubling sensuality of the original, with an obvious pleasure”, wrote Franceinfo Culture. Le Parisien also raved about her performance and how she brought all the charm and the temperament required by the role.
5 - She studied in France’s equivalent of the Actor’s Studio, le Cours Florent
Unless you grew up in France, you might not know of le Cours Florent, France’s most prestigious acting school based in Paris. How prestigious you ask? Well, over 400 of its alumni currently have a Wikipedia page! To name just a few, Isabelle Adjani, Daniel Auteuil, Sandrine Kiberlain, Audrey Tautou, Gaspard Ulliel, Gad Elmaleh, and Guillaume Canet all hail from here.
6 - She appeared in Amazon’s award-winning Mozart in the Jungle
This TV show produced by Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman was one of Amazon’s first shows to receive a lot of press and accolades. During its four season run, the show with Gael García Bernal won several Golden Globes and Emmy Awards. In Mozart in the Jungle, Noza Arnezeder plays Ana Maria, Gael García Bernal’s estranged violinist wife. Before landing roles in US TV shows, Nora Arnezeder had small roles in a few French series. So if you want to see her in some of her first roles, stream the best French TV shows on TV5MONDE and TV5MONDEplus.
7 - She was the star of CBS’ Zoo
In October 2013, it was announced that CBS was working on a highly-anticipated dystopian drama called Zoo. The premise made headlines as it told the story of a mysterious coordinated outbreak of attacks from animal upons humans everywhere in the world. The TV show was filmed in New Orleans and Vancouver and first aired in June 2015. Nora Arnezeder was the lead cast as a French intelligence agent in charge of investigating what prompted the animal attacks. The first season of Zoo was a big success for CBS with 8 millions Americans tuning in for the first episode. On average, Zoo drew 6 millions viewers for the rest of the season, regularly beating NBC’s America’s Got Talent. Season 2 of Zoo still fared well in terms of ratings, although dipped around 4 millions on average. The show was canceled by CBS after season 3 but Zoo was still a success for the network as the streaming rights were sold to Netflix. You can now stream the three seasons of Zoo on Netflix or buy it on Google Play and Amazon.
8 - She will be one of the star of the highly expected upcoming blockbuster Tin Soldier
With an already impressive filmography at 33, Nora Arnezeder could soon overpower other French actresses who made it in Hollywood before her like Marion Cotillard, Juliette Binoche or Audrey Tautou. She has been cast, once again for an action film, Tin Soldier, directed by Brad Gurman (The Lincoln Lawyer, Infiltrator). Nora Arnezeder is joining an already impressive cast: Jamie Foxx, Robert De Niro, John Leguizamo, Rita Ora. She won’t be the only Frenchy on set as Saïd Taghmaoui has also been cast. The movie will tell the story of the Bokushi (played by Jamie Foxx), a charismatic man who becomes some kind of a cult leader to heavily-armed veterans. Worried about this group of military-trained followers, the government decides to send an infiltrator to bring down the cult.
9 - She has an incredible voice
In France, Nora Arnezeder is not just known as an actress. She is also an accomplished singer, following her first singing role in Faubourg 36. Watch her beautifully cover What a Wonderful World, with French singer-songwriter Benjamin Biolay below . She also made headlines for a performance in the charity concert for Haïti, or for her cover of Singin’ in the Rain.
10 - She played Françoise Ruddy, whose incredible life is intertwined with The Godfather and the Rajneesh movement
The privilege of a comedian is to sometimes embody someone totally different from your personality, sometimes to play the role of a historical figure with an incredible life-story. That is exactly what happened to Nora Arnezeder when she was cast for the Paramount + mini-series The Offer. The biographical drama was centered on the mad making and production of Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece The Godfather. The show received overall positive reviews and was praised for its cast, among them Miles Teller, Matthew Goode, Colin Hanks and Giovanni Ribisi. In The Offer, Nora Arnezeder is Françoise Ruddy - born Françoise Wizenberg and also known as Françoise Glazer and Ma Prem Hasya. Her life started with a tragedy as her dad, a Polish born Jew was killed during WWII. Françoise survived the holocaust thanks to a Christian family who protected her and gave her a false identity. After living in France, Israël and Canada, she eventually relocated to New York with her mother. She later met and married the millionaire real estate developer Guilford Glazer, and then Albert S. Ruddy. He was a famous producer and worked on The Longest Yard, Matilda, Million Dollar Baby and… The Godfather. - which explains why he is a central character of the mini-series The Offer. Al Ruddy actually bought Françoise Ruddy the famous Château Marmont hotel, which she owned for several years! “In the '60s, '70s, it was a very male-orientated culture. And what I loved about Françoise is that she's a strong woman in that kind of world and she's very empowering. She empowered Al Ruddy to be able to do what he did. To me, she's a force of nature”, said Nora Arnezzeder in an interview with Metacritic about Françoise Ruddy. But being ‘the wife of’ is only a small part of her incredible life. Netflix subscribers might be familiar with the name Françoise Ruddy, as she is often featured in the documentary series Wild Wild Country about the controversial Rajneesh movement in America. She was the personal secretary of Bhagwan, also known as Osho, the leader of the movement turned cult. Asked if it was easier to play a real person versus a fictional character, Nora Arnezeder said “Not necessarily. I mean, of course, you have some elements that's given to you right away when you play a real person, but it's also intimidating. In the beginning, I was like, "Oh my God, I need to make sure that Françoise is depicted the way she really was." But there's also something very spiritual about embodying someone who existed. I felt her energy throughout.”
Watch below her interview in Rendez-Vous d’Amérique, available on TV5MONDE USA [opening video above in this article].
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