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Geneviève Bujold

(b. July 1, 1942 Montreal, Quebec)

“I don’t like to intellectualize about my acting. I don’t sit around and study the pages of a script over and over again. I don’t worry whether the period is contemporary or three hundred years ago. Human beings are all alike. The main thing in acting is honesty, to feel the humanity and get to the essence of the character. You can’t put anything into a character that you haven’t got within you.” – Geneviève Bujold, 1969

“Her hair is shiny and gleaming as a stallion’s mane, her eyes big and brown as chocolate jawbreakers, her tiny mouth a rosebud of surprise. Packed into her five-foot, four-inch doll’s frame is an intriguing mixture of purloined innocence, succulent sexuality and guerrilla warfare.” – Rex Reed, 1977

Aptly described by film scholar Pierre Véronneau as “indisputably the greatest Quebec actress of international standing,” Geneviève Bujold has been an iconic figure in Canadian film for more than forty years. Possessing a kind of pristine beauty characterized by her piercing and intelligent almond eyes, warm sensuality and childlike vulnerability, she also projects a somber, thoughtful maturity and an intensity that can be downright ferocious.

Bujold’s fiery independence and anti-authoritarian streak were likely forged by the twelve years of schooling she endured at Montreal’s oppressive Hochelaga Convent. She once described her experience there as like being “in a long dark tunnel, trying to convince myself that if I could ever get out, there was a light ahead.” After being kicked out of the convent in her final year for reading a banned novel, she followed her passion and trained in classical French drama at le Conservatoire d’art dramatique de Montréal, which she dropped out of shortly before graduation to take a part in a professional production of The Barber of Seville. She made her screen debut in the Crawley Films production of Amanita Pestilens in 1962, had a supporting role in the popular Quebec TV series Ti-Jean caribou in 1963, then worked with seminal Quebec directors Anne Claire Poirier and Michel Brault on their respective shorts La Fin des étés (1964) and Geneviève (1964).

She got her big break in 1965 when, on a theatrical tour of Paris with the Montreal theatre company Rideau Vert, she was cast by French director Alain Resnais in La Guerre est finie (1966), opposite Yves Montand. This led directly to lead roles in Philippe de Broca’s cult classic Le Roi de coeur (1966) and Louis Malle’s Le Voleur (1967), opposite Jean-Paul Belmondo, for which she received the Prix Suzanne Bianchetti as the French film industry’s “discovery of the year.” This brought her to the attention of American producers and led to the title role in the “Hallmark Hall of Fame” production of the Shaw play “Saint Joan” (1967), for which she received an Emmy Award nomination. Upon returning to Canada, she starred opposite Claude Gauthier in Brault’s Entre la mer et l’eau deuce (1967), considered by many to be one of the greatest Canadian films ever made. Also in 1967, she met and married Canadian director Paul Almond, with whom she would make a trio of prestigious art films: Isabel(1968) and The Act of the Heart (1970) – for both of which she won Canadian Film Awards for Best Lead Actress – and Journey (1973). They had a son, Matthew Almond (who would become an actor and assistant director), and divorced in 1973, though they would work together again on Final Assignment (1980) and The Dance Goes On (1992), which co-starred Matthew Almond and Bujold.

In 1970, Bujold’s career reached a new height when she won a Golden Globe Award and earned an Academy Award® nomination for her performance as Anne Boleyn opposite Richard Burton’s Henry VIII in Anne of the Thousand Days (1969). Apparently on the cusp of the stardom that had long seemed her due, Bujold signed a three-picture deal with Universal, but the deal quickly turned sour. Universal cast her in a role as Mary Queen of Scots, which Bujold, fearful of being typecast, refused. The resulting lawsuit demanded that she pay Universal $750,000 in damages, but Bujold instead left Hollywood and starred in a string of art films, including The Trojan Women (1971) with Kathryn Hepburn, Almond’s Journey and Claude Jutra’s Kamouraska (1973), the latter of which earned her yet another Canadian Film Award as lead actress. She eventually settled her dispute with Universal by agreeing to co-star in the Charlton Heston disaster movie Earthquake (1974), but by then her reputation in Hollywood as being difficult to work with was firmly entrenched and the number of quality roles available to her became limited.

However, none of this seemed to faze Bujold. Though often cast in films of questionable quality – such as Swashbuckler (1976), The Last Flight of Noah’s Ark (1980) and Monsignor (1982) – she always managed to transcend the material. Continuing to work in mainstream movies, she starred in Brian DePalma’s Obsession (1976), enjoyed a box-office hit with Michael Crichton’s Coma (1978), won a Best Supporting Actress Genie Award for Bob Clark’s Murder by Decree (1979) and starred opposite Clint Eastwood in his Tightrope (1984) before finding a kindred spirit in independent director Alan Rudolph. She joined his informal stock company and gave fine, cryptic performances in Choose Me (1984), Trouble in Mind (1985) and The Moderns (1988), then contributed a memorable performance opposite Jeremy Irons to David Cronenberg’s highly acclaimed Dead Ringers (1988).

She worked again with Michel Brault on his award-winning television film Les Noces de papiers (1989) and his 1994 feature Mon amie Max, and continued to act in independent films throughout the nineties, including The House of Yes (1997). She made headlines in 1994 when she dropped out of the lead role of Captain Janeway on the television series Star Trek: Voyager after only one day of filming, stating that the shooting schedule was too demanding. (Production photographs of her in uniform are apparently some of the most in-demand collector’s items among Star Trek fans.) She continues to be a presence on the Canadian film scene, receiving a Genie Award nomination for her supporting role in Don McKellar’s Last Night (1998) and a Prix Jutra nomination for her performance in Manon Briand’s La Turbulence des fluides (2002).

Film and video work includes

Amanita Pestilens, 1962 (actor)
Ti-Jean caribou series, 1963 (actor; TV)
La Fin des étés, 1964 (actor)
Geneviève, La fleur de l'âge series, 1964 (actor)
La Terre à boire, 1964 (actor)
Romeo and Jeannette, 1965 (actor; TV)
La Guerre est finie, 1966 (actor)
Le Roi de coeur, 1966 (actor)
Rouli-roulant, 1966 (songs)
Le Voleur, 1966 (actor)
Saint Joan, 1967 (actor; TV)
Anne of the Thousand Days, 1969 (actor)
Marie-Christine, 1970 (actor; writer)
La Nuit de la poésie 27 mars 1970, 1970 (actor)
The Trojan Women, 1971 (actor)
Antigone, 1974 (actor; TV)
Earthquake, 1974 (actor)
L'Incorrigible, 1975 (actor)
Caesar and Cleopatra, 1976 (actor; TV)
Alex and the Gypsy, 1976 (actor)
Obsession, 1976 (actor)
Swashbuckler, 1976 (actor)
Un autre homme, une autre chance, 1977 (actor)
Coma, 1978 (actor)
Final Assignment, 1980 (actor)
The Last Flight of Noah's Ark, 1980 (actor)
Mistress of Paradise, 1981 (actor; TV)
Monsignor, 1982 (actor)
Choose Me, 1984 (actor)
Tightrope, 1984 (actor)
Trouble in Mind, 1985 (actor)
L'Emprise, 1988 (actor)
The Moderns, 1988 (actor)
Les Noces de papier, 1989 (actor; TV)
Red Earth, White Earth, 1989 (actor; TV)
False Identity, 1990 (actor)
The Dance Goes On, 1991 (actor)
Rue du Bac, 1991 (actor)
Oh, What a Night, 1992 (actor)
An Ambush of Ghosts, 1993 (actor)
Clint Eastwood: The Man from Malpaso, 1993 (appears as herself; TV)
Mon amie Max, 1994 (actor)
The Adventures of Pinocchio, 1996 (actor)
Dead Innocent, 1996 (actor)
The House of Yes, 1997 (actor)
You Can Thank Me Later, 1998 (actor)
Eye of the Beholder, 1999 (actor)
The Bookfair Murders, 2000 (actor; TV)
Children of My Heart, 2000 (actor; TV)
Alex in Wonder, 2001 (actor)
Claude Jutra, portrait sur film 2001 (appears as herself)
Finding Home, 2003 (actor)
Jericho Mansions, 2003 (actor)
Downtown: A Street Tale, 2004 (actor)
Mon petit doigt m'a dit..., 2005 (actor)
Délivrez-moi, 2006 (actor)
Disappearances, 2006 (actor)