Agathe Rousselle studied theater before appearing in short films, including Looking for the Self. Julia Ducournau offered Rousselle her first major role in Titane, in which she plays the lead and co-stars with Vincent Lindon. Winner of the Palme d'Or in Cannes in 2021, the film has gone on to be presented in many international festivals (Toronto—where it received an Audience Award, Busan, New York, San Sebastián, and Mar del Plata, to mention just a few) and represented France at the Oscars in 2022. Her performance earned Agathe Rousselle a nomination for the Best Actress Award at the European Film Awards and for the Prix Lumières Most Promising Actress.
As part of the Unifrance Critic's Lab 2022
A portrait of Agathe Rousselle by Alexandria Slater, British film journalist.
"From journalism to modelling to photography, and now claiming her shine in acting, Agathe Rousselle's electric energy radiates through the screen. Her most recent spellbinding project is Julia Ducournau’s body horror Titane.
Whilst this is only her first debut, Rousselle’s talent is anything but a hidden gem meekly waiting to be discovered. For her disruptive performance as serial killer, Alexia/Adrien in Titane contributed to the film’s Palme d’Or win at last year’s Cannes - cementing her a spot on Unifrance’s 10 to watch list.
Her accolades don’t stop there. Her performance also earned Rousselle the award for Critics Choice Super Award for Best Actress in a horror movie, a nomination for the Best Actress Award at the European Film Awards and for the Prix Lumières Most Promising Actress.
Rousselle’s Instagram feed is eclectic. Like a digital art gallery featuring the avant-garde worthy snapshots and frames of Rousselle’s life and career. The magnetic force that landed Titane’s casting director in the actress’s direct messages is undeniable.
During filming, the 33-year-old Parisian actress was faced with the gruelling challenge of tapping into the mind of society’s most feared terror. “I couldn’t relate to my character at all, which is a good thing, because she’s a psychopath,” she told Interview magazine. Titane follows the double life of a serial killer named Alexia/Adrien, a cold, steely character on paper which, notably with director Ducournau’s assistance, Rousselle invites warmth and heart into the character of a murderer - one that looks at morality beyond the constraints of either black or white. As a result, Alexia/Adrien introduces to the audience the familiar and innate feeling of seeking unconditional love.
“This is something that is very important to me and made sense for many reasons,” Rousselle told PREMIERE magazine in relation to the film’s themes on gender. Embodying the fluidity and fluctuation of ‘gender’, Rousselle’s androgynous appearance is not a deliberate nor conscious decision - it just is. “Since I was a kid people have always mistaken me for a boy - and I wasn’t doing it on purpose,” she told Little White Lies. Having experienced the infliction of society’s perceptions of gender, the actress was able to maleate gender to personify the character of Adrien, “she uses gender to survive.”
Whilst Rousselle believes “gender is no longer relevant today,” the actress uses her resources, creativity and energy fighting against the gendered injustice in society.
Before her first significant film role in Titane, Rousselle co-founded the all-women feminist magazine Peach to platform the breadth of sheer female artists and creators in the French industry suffocated by a disproportionate number of male artists. As a journalist, she noticed the misogyny surrounding women in the workplace. “When there is a guy in a girl’s newsroom, very often, in the end, he’s the one who makes the decisions.” And with that realisation, Peach was launched.
This fight against misogyny manifests within all of Rousselle’s creative projects, triggering a hyperawareness of any casual, subtle sexism laced into critics’ reviews. For example, responding to a male critic dubbing Titane as the “most shocking film of 2021”, Rousselle responded unapologetically, calling it out as “sexist nonsense”. She told the Times, “If it had been a male director — Tarantino, Cronenberg, anyone — it would’ve been less surprising. And we’re so used to men being violent and making violent movies. It’s kind of time for men to know that women can be violent as well.”
Agathe Rousselle is a breath of fresh air in a world choked by rules and social constructs. She’s a Unifrance 10 to watch star - a dazzling, fiery ball of energetic talent whose mark in cinema will undoubtedly spotlight even more innovative and subversive female filmmaking.