Top 10 Foreign Language Actresses Working in Hollywood

After gaining some success in their native countries, foreign actresses often feel and then cannot resist the pull of Hollywood. It is where the money, recognition and talent is. This is easier said than done.  Sometimes their talent does not translate. Hollywood does not always seem to know what to do with foreign talent.

But the desire to have foreign talent in films is large as they are seen to add a soupcon of class to the entire affair. Hollywood has for a long time had a big crush on foreign actresses, especially European ones. It started long ago with Germany’s Marlene Dietrich and Sweden’s Greta Garbo.  They brought poise, beauty and theatre-training to the films they worked on.

Today there are a bunch of foreign actresses who have made it big in Hollywood.  Here is my list, in no particular order, of the most successful of the lot:


1) Monica Bellucci: This Italian actress has added a touch of class to action films like The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and The Matrix Revolutions. Born in 1964 in the Umbria region of Italy, she started off pursuing a career in the legal profession and to pay her way through that she worked as a model.  This led to a successful modeling career and in 1988 she moved to Milan to further that pursuit. She made her film debut in 1990 in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Bellucci attained superstardom in Europe when her role in L’appartement won her the French equivalent of an Oscar nomination.  Is married to and has two children with French actor Vincent Cassel.  Has also starred in The Whistleblower, Malena, The Passion of the Christ, and Tears of the Sun.

  1. 2) Noomi Rapace: The young Swedish actress was the first actress to portray the cool, but vengeful heroine from Stieg Larsson’s best-selling trilogy and will star in the film in the Sherlock Holmes series. After that she will star in Ridley Scott’s Prometheus with Michael Fassbender and Charlize Theron. This is a big budget film which takes place in the same universe as Scott’s Alien. Born in 1979, she has a young son and is in the process of divorcing her husband.
  1. 3) Marion Cotillard: Her performance in 2007 as Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose transformed the Parisien into an American star and an Oscar winner. The Oscar win was only the second time that the Best Actress trophy went to someone who was not working in English. Is now one of the most famous French actresses worldwide.  Has gone on to star in films like Inception, Nine, Midnight in Paris, and Public Enemies. Was born in 1975 to a theatre director/mime father and an actress mother.
  1. 4) Penélope Cruz: Spain’s greatest export (?) has racked up two Oscar nods, plus a win for 2008’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Born in Madrid, she studied classical ballet for nine years at Spain’s National Conservatory, but the call to act won out when she was a teenager.  Starting out in Spanish television shows and commercials, she broke out in the film Belle Epoque and then became director Pedro Almodovar’s muse in films such as All About My Mother and Volver. Her excellence and good looks got her noticed in Hollywood and she then starred in films like Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Blow, Vanilla Sky, and All the Pretty Horses.  Now married to fellow Spanish actor Javier Bardem, she was also famous for the men she dated like Tom Cruise, Matthew McConaughey and Matt Damon.
  1. 5) Audrey Tautou: Despite U.S. hits like The Da Vince Code, the French actress is still best known as the impish heroine of 2001’s Amélie.  The success of that film saw her star in a succession of wide release films like The Da Vince Code, Dirty Pretty Things and A Very Long Engagement. Recently she has gone back to working in French films like Coco Avant Chanel and Ensemble, C’est Tout.
  1. 6) Ziyi Zhang: The Chinese star of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Rush Hour 2 is rumored to be going to star in the live-action version of Mulan. After the huge hit that Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was when she was cast in Rush Hour 2 she could not speak English so everything that happened on set had to be translated for her by co-star Jackie Chan.  Even though she has also starred in the martial arts film Hero and House of Flying Daggers she is not a trained martial artist. Zhang uses dance moves to recreate the martial arts parts of her films. Was listed in Time magazine as “China’s gift to Hollywood”.
  1. 7) Salma Hayek: Mexican actress who has had a long and successful career stateside. A tour de force performance in the lead role of the biopic Frida.  She was nominated for an Oscar Award, making her the first Mexican actress to be nominated. Began her acting career on a Mexican soap opera.  As a result of that she was a huge star in Mexico. Has also starred in films like Once Upon a Time in Mexico, From Dusk till Dawn, Desperado, and Grown Ups. In 2009 she did a great reoccurring character on the sitcom 30 Rock and guest starred in and produced Ugly Betty. Is best friends with Penélope Cruz.
  1. 8) Charlize Theron: Speaks English so fluently we forget that she is actually South African. After suffering under the weight of just being seen as another pretty face, the statuesque (and stunning) blonde finally managed to snag a well deserved Oscar for her turn in the film Monster. That success has finally allowed her to be taken seriously as an actress and is one of the highest regarded presentday working actresses in Hollywood.  When a major film role for a woman gets announced it is usually rumoured to be going to her or Angelina Jolie. An actress with quite a range, she has starred in films like Hancock (action), Astro Boy (voice work), Sweet November (romance), and on television in a reoccurring role on Arrested Development (comedy).
  1. 9) Freida Pinto: Exploded onto the scene with her turn in Danny Boyle’s Oscar winning Slumdog Millionaire. She started off as a successful model in India before she was discovered by Danny Boyle. Now this young Indian actress has gone on to star in a Woody Allen film. Next up she will star in Rise of the Planet of the Apes and the Greek mythology Immortals.

10)  Eva Green: Born in 1980 in Paris, France, Eva Green studied dramatic acting in London then returned to Paris. While there she caught the eye of director Bernardo Bertolucci and he cast her in his English language film, The Dreamers in 2003. The film earned her plenty of attention due to her full frontal nudity. Determined to be considered a multi-talented actress rather than just a beauty, Green went on to star in films like Kingdom of Heaven, Casino Royale and The Golden Compass. Next up for her is Dark Shadows opposite Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and Michelle Pfeiffer.

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