Charlotte Lucy Gainsbourg (born 21 July 1971) is a British-French actress and singer. She is the daughter of English actress Jane Birkin and French singer and songwriter Serge Gainsbourg. After making her musical debut with her father on the song "Lemon Incest" at the age of twelve, she released an album with her father at the age of fifteen. More than twenty years passed before she released three albums as an adult (5:55, IRM and Stage Whisper) to commercial and critical success. Gainsbourg has also appeared in many films, including several directed by Lars von Trier, and has received both a César Award and the Cannes Film Festival Best Actress Award.
Gainsbourg was born in London, to English actress and singer Jane Birkin and French actor and singer-song writer Serge Gainsbourg. Gainsbourg was born at the height of her parents fame as they had made headlines several years earlier with the sexually explicit song Je t'aime... moi non plus and by that point had become notorious for their turbulent relationship and multiple artistic collaborations. As a result her birth and childhood were well publicized.
Her maternal grandmother was actress Judy Campbell and her uncle is the screenwriter Andrew Birkin, who directed her in The Cement Garden. She is a cousin of theatre and opera director Sophie Hunter. Her father was Jewish and her mother is from a Protestant background. Gainsbourg attended École Active Bilingue Jeannine Manuel in Paris and Collège Alpin International Beau Soleil in Switzerland. French is Gainsbourg's first language, but she is also fluent in English.
Gainsbourg was raised in Paris alongside her half-sister from her mother's marriage to composer John Barry, Kate Barry. According to Birkin she and Gainsbourg were somewhat neglectful parents, often spending their nights going out to parties and drinking.
By 1980 her parents' relationship had dissolved and her mother left her father for the director Jacques Doillon. Her half sister Lou Doillon was born in 1982 as a result of the union. Gainsbourg would go on to work with her step-father in the film The Temptation of Isabelle in 1985 and later in Amoureuse in 1992 which also starred her real life partner Yvan Attal.
Gainsbourg grew up on film sets as both of her parents were involved in the film industry. She stated that her mother was the one who pushed her into acting, believing that she wanted to be an actress and encouraging her to make her motion picture debut playing Catherine Deneuve's daughter in the film Paroles et musique (1984).
In 1986, Gainsbourg won a César Award for "Most Promising Actress" for L'effrontée. That same year Gainsbourg appeared in the film Charlotte for Ever about a man who develops incestuous desires for his teenage daughter after his wife dies. The film was the subject of great controversy as it was written and directed by Gainsbourg's father Serge Gainsbourg who also took on the role of Gainsbourg's father on screen. Additionally the film was released two years after Gainsbourg had released her debut single Lemon Incest which had similar themes and also was created and sung with her father Serge causing the press to speculate that the material was autobiographical.
In 1988 together with her mother she appeared in a set of films Kung Fu Master and the docu-drama Jane B. by Agnes V. both directed by Agnès Varda.
In 1993, Gainsbourg made her English speaking debut in The Cement Garden, written and directed by her uncle, Andrew Birkin. She made her stage debut in 1994 in David Mamet's Oleanna at the Théâtre de la Gaîté-Montparnasse. In 1996, Gainsbourg starred as the title character in Jane Eyre, a film adaption of Charlotte Brontë's 1847 novel.
In 2000, she won the César Award for"Best Supporting Actress" for the film La Bûche.
In 2003, Gainsbourg starred in 21 Grams, with Naomi Watts, Sean Penn and Benicio del Toro. In 2006, Gainsbourg appeared alongside Gael García Bernal in Michel Gondry's The Science of Sleep. In 2007, she appeared as Claire in the Todd Haynes-directed Bob Dylan biopic I'm Not There, also contributing a cover of the Dylan song "Just Like a Woman" to the film soundtrack. In 2009, she won the award for Best Actress at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival for the film Antichrist. Gainsbourg starred in the French/Australian production, The Tree, released in 2010, and in Lars von Trier's science fiction disaster film, Melancholia. She was on the jury for the 62nd Berlin International Film Festival in February 2012. In May 2012 Confession of a Child of the Century premiered, where she starred alongside the British musician Pete Doherty.
Gainsbourg collaborated with von Trier once again on his 2013 film Nymphomaniac, in which she plays the lead character. The five and a half-hour film depicts the life of a sex addict from youth to middle age. When asked about the nature of the role, Gainsbourg responded, "The sex scenes weren't so hard. For me it was all the masochistic scenes. Those were embarrassing and, yes, a little humiliating."
Gainsbourg's longtime partner is French-Israeli actor/director Yvan Attal whom she met on the set of the 1991 film Aux yeux du monde. Gainsbourg and Attal are not married and Gainsbourg has attributed her reluctance to marry to the fact that her parents never married. Attal publicly proposed to Gainsbourg on 19 June 2013 during an awards ceremony when he received the French National Order of Merit. However in April 2014 Attal confirmed that they were still unwed with no plans to officially marry. Together they have three children: a son, Ben (b. 1997), and daughters Alice (b. 2002) and Joe (b. 2011).
In 2012 Pete Doherty alleged that he and Gainsbourg had had a fling on the set of Confession of a Child of the Century and she had briefly moved from Paris to London in order to be with him.