If I hadn’t absolutely wanted to work at the age of 12 i wanted to earn a bit of money, but above all I wanted to be independent

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France’s favorite actress looks back on her adolescence, which was shaken up and then saved by being deeply rooted in reality.

Sophie Marceau’s list of accomplishments is long: success at the age of 14 with La Boum (“The Party,” 1980); an unrivaled status as France’s most popular actress, having starred in some 50 films; an international aura; and two books including a collection of short stories, La Souterraine, which she has just published. But still, the 56-year-old has a background that sets her apart, that of a little girl from a modest background who became a star without losing her head.

I wouldn’t have gotten here if…
… If I hadn’t absolutely wanted to work at the age of 12. I wanted to earn a bit of money, but above all I wanted to be independent. I’ve always believed that work is the key to self-fulfillment, and it had a very important place in my family. For me, the adult world was the world of work, and I wanted to be an adult.

Did you dream of a specific job? Did you have a particular vocation?
No, not at all. For me, you learn by doing. I come from a working-class background, so I had no idea that you could study. What’s more, I wasn’t scholastic. I couldn’t read instructions; but I knew how to adapt, how to imitate the necessary actions and gestures.

Didn’t your parents have any plans for you either?
They wanted me to have a job, a family and to be responsible, but they didn’t have the skills or the means to put me through school. But that wasn’t a problem: There’s always a way to get by in life.

It’s quite rare to answer that question in such a prosaic way. It’s easier to talk about a talent, an education, a mentor.

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