A trained pugilist who shifted to acting after an accident, Gallic heartthrob Olivier Martinez succumbed to mainstream Hollywood with his co-starring role in Adrian Lyne's erotic potboiler Unfaithful (2002).
The son of a Spanish-Moroccan boxer and a French secretary, Martinez was born and raised in a working-class suburb of Paris. Though he aimed to follow the paternal tradition of becoming a professional fighter then a mechanic, Martinez's plans changed after he was injured in a car wreck. Passing an audition for the Conservatoire National Superieur d'Art Dramatique, Martinez began to study acting at age 23. Shortly after he finished school, Martinez's performance in a Paris production of Eugene O'Neill's play Desire Under the Elms landed him his first major film role, co-starring with French icon Yves Montand in Jean-Jacques Beineix's adventure IP5 (1992). Confirming his status as a rising French star, Martinez acted opposite Italian legend Marcello Mastroianni in Bertrand Blier's experimental Un, Deux, Trois Soleil (1993) and won the César for Most Promising Actor. Martinez's next film, The Horseman on the Roof (1995), though, earned him billing as the "French Brad Pitt." As an Italian revolutionary on the run in 19th century France, Martinez shared sizzling onscreen chemistry with co-star Juliette Binoche and got his first taste of tabloid attention when the two became an offscreen item as well. A European hit, The Horseman on the Roof also put Martinez on the American art-house map.