Ardant broke into films--and acting, for that matter--a bit later than many of her contemporaries. She did not gain notice until she was already in her 30s, after beginning a five-year apprenticeship on the stage when she was in her late 20s. "Les Chiens" (1978), her first film, turned out not to be Ardant's big break. But when she appeared in the 1979 miniseries "Les Dames de la cote," she was noticed by Truffaut, who cast her opposite Gerard Depardieu in "The Woman Next Door." Ardant has frequently been seen in the works of many of Europe's most distinguished directors. She starred in Claude Lelouch's "Les Uns et les autres" (1981), was the worldly sister in Ettore Scola's multi-generational "The Family" (1987) and has worked with Alain Resnais thrice, including "Melo" (1986). In "What a Drag/Pedale douce" (1996), Ardant spoofed her sophisticated screen image as the confidante of a gay businessman who agrees to pose as his wife to impress a banker and then finds herself romantically pursued by the banker, a performance that earned her a Best Actress Cesar. That same year, she was also the wealthy and powerful lover of engineer in 18th Century France in Patrice Leconte's "Ridicule."