Born Monica Anna Maria Bellucci in Citta di Castello, a township in the northern part of the Umbria region in Italy, she was the only child of Luigi Bellucci, who owned a trucking company, and his wife, Maria Gustinelli, a painter. She began modeling at the age of 16, but decided to shift her interests to the law. Bellucci continued to model in order to pay for her tuition at the University of Perugia, but she dropped out after two years to sign with Elite Model Management. By 1989, she was working steadily as a fashion model on both sides of the Atlantic, and soon added acting classes to her schedule. In 1990, she made her screen debut opposite Giancarlo Giannini in the Italian TV movie, "Vita coi figli" (Reteitalia, 1990). After graduating to features in 1992, Bellucci made her American film debut as one of Dracula's alluring but predatory brides in Francis Ford Coppola's "Bram Stoker's Dracula" (1992). She soon returned to Italy, but grew frustrated by their industry's inability to promote their films beyond their borders. Bellucci took a supporting role as the Pharoah's wife opposite Ben Kingsley and Paul Mercutio as the Old Testament prophet "Joseph" (1995), an international production that earned a Best Miniseries Emmy for TNT. The following year, she relocated to France to pursue acting roles in that country.Her French debut also proved to be her star-making role. Cast as Lisa, the long-lost love of writer Vincent Cassell, in Gilles Mimouni's intricate fantasy-drama "L'Appartement" (1996), Bellucci displayed both the physical qualities necessary for Cassell's character to fall head over heels for her, as well as the acting talent to portray a complex, fully realized character. Her performance earned her both a Cesar nomination for Best Actress, as well as the off-screen affections of Cassell, who became her husband in 1999. The couple would go on to collaborate on several Continental features in the years that followed, most notably in "As You Want Me" (1997) as a policeman in love with a transsexual, and his fiancée, respectively, and as a pair of violent criminals in "Dobermann" (1997). After seeing "L'Appartement," director Stephen Hopkins wooed Bellucci back to America for his thriller "Under Suspicion" (2000), but the film, which starred Gene Hackman as her duplicitous husband, received only limited theatrical release and was completely overshadowed by her next picture, Giuseppe Tornatore's "Malena" (1997), a powerful drama about an Italian war widow (Bellucci) whose beauty made her the target of jealous townspeople. Universally acclaimed for her heartbreaking performance, the picture's global success brought her worldwide exposure - not to mention a legion of appreciative male fans on both sides of the pond - and preceded a string of popular features that thrust her into full-fledged stardom.On an international level, Bellucci soon became the go-to actress for exotic and mysterious women for filmmakers. She played a Vatican spy posing as a courtesan in Christopher Gans' high-energy drama-cum-martial arts film "Brotherhood of the Wolf" (2001), then segued to portraying an impetuous Cleopatra in "Asterix and Obelix: Mission Cleopatra" (2002), one of the long-running live action adaptations of the iconic French comic book series. Antonie Fuqua cast her as a doctor caught up in African civil war in "Tears of the Sun" (2003), a violent action film starring and produced by Bruce Willis, while the Wachowski Brothers made her a key figure in their "Matrix" trilogy. She played Persephone, wife of the sinister Merovingian, who betrayed her husband after falling in love with Keanu Reeves' Neo. She then learned Aramaic to play a youthful Mary Magdalene, who is rescued from stoning by Jim Caveziel's Jesus, in Mel Gibson's controversial "Passion of the Christ" (2004). Though most directors cast Bellucci for her physical qualities, some European directors understood the breadth of her talent, so gave her roles that allowed her to explore emotional territory that many other actresses might have avoided. In Gaspar Noe's harrowing "Irreversible" (2002), she earned critical sympathy for enduring a grotesque rape sequence that ran in an unbroken six-minute take. The film, which unfolded in reverse chronological order, followed a pair of men, one of whom was played by Cassel, as they search the Paris underground for the criminal that defiled Bellucci. Italian director Gabriele Muccino also recognized Bellucci's vast reserve of talent and cast her in "Remember Me, My Love" (2003) as star Fabrizio Bentivoglio's long-lost love, who sets in motion an affair which destroys the tenuous fabric holding together his troubled family. Bellucci won the Nastro d'Argento, the top prize from Italian film critics, for her performance.Bellucci soon settled into a trans-continental career, shuttling between steady assignments in Europe and America. She was the daughter of a Mafia boss impregnated by a failed business executive (Anthony Mackie) in Spike Lee's critically reviled "She Hate Me" (2004), then moved back into fantasy territory as a malevolent queen who stole the beauty of young girls to preserve her own looks in Terry Gilliam's "The Brothers Grimm" (2005). In 2007, she played a lactating prostitute who nursed an orphan child rescued by enigmatic gunman Clive Owen in Michael Davis's cartoonish "Shoot 'Em Up." Bellucci appeared in scores of features for Italian and French directors during this period, including Giuseppe Tornatore's epic "Baaria" (2009), but her most visible part outside of the "Matrix" films was most likely "The Sorceror's Apprentice" (2010), the effects-laden, live-action Disney fantasy with Nicolas Cage as a shaggy-haired magician and Bellucci as the object of his affection. Unfortunately, the film was a box office disappointment for the studio, but Bellucci remained undaunted, moving forward with appearances in three to four films a year, including "Manual of Love 3" (2011), an Italian-made romance co-starring Robert De Niro. Starring roles in the drama "A Burning Hot Summer" (2011), Middle East thriller "Rhino Season" (2012) and family drama "Ville-Marie" (2015) alternated with smaller parts in films like romantic comedy "It Happened in Saint-Tropez" (2013). In "Spectre" (2015), Belluci appeared as that rarity, an age-appropriate femme fatale matching wits with suave superspy James Bond.