With her long, raven hair and fair skin, Ronit Elkabetz can slip into the darkest of roles with ease. Earlier this summer, the actress starred in “Jaffa” as a Jewish mother whose daughter has an ill-fated romance with a young Arab man. And earlier this fall, film came out sept 9she won over French audiences in “Ashes and Blood” playing a woman trying to make peace with her husband’s killers.

“Another tragedy,” laughs Elkabetz over a cup of tea.

This story first appeared in the October 15, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“Ashes and Blood,” which was presented out of competition at Cannes this year, marks the directorial debut of Fanny Ardant. And Elkabetz is clearly still in awe of working with the famed French actress.

“I only knew her from her films,” says Elkabetz of the velvet-voiced Ardant. “She is the femme fatale, the incredible beauty I had seen on the screen.”

Elkabetz’s own path to cinema was a rather circuitous one. Born and raised in Israel, she spent two years doing mandatory army service. She originally planned to become a fashion designer and even did a few stints as a model. But when director Daniel Wachsmann gave her his script of “The Appointed” to read, she knew instantly she wanted to act. The Biblical tale was screened at Cannes in 1991 and Elkabetz returned there in 2007 for Eran Kolirin’s “Band’s Visit.” This year alone, the 39-year-old, who lives in France part time, has already shot Pascal Elbé’s “Tête de Turc” and Brigitte Sy’s “Les Mains Libres.”

“She is intense, very precise and abandons herself completely,” says Elbé.

Elkabetz’s busy schedule leaves little room to indulge her former designing interests — luckily, she is more than happy to defer to others’ creations, such as those from Lanvin.

“Alber Elbaz is just a genius,” she says. “ Everything he makes, I take.”

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