August 25, 2003 12:00 PM

YOU KNOW HER AS: The Bambi-eyed beauty of 2001’s Amélie

HOMETOWN: Montluçon, France

LATEST GIG: Dirty Pretty Things

•The Fallout of Fame: The whimsical romance Amélie—the most successful French movie ever in the U.S.—made Tautou, 25, the world’s sweetheart. “I remember the first time I realized that something had happened,” she says. “I was in a queue at the airport. The hostess was very nasty. When she saw me, she had this face as if she was watching the Virgin Mary.”

•Speaking in Tongues: As an immigrant hotel maid in Dirty, Tautou not only acts for the first time in English, she does it with a Turkish accent. “Each sentence was a battle,” she says.

•Primal Urges: “When I was small, I wanted to study monkeys,” says the single Paris resident, reared by a dentist and a city official. But at 18, she enrolled in acting school. “I was thinking, ‘How am I ever going to succeed in this business when there are so many beautiful girls?’ ” she says. “But I realized it was because I was living meters away from the Elite modeling agency.”

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