Tonie Marshall, Writer and Director of 'Venus Beauty,' Dies at 68

Tonie Marshall poses on September 10, 2014 in Paris- Getty-H 2020
THOMAS SAMSON/AFP via Getty Images

She won a pioneering César Award for her work on the 1999 film that starred Nathalie Baye, Mathilde Seigner and Audrey Tautou.

Tonie Marshall, the French-born actress and filmmaker who wrote, directed and produced the 1999 romantic dramedy Venus Beauty, died Thursday after a long illness, her agent said. She was 68.

Her parents were French actress Micheline Presle (Devil in the Flesh) and American actor-director William Marshall (Knute Rockne All American, The Phantom Planet).

Born on Nov. 29, 1951, Marshall began her career in front of the camera with roles in such films as A Slightly Pregnant Man (1973), directed by Jacques Demy. She acted in more than 40 movies and TV shows during her career but made her biggest mark as a filmmaker.

Marshall had her directorial debut with the comedy Pentimento (1989), and her sophomore effort, the crime dramedy Pas Très Catholique (1994), premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival. She wrote both films as well.

Venus Beauty (1999), starring Nathalie Baye, Mathilde Seigner and Audrey Tautou as employees in a beauty parlor, was a hit at the local box office and captured César Awards for best film, director and screenplay.

"It took four years to get it made. No one wanted it. I had cast Nathalie Baye, whose career at the time was at a standstill. But I refused to drop her," Marshall recalled in a 2018 interview.

"The film was set at Christmas so we absolutely had to have shots of Paris decked in Christmas decorations and shop windows. The co-producer and I put in 50,000 francs of our money each, and for two days we filmed her walking around Paris — she did it for free. We thought, if the film doesn't get made we'll throw the footage away. And at the eleventh hour we managed to make the film on very little money."

Marshall remains the only woman to receive the best director César prize.

"[That] can be embarrassing when you think of the talent out there," she said. "There are so many great female directors in France. Yes, I have the César, but look at them, they're so good. They deserve a César four times more than I do."

Marshall also wrote and directed such films as Bastard Brood (1996), also starring Baye; Nearest to Heaven (2002), toplined by Catherine Deneuve and William Hurt; France Boutique (2003), with Karin Viard and François Cluzet; Sex, Love & Therapy (2014), featuring Sophie Marceau; and her last feature, the feminist drama Number One (2017), starring Emmanuelle Devos.