February 14, 1992 at 05:00 AM EST

Directors told me I was too nice and cute to be an actress,” says Julie Delpy, who was born into a Paris theater family and made her stage debut at age 5. Then, when she was 14, Jean-Luc Godard spotted something more interesting in Delpy, declared her ”a monster,” and cast her as a schoolgirl spy in 1985’s Detective. She has been proving her doubters wrong ever since.

Delpy showed her darker side again playing an ardent Hitler Youth in last year’s acclaimed Europa Europa. Now the 22-year-old is innocence personified in her first English-language film, the haunting Voyager, directed by Volker Schlöndorff (The Tin Drum). As a traveler who falls tragically in love with world-weary Sam Shepard, she says, ”I become fate’s victim.”

With films by some of Europe’s finest directors under her belt, the actress’ next goal is to work in America, and she is living in Manhattan while she perfects her already fluent English. ”I bet a friend I could speak without an accent in a year,” she explains. The smart money’s on Delpy.

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