PARIS - Julie Gayet, the actress reported to have had an affair with President Francois Hollande, was nominated Friday for the French equivalent of an Oscar for playing a suspenders-wearing seductress.
Gayet has played a central part in the soap opera that has gripped France for weeks since she was snapped arriving for secret trysts with the president just yards from his official residence, the Elysee Palace.
But it is as a supporting actress in Bertrand Tavernier's "Quai d'Orsay", a comedy about life at the French foreign ministry, that she has been nominated for a Cesar, the most prestigious prize in Gallic cinema.
In the film, Gayet plays the role of a mini-skirted adviser to the minister who uses her seductive powers to get what she wants.
In one scene, a colleague walks into her office unexpectedly to find her in stockings and suspenders, apparently in the process of putting her clothes back on following a spot of horizontal diplomacy.
The Cesar nomination was the cause of much cyber chortling on social media, particularly as the term for "supporting actress" in French is literally "female second role".
Gayet's "second role" with Hollande was revealed earlier this month by Closer magazine in a scoop that prompted the president to end his long-term relationship with Valerie Trierweiler, the country's de-facto first lady.
It is not known whether Hollande, 59, has continued his liasion with Gayet, a respected character actress who has appeared in more than 70 films and is also an activist for the president's Socialist Party.
Gayet, 41, has kept a low profile since news of the affair broke and friends have told various media outlets that she has no desire or ambition to become first lady.
Hollande had the rare experience of being pressed directly on the affair during a press conference at an Anglo-French summit in rural Oxfordshire on Friday.
"Do you think your private life has made France an international joke, are you still having an affair with Julie Gayet and do you wish she was here?" asked Christopher Hope, a reporter for the Daily Telegraph.
A grim-faced Hollande replied: "I will not answer."
The trip across the English Channel served as a reminder to Hollande that the issues raised by his infidelity are unlikely to disappear soon, despite the mainstream French media's willingness to drop the subject.
Every time he steps outside France -- and he is due in the United States in mid-February -- the Socialist leader can expect to face similar enquiries.
Gayet meanwhile looks set to return to the limelight on the back of her growing success.
As well as the Cesars award ceremony next month, the divorced mother-of-two will be expected to appear on the red carpet at the Cannes film festival later in the year, having provided the voice of Grace Kelly for the French version of "Grace of Monaco", a biopic starring Nicole Kidman which is due to be screened during the Riviera film fest.
Gayet's fame has also been boosted by an appearance in a video for American band Minor Alps, which has been getting plenty of online play as a result of her current high profile, propelling the previously little-known indie pair to unexpected success.
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