French actor Michel Bouquet, star of theater and cinema, died at the age of 96


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French actor Michel Bouquet, who starred in more than 100 films during his 70-year career, died Wednesday in a Paris hospital at the age of 96.

A legend of stage and cinema, Bouquet was known for having worked with new wave directors such as François Truffaut and Claude Chabrol.

He will be remembered for playing the lead role in Eugene Ionesco’s absurd drama Exit the king no less than 800 times, as well as emblematic performances by Molière The Miser.

He won two César – the French equivalent of the Oscars – for his roles in how i killed my father in 2001 alongside Juliette Binoche, and in 2005 The Last Mitterrandin which he portrays the former French president during his final days.

Bouquet also won two Molières, France’s top theater prize.

“I am deeply saddened,” film star Alain Delon told AFP. “Michel Bouquet was a very great actor.”

Recalling the films they had made together, he added, “I only have great and beautiful memories left.”

“A hell of a giant has just left us,” President Emmanuel Macron’s office said in a statement.

“For seven decades, Michel Bouquet has brought theater and cinema to the highest degree of incandescence and truth, showing man in all his contradictions, with an intensity that has burned the boards and stolen the stage”, a- he posted on Twitter.

Shakespeare and Beckett

Born in Paris in 1925, Bouquet inherited his love of the stage from his mother, who regularly took him to the theatre.

“Each time the curtain rose, there was more horror than war… the unreal world far exceeded the real world,” he told AFP in 2019.

“It was the best education of my life.”

After taking acting lessons, Bouquet began a long working relationship with playwright Jean Anouilh and director André Barsacq, performing in plays such as Romeo and Jeanette.

Jean-Paul Belmondo (right) with Alain Delon (center) in “Borsalino” in 1970. Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

As a young man, Bouquet starred in several classic 1960s New Wave films, including Chabrol’s The unfaithful wife and Truffaut The bride wore black and Mississippi Mermaid.

He played many Shakespearean roles and while he devoted himself to the classics, Bouquet also helped introduce French audiences to contemporary foreign writers, including the British Harold Pinter and the Irishman Samuel Beckett.

The highest French distinctions

In addition to his Oscar-winning big-screen roles, Bouquet received a European Film Award for his portrayal of old man Thomas in the 1991 film Toto the hero.

He also played Javert in Robert Hossein’s 1982 adaptation of the musical Wretchedbased on the novel by Victor Hugo.

Michel Bouquet is decorated with the Legion of Honor during a ceremony at the Elysée Palace in Paris on Friday March 17, 2017.
Michel Bouquet is decorated with the Legion of Honor during a ceremony at the Elysée Palace in Paris on Friday March 17, 2017. AP – Philippe Wojazer

In 2018, he was awarded the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor, France’s highest honour, for his contributions to the arts.

Announcing his retirement in 2019, Bouquet said: “In the theater, the personality of the author is so majestic, whether it’s Pinter or Molière, that you just have to try to convey the word as obediently as possible.”


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