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Michel Bouquet, French Acting Icon of Stage and Screen, Dies at 96

”Toto the Hero“ star appeared in over 100 films and worked with legendary French New Wave filmmakers

Michel Bouquet, an icon of French cinema and theater who had appeared in over 100 films throughout his career and worked with some of France’s great auteurs, has died. He was 96.

The Élysée Palace, the office of the French president, announced Bouquet’s death in a statement Wednesday but gave no other details about his passing.

“For seven decades, Michel Bouquet brought theater and cinema to the highest degree of incandescence and truth, showing man in all his contradictions, with an intensity that burned the boards and burst the screen. A sacred monster has left us,” French president Emmanuel Macron said in a tweet Wednesday.

In 1991, Bouquet won the European Film Award for Best Actor his film “Toto the Hero.” He also won two César Awards for “How I Killed My Father” (2001) and “The Last Mitterrand” (2005). His career on stage dates all the way back to the 1940s, and he retired as recently as 2019. And on screen, he emerged during the French New Wave and worked with directors like Francois Truffaut, Henri-Georges Clouzot, Alain Resnais and Claude Chabrol, as well as shared the screen with Jean-Paul Belmondo.

Bouquet made his acting debut on stage in 1944 in a play called “La première étape” and worked under another French stage and screen actor Maurice Escande before studying at the Conservatory of Dramatic Arts in Paris. On stage, he found breakout roles in productions of “Romeo and Juliet” and other roles from the classical repertoire.

But on screen, Bouquet found a knack for playing the ordinary type who underneath a plain facade could be deeply complicated, jealous, troubled or somber. And he managed to show his range in everything from a victim in Truffaut’s “The Bride Wore Black” to playing Javert in a 1982 adaptation of “Les Miserables.” He also served as the narrator for Resnais’ iconic documentary “Night and Fog” about the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps.

Bouquet throughout his career also did other recorded readings of works by Victor Hugo, Cervantes and Jean-Paul Sartre, and his final film came in 2020 for a film called “Villa Caprice.”