Jean-Louis Trintignant

1930-

Biography

Jean-Louis Trintignant photo
Jean-Louis Trintignant is one of France's most distinguished and recognisable actors. In a busy acting career that encompasses more than half a century, he has appeared in over a hundred films and he has worked with some of the most eminent of French and Italian film directors, including Eric Rohmer, Michel Deville, Alain Robbe-Grillet, François Truffaut, Bernardo Bertolucci and Ettore Scola. When he started appearing in films, Trintignant was almost invariably cast as the gauche romantic hero, seductive but not imposing. Later, he gravitated towards darker, more complex roles, becoming more of the anti-hero, misanthropic, solitary, calculating and cynical. A quiet and unassuming man by nature, Trintignant remains modest about his achievements and has not actively sought stardom. Few French actors are as universally well-regarded as he is and he is unquestionably one of the most charming and talented actors of his generation.

The son of a wealthy industrialist, Jean-Louis Trintignant was born on 11th December 1930 at Piolenc in the department of Vaucluse in southeast France. As a boy, he had ambitions of following in the footsteps of his uncle, the well-known motor racing driver Maurice Trintignant. In 1949, Trintignant began to study law at Aix-en-Provence, but, at the age of 19, he found a sudden passion for acting, having seen Charles Dullin's stage production of Molière's L'Avare. He abandoned his studies and took drama classes in Paris, under Charles Dullin and Tania Balachova. Trintignant claimed that acting is what allowed him to overcome his chronic shyness.

Trintignant made his stage debut in 1951 in a production of À chacun selon sa faim with Raymond Hermantier's theatre company. Having spent a few years in theatre practicing his art, he then made up his mind to become a film director. He studied filmmaking technique at the prestigious film school IDHEC (Institut des hautes études cinématographiques), although it would be twenty years before he made his first film, Une journée bien remplie (1972). This, and the next film he made, Le Maître-nageur (1979), proved to be major flops, and so Trintignant's hopes for a successful filmmaking career were effectively dashed.

Jean-Louis Trintignant began appearing in films in the mid-1950s. Having taken a few bit parts, he was given his first significant film role in Christian-Jaque's Si tous les gars du monde (1956). Later that year he found international fame when he starred opposite Brigitte Bardot in Roger Vadim's Et Dieu... créa la femme (1956). Trintignant's brief affair with Bardot attracted the attention of the world's press and destroyed Vadim's marriage to the actress. Trintignant escaped the media maelstrom by going off and doing his military service. He served in the Algerian War and was profoundly affected by what he experienced during the conflict. Three years of military life were enough for him and he returned to civilian life eager to resume his acting career. Having won praise for his stage portrayal of Hamlet, he was given another important film role by Roger Vadim, appearing alongside Jeanne Moreau and Gérard Philipe in an updated version of Les Liaisons dangereuses (1960).

Trintignant's long association with Italian cinema began with Valerio Zurlini's Estate violenta (1959), followed by Dino Risi's Il Sorpasso (1962), one of his biggest successes in Italy. Around this time, he met and married Stéphane Audran, although the marriage was short-lived and the actress left him to marry director Claude Chabrol. Claude Lelouch's Oscar winning Un homme et une femme (1966) brought Trintignant another dose of international celebrity and established him as one of France's leading film stars. In 1968, he won the Silver Bear Best Actor award at the Berlin International Film Festival for Alain Robbe-Grillet's L'Homme qui ment (1968).

In 1968, Jean-Louis Trintignant married the actress and film director Nadine Marquand, with whom he would make several films, including some with their daughter Marie. The couple had three children, but two would die in tragic circumstances - Pauline was a victim of cot death; Marie, a prominent actress, was killed when she was 41, in the course of a violent dispute with her boyfriend, Bertrand Cantat. The couple later divorced and Trintignant subsequently married the famous racing driver Marianne Hoepfner in 1984.

In the 1960s and 70s, Trintignant became particularly associated with the political thriller, an increasingly popular genre in France and the kind of film that seemed to fit the actor's cool but sensitive persona perfectly. Of the many political thrillers he appeared in, the best known are:  Alain Cavalier's Le Combat dans l'île (1962), Costa-Gavras's Z (1969) (which won him the Best Actor award at Cannes in 1969), Bernardo Bertolucci's Il conformista (a.k.a. The Conformist) (1970) (which he rates as one of his best roles) and Yves Boisset's L'Attentat (1972). Other notable thrillers include Jacques Deray's Flic Story (1975) (in which he makes an effective contrast with Alain Delon), Michel Deville's Eaux profondes (1981) and François Truffaut's swansong Vivement dimanche! (1983).

Whilst Jean-Louis Trintignant had a very strong presence in mainstream French cinema for the best part of three decades, he also appeared in several notable auteur pieces. These include: Eric Rohmer's Ma nuit chez Maud (1969), Ettore Scola's La Terrazza (1980) and Alain Tanner's La Vallée fantôme (1987), in which the actor gives some of his best performances. Trintignant's later appearances in Jacques Audiard's Regarde les homes tomber and Krzysztof Kieslowski's Trois couleurs Rouge totally transformed his screen persona and allowed him to make a high profile comeback in the mid-1990s.

Trintignant's early ambitions to become a racing car driver were finally fulfilled in the 1970s, when, having taken lessons in the sport, he began to compete in various races and rallies, including the Le Mans 24 Hours (in 1980) and the Monte-Carlo Rally (in 1982 and 1984). In 1996, he gave up racing and bought a vineyard just outside Nîmes in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France. It was career move that suited him and within a few years he had become one of the region's most successful viticulturists. Jean-Louis Trintignant has not turned his back on the profession that made him famous and which he remains passionate about. Since 2000, he periodically puts in an appearance in French cinema, although he prefers to devote his acting energies to the theatre, the place where he discovered the histrionic art and made it his first mistress.
The above article was written for filmsdefrance.com and should not be reproduced in any medium without the author's permission.

Filmography

Key: a = actor; d = director; w = writer

Club de femmes (1956) [a]

Et Dieu... créa la femme (1956) [a]

La Loi des rues (1956) [a]

Si tous les gars du monde (1956) [a]

Estate violenta (1959) [a]

Les Liaisons dangereuses (1959) [a]

Austerlitz (1960) [a]

La Millième fenêtre (1960) [a]

Le Coeur battant (1960) [a]

L'Atlantide (1961) [a]

Le Jeu de la vérité (1961) [a]

Le Puits aux trois vérités (1961) [a]

Pleins feux sur l'assassin (1961) [a]

Horace 62 (1962) [a]

Il Sorpasso (1962) [a]

Le Combat dans l'île (1962) [a]

Les Sept péchés capitaux (1962) [a]

Château en Suède (1963) [a]

Il Successo (1963) [a]

L'Enfer (1964) [a]

Les Pas perdus (1964) [a]

Les Siffleurs (1964) [a]

Mata Hari, agent H21 (1964) [a]

Compartiment tueurs (1965) [a]

Io uccido, tu uccidi (1965) [a]

La Bonne occase (1965) [a]

Merveilleuse Angélique (1965) [a]

La Longue marche (1966) [a]

Le Dix-septième ciel (1966) [a]

Paris brûle-t-il? (1966) [a]

Safari diamants (1966) [a]

Trans-Europ-Express (1966) [a]

Un homme et une femme (1966) [a]

Col cuore in gola (1967) [a]

Mon amour, mon amour (1967) [a]

Un homme à abattre (1967) [a]

Il Grande silenzio (1968) [a]

L'Homme qui ment (1968) [a]

La Matriarca (1968) [a]

La Morte ha fatto l'uovo (1968) [a]

Les Biches (1968) [a]

Così dolce... così perversa (1969) [a]

L'Américain (1969) [a]

Le Voleur de crimes (1969) [a]

Ma nuit chez Maud (1969) [a]

Metti una sera a cena (1969) [a]

Z (1969) [a]

Il Conformista (1970) [a]

Las secretas intenciones (1970) [a]

Le Voyou (1970) [a]

Secretas intenciones, Las (1970) [a]

L'Opium et le baton (1971) [a]

Remparts d'argile (1971) [a]

Sans mobile apparent (1971) [a]

L'Attentat (1972) [a]

La Course du lièvre à travers les champs (1972) [a]

Last Tango in Paris (1972) [w]

Un homme est mort (1972) [a]

Défense de savoir (1973) [a]

La Bonne année (1973) [a]

Le Train (1973) [a]

Une journée bien remplie ou Neuf meurtres insolites dans une même journée par un seul homme dont ce n'est pas le métier (1973) [a,d,w]

Glissements progressifs du plaisir (1974) [a]

L'Escapade (1974) [a]

Le Mouton enragé (1974) [a]

Le Secret (1974) [a]

Les Violons du bal (1974) [a]

Flic Story (1975) [a]

L'Agression (1975) [a]

Le Jeu avec le feu (1975) [a]

Il pleut sur Santiago (1976) [a]

L'Ordinateur des pompes funèbres (1976) [a]

La Donna della domenica (1976) [a]

Le Désert des Tartares (1976) [a]

Le Voyage de noces (1976) [a]

Les Passagers (1977) [a]

Repérages (1977) [a]

L'Argent des autres (1978) [a]

Le Maître-nageur (1979) [a,d,w]

Melancholy Baby (1979) [a]

Melancoly Baby (1979) [a]

Je vous aime (1980) [a]

La Banquière (1980) [a]

La Terrazza (1980) [a]

Eaux profondes (1981) [a]

Malevil (1981) [a]

Passione d'amore (1981) [a]

Un assassin qui passe (1981) [a]

Une affaire d'hommes (1981) [a]

Boulevard des assassins (1982) [a]

Le Grand pardon (1982) [a]

Colpire al cuore (1983) [a]

La Crime (1983) [a]

Under Fire (1983) [a]

Vivement dimanche! (1983) [a]

Femmes de personne (1984) [a]

Le Bon plaisir (1984) [a]

Viva la vie! (1984) [a]

L'Été prochain (1985) [a]

L'Homme aux yeux d'argent (1985) [a]

L'été prochain (1985) [a]

Partir, revenir (1985) [a]

Rendez-vous (1985) [a]

Sortüz egy fekete bivalyért (1985) [a]

La Femme de ma vie (1986) [a]

Un homme et une femme, 20 ans déjà (1986) [a]

La Vallée fantôme (1987) [a]

Le Moustachu (1987) [a]

Bunker Palace Hôtel (1989) [a]

Merci la vie (1991) [a]

L'Instinct de l'ange (1993) [a]

L'Oeil écarlate (1993) [a,w]

Ernesto Che Guevara, le journal de Bolivie (1994) [a]

Regarde les hommes tomber (1994) [a]

Trois couleurs Rouge (1994) [a]

Fiesta (1995) [a]

La Cité des enfants perdus (1995) [a]

C'est jamais loin (1996) [a]

Tykho Moon (1996) [a]

Un héros très discret (1996) [a]

Un homme est tombé dans la rue (1996) [a]

Ceux qui m'aiment prendront le train (1998) [a]

Janis et John (2003) [a]

Amour (2012) [a]


Best films

Here are some of Jean-Louis Trintignant's best films:


Awards

Jean-Louis Trintignant won 1 César for: Amour (2013, Best Actor). He received 4 further César nominations for: La Femme de ma vie (1987, Best Supporting Actor); Trois couleurs Rouge (1995, Best Actor); Fiesta (1996, Best Actor); and Ceux qui m'aiment prendront le train (1999, Best Supporting Actor).

He was also the recipient of 1 Festival de Cannes award for: Z (1969, Best Actor).

He also received 1 Berlin International Film Festival award for: L'Homme qui ment (1968, Silver Berlin Bear: Best Actor).

Quotes

“The actor must have no personality at all. He must strip the layers away, arriving like a blank page. Very difficult, like having childhood innocence back again. You must give the impression that the scenario was never written. That you're inventing it at the precise moment you act it - an elaborate kind of improvisation.”

“The text is never important. One has to say it, play it, of course. What is vital is what's in-between the words - behind them.”

“When you're an actor, actually, you shouldn't come up with too many ideas.”

“You could spend a lifetime on Hamlet, the most complex, most ambiguous, richest character in all literature. You can't make a Hamlet without breaking eggs!”

“Americans fascinate me - like science fiction fascinates me. I feel as strange among them as I would among Martians.”

“You must not wait until someone comes and steals your death. You must decide on it, yourself.”

“Claude Lelouch is both detestable and adorable. He likes to lie. Lying is his poetry.”

“In life, I'm more feminine than Catherine Deneuve.”

“It's never a script that makes me decide to accept a film or not.”

“No, I like today's cinema a lot. But I've spent so many decades only making movies. There's so much that I still want to do. Like, live. It's only up to me.”




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