Jean-Louis Trintignant, French Star of ‘The Conformist’ and ‘Amour,’ Dies at 91

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Jean-Louis Trintignant, a French actor known for art house classics like “The Conformist,” “Z,” “My Night at Maud’s” and more recently the Palme d’Or winner “Amour,” has died. He was 91.

Trintignant died in his home Friday in the Gard region of Southern France, his wife Marianne told the French press agency. He had announced in 2018 a diagnosis for prostate cancer.

Considered one of the best French actors of his generation, Trintignant was an international star who worked with auteurs from Costa-Gavras, Éric Rohmer, Francois Truffaut, Michael Haneke, Claude Chabrol, Bernardo Bertolucci and Krzystof Kieslowski throughout his career across over 130 films. He also had a career as a French race car driver and a filmmaker.

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Trintignant started his career on stage in the early ’50s and first gained attention in one of his first screen roles, “And God Created Woman” in 1956, when he starred alongside Brigitte Bardot. Trintignant and Bardot had an affair after the filming of the movie that put the two of them in the tabloids and helped launch Bardot in becoming an international sex symbol.

But he gained true prominence in 1966 when he starred in Claude Lelouch’s “A Man and a Woman,” then one of the most successful French films of all-time and the year’s Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film. It was with this role, playing a widower who develops a love for another widow but finds their relationship marred by their past tragedies, that he developed his gift for darker characters containing depths of emotion.

Trintignant would reunite with Lelouch on a follow-up to “A Man and a Woman” in 1986. And though he had announced his retirement from acting in 2018, he agreed to star in a third follow-up and team with Lelouch yet again for “The Best Years of a Life,” which was released in 2019.

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In 1968, Trintignant won the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival as the Best Actor for his work in the film “The Man Who Lies,” and he would follow that up with a string of acclaimed art house performances, including Costa-Gavras’ political thriller “Z” that won him the Best Actor prize at Cannes in 1969, in Rohmer’s “My Night at Maud’s” the same year and in Bertolucci’s “The Conformist” in 1970.

Some of his later great roles came working with Polish auteur Kieslowski on the third film in his “Three Colors” trilogy “Red,” and in his 80s after a gap of more than a decade working with Haneke on 2012’s “Amour,” a heart-wrenching drama in which he plays a man caring for his wife after she’s suffered a stroke. The film won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film and was nominated for four other Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and earned co-star Emmanuelle Riva an acting nomination, making her at the time the oldest woman to ever be nominated. Trintignant also won the French César Award for Best Actor for his work, his first and only after five nominations throughout his career.

Trintignant came from a wealthy family and an uncle, Maurice Trintignant, who had a storied career as a Formula One racer who twice won the Monaco Grand Prix and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It led Trintignant to become an amateur rally driver and compete in several rounds of the World Rally Championship in the ’70s and ’80s.

The actor’s life was also marred by personal tragedy, including the death of his first daughter, actress Marie Trintignant, who was murdered by a French rock star, and the death of his second child when she was just 9 months old.

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