French acting legend Michel Bouquet dies at 96

The actor was known for playing the lead role in the absurdist drama 'Exit the King' no fewer than 800 times


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Published: Wed 13 Apr 2022, 5:00 PM

Michel Bouquet, a legend of French stage and screen known for his collaborations with new wave directors like Francois Truffaut and Claude Chabrol, died on Wednesday at the age of 96.

Bouquet passed away in a Paris hospital, his spokesperson told AFP.

He was particularly known for playing the lead role in Eugene Ionesco's absurdist drama "Exit the King" no fewer than 800 times, as well as iconic performances in "The Miser" by Moliere.

Despite his love of the stage, he was also a force on the big screen, winning best actor at the Cesars (France's version of the Oscars) for his uncanny impression of former president Francois Mitterrand in the 2005 film "The Last Mitterrand".

It was his second win, having picked up the same award for the 2001 film "How I Killed My Father", playing alongside Juliette Binoche.

In his younger years, he was cast in several classics of 1960s new wave cinema, including Chabrol's "The Unfaithful Wife" and Truffaut's "The Bride Wore Black" and "Mississippi Mermaid".

Born on November 6, 1925 in Paris, Bouquet inherited his love of performing from his mother who took him regularly to the Opera Comique.

He was key to popularising contemporary foreign writers including Britain's Harold Pinter and Ireland's Samuel Beckett, as well as his dedication to the classics.

"In the theatre, the personality of the author is so majestic, whether it be Pinter or Moliere, that all one does is try to convey the word as obediently as possible," he told AFP in 2019, announcing his retirement.

"Michel Bouquet was a genius, an immense actor," actor-director Nicolas Briancon told AFP after his death was announced.

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