PARIS – French film legend and amateur race car driver Jean-Louis Trintignant, who earned acclaim for his starring role in the Oscar-winning film “A Man and a Woman” half a century ago and went on to portray the brutality of aging in his later years, has died. He was 91.
Trintignant died in his home in southern France, according to Bertrand Cortellini, who operated a vineyard with the actor and visited him Thursday before his death. He did not divulge details. French news reports said Trintignant had prostate cancer.
In a career that started when he was 19, Trintignant appeared in more than 100 films. He was one of France’s premier actors in the post-war era — and one of the last remaining performers of his generation.
Tributes poured in after his death was announced Friday. France’s national Cinematheque museum called him “one of the greatest actors in the history of French cinema.”
Born Dec. 11, 1930 in Piolenc in southern France, near where he died, Trintignant started out acting in the theater but gained broader fame in cinema, notably starring with Brigitte Bardot in “And God ... Created Woman” in 1956. The two had an unabashed, off-screen love affair that shocked many.
He described turning to acting to overcome intense shyness. An actor “is to be a blank page, starting from nothing, from silence. From there, you don’t need to make a lot of noise to be listened to,” he was quoted as saying in Le Monde.
He starred in Italian films and several films by legendary French director Claude Lelouch, most famously “A Man and a Woman” in 1966, which won the Oscar for best foreign film. Trintignant played a race car driver — a passion he pursued off-screen — in a complex romance alongside Anouk Aimee.
Trintignant stopped performing for nearly a decade after the loss of his daughter Marie, also an actor, in 2003. Her boyfriend, popular French singer Bertrand Cantat, beat her to death during a dispute in a hotel room in Lithuania, where she was making a film.
Trintignant continued acting on stage and on screen into his 80s, and earned new international attention in Michael Haneke’s 2013 Oscar-winning drama “Amour,” a raw depiction of an aging couple and the ravages of Alzheimer’s on their love.
In his final role on film, Trintignant reunited with Lelouch and Aimee in “The Best Years of a Life,” in 2019.
Among survivors are his wife Mariane Hoepfner, a former race car driver, and his son Vincent Trintignant and grandson Jules Benchetrit, also actors.