Death of Michel Bouquet: a planned national tribute, where and when?

Michel Bouquet: jeunesse, famille, œuvres, films... Biographie du monstre du théâtre et du cinéma MICHEL BOUQUET. Michel Bouquet was a monument of French theater and cinema. Known to have played no less than 800 times “The king is dying” by Ionesco, the actor has toured with the greatest, including Chabrol and Truffaut. Biography of Michel Bouquet – Born November 6 1925 in Paris and died on april 2022, Michel Bouquet enters the Conservatory of Dramatic Art in 1943. His film career is gaining momentum in the years 1943: he works for great directors, such as Truffaut and Chabrol, interpreting ambiguous and mysterious characters. He also shines in the theater, with in particular “The king is dying” and “A torts ou à raisons”. In fact, he has become a key player in French cinema and theater.

Childhood and formation

Michel Bouquet studied in boarding school with his three brothers. There, he becomes a reserved child, because of the teasing of his comrades. His father became a prisoner of war, he helps his mother by doing odd jobs such as an apprentice pastry chef, mechanic, bank employee. From 1925, he turned to the theater by taking lessons with Maurice Escande, member of the Comédie- French. He then joined the Conservatory of Dramatic Arts, where Gérard Philipe was one of his comrades. The actor cut his teeth at the Théâtre de l’Atelier, with Jean Anouilh and André Barsacq, then at the Théâtre national populaire, with Jean Vilar, and at the Festival d’Avignon. He gets his first role thanks to Jean Anouilh in the play “Romeo and Jeannette”.

Michel Bouquet: a career in cinema

It was in “Monsieur Vincent” by Maurice Cloche, that Michel Bouquet made his first appearance at the cinema, in 1960. Thereafter, it does not remain only in a register, playing as well in comedies as in dramas. Embodying bourgeois in the years 70, he also plays dark and unsympathetic characters. His work is steady, being serious and focused, to embody these characters. We see it in great films like “The bride was in black” by François Truffaut in 1970; “Two men in the city” by José Giovanni in 1970; “Les Miserables” by Robert Hossein in 1970; “How I Killed My Father” by Anne Fontaine in 2002; “The walker of the Champ-de-Mars” by Robert Guédiguian in 2006, where he plays President Mitterrand; “Renoir” by Gilles Bourdos in 2009, playing Auguste Renoir, but also in series like “Maigret”, alongside Bruno Crémer.

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Michel Bouquet and the love of the theater

Oscillating between cinema and theatre, Michel Bouquet admitted that he had a preference for the boards. Of 1944 to 2017, he plays in many plays, highlighting the works of Albert Camus and Harold Pinter, but also often in plays by Molière and d ‘Eugene Ionesco. Some of his performances on stage have become famous such as that of “Waiting for Godot” in 1978, “Rameau’s nephew” by Diderot in 1984, “Les Chops” by Bertrand Blier in 1997, and more recently “A tort ou à raison” by Ronald Harwood in 2000, which he has played several times, notably at the Théâtre Hebertot.

In an interview with France Culture for the play “Le Malade imaginaire”, Michel Bouquet reveals the way he chooses his roles: “It’s a moment of crush, it’s like in life when you encounter circumstances that make you see the wonderful life. It’s those moments that make you actually choose a play. But when you choose a play, you’re not sure at all that you can play it, because “Between choosing it and playing it, there is a world…well, there is a gigantic amount of work. But you have to have this crush, this thunderbolt at the start to dare to consider working on it.”

“The king is dying”: Michel Bouquet’s favorite piece

The career of Michel Bouquet in the theater will be marked a fetish play. This is none other than “The King is Dying” by Eugène Ionesco, directed by Georges Werler. It is one of the pieces he has played the most, first in 1991 then 2004 to 2006 and of 2010 to 2014. This play tells the story of a dying king – as the title suggests – but who does not accept death. The sovereign will therefore go through several emotions: denial, revolt and resignation. Through this tragedy, where the reaction to the announcement of an imminent death is ridiculed, Ionesco highlights the attitude of individuals towards it, and wishes to demonstrate that it is nevertheless inevitable. Famous for this performance, Michel Bouquet wins the Molière for comedian in 2005.

Michel Bouquet in “The King is Dying” © DELALANDE RAYMOND/SIPA

Michel Bouquet and “The imaginary patient”

Michel Bouquet has played more than 400 times the character of Argan in ” The Imaginary Invalid” by Molière, directed by his friend Georges Werler. This play depicts a hypochondriac named Argan, who pretends to be ill but who, in reality, has imaginary illnesses. Physicians therefore come to him to bleed and purge him and give remedies. Their concern is not so much the health of their patient, but more what he can bring them or give thanks to this obsession. Here Molière also ridicules the fear of death but also the medical profession. A recurring subject in the author’s work, it provokes laughter with each interpretation. Michel Bouquet performed Argan in 1984, in 2008 and in 2010 in the theater then on television in 1970 and 2009. He was nominated twice for the Molière du actor for this role in 1987 and 1987, but did not win them.

“I am not Michel Bouquet”

Michel Bouquet sees the birth in September 2014 of a show about himself , but without his presence. In the play directed by Damien Bricoteaux, it is the actor Maxime d’Aboville (Molière of the actor in 2014), which declaims the words of Michel Bouquet, collected by the actor Charles Berling. It sheds light on Bouquet’s life, from finding his way to discovering the theater, which allows him to escape from the harsh reality. A touching and intimate testimony.

Awards and Decorations

Michel Bouquet receives the Molière d’honneur from Fabrice Luchini © BENHAMOU LAURENT/GUSTINE GILLES/ SIPA

Michel Bouquet receives for his performances at the theater three Molières: two Molières for the actor in 1997 for “Les Chops” and in 2004 for “The king is dying”, and a third, a Molière d’honneur for the entire career, in 2014. Then he received the Crystal Globe for best actor, for the play “Le Tartuffe” by Molière. He gets a Caesar in 2001 for “How I killed my father”, then in 2006 for his interpretation of François Mitterrand in “Le Promeneur du Champ-de-Mars”.

Michel Bouquet also received three Prix du Syndicat de la critique for best actor for “Témoignage inadmissible” in 1967, “Mister Klebs and Rozalie” in 1978 and “Rameau’s Nephew” in 1983. In 1991, he won the prize for best European actor for “Toto the hero”. Then he received the National Theater Grand Prize in 1994, the Pleasure of Theater Prize in 1999, the Lumière Award for Best Actor for “How I Killed My Father” and the Grand Prize In Honorem of the Charles-Cros Academy in 2006.

Michel Bouquet climbs the ranks of the Legion of Honor over time. He will first be knighted on 27 may 1983, then officer on April 3 1996, Commander on 13 July 2007, grand officer the 12 July 2013 and finally, the 13 July 2018, Grand Cross. The 15 may 2019, he also had the Gold Medal of the Renaissance French. This is awarded to a person who promotes French culture, and who has a Commander’s Cross in a state order.

Other works

Alongside his acting career, Michel Bouquet has done the voiceover for documentaries and short films, such as “Nuit et Brouillard” by Alain Resnais. He also did readings put on discs, such as the poetic works of Victor Hugo in 1985, or even Jean de la Font groin in 2022. In 2017, he published a book called ” Michel Bouquet tells Molière”. In 2001, he collaborated with Charles Berling for his book “The Players. Interviews”, then in 2010 with Jean-Jacques Vincensini for “The comedy lesson” and in 2011 with Fabienne Pascaud for “Memory of an actor”.

The women in his life

Michel Bouquet lived a first marriage with the actress Ariane Borg. He then married actress Juliette Carré in 1970, with whom he played several times. He never had a child. In fact, he is not the father of actress Carole Bouquet. A question that has become recurrent for the two homonymous actors.

Death of Michel Bouquet

Michel Bouquet died on Wednesday 03 April 2022 at the age of 96 years. AFP revealed that the actor of cinema and theater had “died in a Parisian hospital”, quoting his press service. The state of health of Michel Bouquet before his death remains unknown. Actor Fabrice Luchini revealed on RTL that he “wasn’t doing very well” for a few months, without making any further revelations about his illness. He simply clarified that he was “beginning to no longer be in control of all his memories”. A national tribute is organized at the Invalides on 12 april 2022. It is chaired by Emmanuel Macron. During the ceremony, Muriel Robin, Pierre Arditi and Fabrice Luchini take the floor.


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