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Thread: R.i.p. Gaspard Ulliel

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    R.i.p. Gaspard Ulliel

    GASPARD ULLIEL Nov. 5, 1984–Jan. 19, 2022.


    He died two days ago at 37 in a skiing accident. (He had recounted that he came from a skiing family and almost skied before he walked.) He was one of the most prominent French film actors of his generation, a leading man notable for his striking looks and a wide range of roles. He started acting when still in school at the age of twelve. He first drew wide attention for his distinctive physicality (including a dimple that was a scar from a dog's bite when very young) as the mysterious, wild young man in he War who seduces Emmanuelle Béart in André Téchiné's 2003 Strayed (Les Égarés). He continued to gain attention as Audrey Tautou's boyfriend in A Very Long Engagement (his first César, third nomination, for Meilleur Espoir Masculin, 2004). He had a rare English language role as the young Hannibal Lector for the 2007 Hannibal Rising, then played a dashing young Duke de Guise is Tavernier's 2010 costume film The Princess of Montpensier. Very notably, he was a druggy and troubled Yves Saint Laurent in Bertrand Bonello's elegant and glamorous biopic (2014, NYFF). In 2016 he won the Best Actor César for the role of Louis, the young writer dying of AIDS in Xavier Dolan's It's Only the End of the World, playing opposite Vincent Cassel, Natalie Baye, Marion Cotillard, and Léa Seydoux. (He also played opposite Isabelle Huppert in recent years - Benoît Jacquot's Eva; and opposite Gérard Depardieu - Guillaume Nicloux's [I]To the Ends of the World[/I, both released in 2018.) Though he was straight, more than once when asked what his best on screen kiss was he said it was the one in Saint Laurent with Louis Garrel playing YSL's 1973 lover Jacques de Bascher.

    His most popular film at the box office was Jacquou le Croquant (2007), where he played a macho young French folk peasant hero of the early nineteenth century: it got a lot of publicity in France (I was there when it was released and promoted on TV) but the critics there panned it and it wasn't theatrically released here. You can watch it on Amazon now. Vogue lists some others you can watch.

    He did some television, including the strange 2019 Netflix sci fi series "Twice Upon a Time." You will be able to see him in in Marvel’s upcoming "Moon Knight" series.

    Gaspard's parents were stylists and he also was a model notably for Bleu de Chanel, appearing in ads directed successively by Martin Scorsese, James Gray and Steve McQueen. He was intense, reserved, a powerful, masculine, sexy screen presence, a little repressed perhaps, a little cold. But this gave him intensity; and those who knew him said inside he was warm and friendly; and certainly he was well spoken and polite. The word often used for him in the French tributes is "elegant."

    Having followed him ever since Strayed and been quite marked even by a little known film, Rodolphe Marconi's 2004 The Last Day, I find this sudden departure one of those losses that's hard even to take in, because one was so unprepared for it. Gaspard Ulliel should have had another forty years of career. His death leaves a big sadness and a big void.

    See Gaspard in the company of French cinematic legends and the Quebecois prodigy at Cannes In an hour-long 2018 public interview "en tête-à-tête"

    In this French language Glamour interview he says his best asset is his butt, and the movie he'd like to take on a desert island is Lynch's Lost Highway "because I've never completely understood it."

    In France this sad event has gotten major attention. The Cannes Festival director Thierry Fremaux released a kind tribute. The Minister of Culture Roselyne Bachelot spoke on TV of being "devastated."

    Xavier Dolan's Instagram tribute has been widely quoted. Here it is in English and the original French:

    It’s unbelievable, absurd, and so painful to even think of writing these words. Your discreet laughter, your caring gaze. Your scar. Your talent. Your listening skill. Your whispers, your kindness. All these personality traits that emanated from a shining sweetness. Your whole being transformed my life, a being that I loved deeply and that I will always love. I can't say anything else, I am drained, stunned by your departure.

    C’est invraisemblable, insensé, et tellement douloureux de même penser écrire ces mots. Ton rire discret, ton œil attentif. Ta cicatrice. Ton talent. Ton écoute. Tes murmures, ta gentillesse. Tous les traits de ta personne étaient en fait issus d’une douceur étincelante. C’est tout ton être qui a transformé ma vie, un être que j’aimais profondément, et que j’aimerai toujours. Je ne peux rien dire d’autre, je suis vidé, sonné par ton départ.
    He always said that the thing he most wanted to do was direct a film; he had studied directing at the University of Saint-Denis, but had to drop out to pursue his acting career.. He never got to do it.

    New York Times obituary.

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-09-2022 at 11:33 AM.


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