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27 January 2013

Francis Huster

Film and stage actor Francis Huster (1947) is one of French cinema's most recognizable faces. With his dark good looks, he is adept at drama and comedy alike, and played both classic heroes and amiable sidekicks.

Francis Huster
Romanian postcard by Casa Filmului Acin.

Jeune PremierFrancis Huster was born in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France in 1947. His parents were Charles Huster, commercial director at Lancia, and his wife, the Polish Jewish Suzette Cwajbaum, who owned a sewing atelier. His grandmother, a passionate film fan, introduced the young Francis to the cinema and the boy was soon captivated. His heroes on the big screen were John Wayne, Gary Cooper and Steve McQueen. At 15, he studied acting at the Conservatoire of Paris, and at the Cours Florent. A few years later he was a teacher there himself. In 1968 Huster went to the National Conservatory, where he won three first prizes. During his studies, he made his film debut in the title role of the religious drama La faute de l'Abbé Mouret/The Demise of Father Mouret (1970, Georges Franju). But the film was not a success, and neither were Faustine et le bel été/Faustine and the Beautiful Summer (1972, Nina Companéez) and L'histoire très bonne et très joyeuse de Colinot Trousse-Chemise/The Edifying and Joyous Story of Colinot (1973, Nina Companéez) with Brigitte Bardot in her final role. Huster decided to focus himself on the stage. In 1971, he joined the Comédie-Française, where he became sociétaire in 1977. Huster played important stage roles like Lorenzaccio, Don Juan and Guy Blas. After a decade, he left the famous theatre company in order to play more than just the jeune premier, the classic young romantic type. Later, he founded the theatre group Compagnie Francis Huster.

Francis Huster
French postcard by Sopraneme, Levallois Perret, no. 159.

Big StarAfter leaving the Comédie-Française in 1981, Francis Huster set himself to become a big star of the French cinema. He wanted to play leading roles in major films. First he played opposite Charles Aznavour in Qu'est-ce qui fait courir David?/What Makes David Run? (1981, Élie Chouraqui). Then he was among the many international stars of the successful musical epic Les uns et les autres/Boléro (1981, Claude Lelouch). He also starred opposite Valérie Kaprisky in La femme publique/The Public Woman (1984), directed by Andrzej Zulawski. Further films he played in were the thriller Equateur/Ecuador (1983, Serge Gainsbourg) with Barbara Sukowa, L'amour braque/Mad Love (1985, Andrzej Zulawski) with Sophie Marceau, and Parking (1985, Jacques Demy), a modern update of the Orpheus myth taking place in an underground parking garage with Jean Marais as the devil. In 1986 he directed his first film On a volé Charlie Spencer/Charlie Spencer is stolen (1986, Francis Huster) with Béatrice Dalle. The comedy about an unassuming bank clerk who joins up with the group of thieves who have robbed his bank, was a flop. He played the lead in Claude Lelouch’s crime comedy Tout ça... pour ça!/All That... for This?! (1993). Huster became Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur in 1991, and was awarded the rank of Officier by Jacques Chirac in 2006. Chirac commented: "C'est un comédien absolument exceptionnel qui se donne sans réserve à son art" ("He is an absolutely exceptional actor who dedicates himself totally to his art").

Francis Huster
French postcard by Edition Delta-Productions, Saint-Jean-De-Vedas, no. CP 207.

Francis Huster had a big hit in France with the witty comedy Le dîner de cons/The Dinner Game (1997, Francis Veber). He played the friend and former rival of an arrogant publisher (Thierry Lhermitte) undone by the very man he intends to humiliate at his weekly ‘dinner of idiots’. James Travers at Films de France: “Not only is Le Dîner de cons one of Francis Veber’s funniest films, it is also his most minimalist, staged almost as a theatrical piece. The cast is small (but beautifully formed, thanks to the presence of Catherine Frot and Francis Huster) and most of the action takes place almost entirely in one set, in the manner of an American sitcom.” In 2008 he directed his second feature film, Un homme et son chien/A Man and His Dog (2008, Francis Huster). This was a remake of the neorealist classic Umberto D. (1952, Vittorio De Sica). It was the cinematic comeback for Jean-Paul Belmondo, who previously retired from acting after suffering a major stroke. Sadly the film was another flop. Huster’s most recent film is Je m'appelle Bernadette/My Name is Bernadette (2011, Jean Sagols) about Bernadette Soubirous, the peasant girl from Lourdes and her miraculous visions of the holy Mary. Francis Huster was married to Brazilian actress Cristiani Réali, and they have two daughters, Elisa (1998) and Toscane (2003). The couple lives separated since 2008.


Scene from L'histoire très bonne et très joyeuse de Colinot Trousse-Chemise/The Edifying and Joyous Story of Colinot (1973) with Brigitte Bardot. Source: DivineBB (YouTube).


French Trailer for La femme publique/The Public Woman (1984). Source: Dani77744 (YouTube).


French Trailer for Le dîner de cons/The Dinner Game (1997). Source: Thegilou42 (YouTube).

Sources: James Travers (Films de France), Rebecca Flint Marx (AllMovie), Aernout Fetter (IMDb), Wikipedia and IMDb.

1 comment:

Bunched Undies said...

I have seen Huster in several films but never knew much about him. Thanks Bob