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19 December 2016

Vincent Perez

Soulful, exotic-looking Swiss actor Vincent Pérez (1964) is known for such French films as Cyrano de Bergerac (1990), Indochine (1992) and La Reine Margot (1994). His international breakthrough was his role as Ashe Corven in The Crow: City of Angels (1996). He is also known as a director and photographer.

Anne Brochet, Vincent Perez and Gérard Depardieu in Cyrano de Bergerac (1990)
French postcard. Photo: Articial Eye. Publicity still for Cyrano de Bergerac (Jean-Paul Rappeneau, 1990) with Anne Brochet en Gérard Depardieu.

Vincent Perez in The Crow - City of Angels (1996)
British postcard by GB Posters, Sheffield, no. PC0021. Photo: Crowvision Inc., 1996. Publicity still for The Crow: City of Angels (Tim Pope, 1996).

A sexy stare and irresistible charm that has swept Gallic women off their feet


Vincent Pérez was born in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1964. He is the son of a Spanish father and a German mother. His mother was a homemaker and his father worked in the import-export business.

Vincent wanted to be an actor since he saw a film of Charles Chaplin, at the age of seven. He began putting on shows at school, which he would star in and direct. Perez eventually dropped out to enter photography school. In Geneva, he enrolled at the Conservatory of Dramatic Arts, followed by a training at the Paris Conservatoire (CNSAD) and at the experimental school of the Théâtre Nanterre-Amandiers, where he trained under famed theatre and opera director Patrice Chéreau.

While still a student, he made his screen debut in Gardien de la nuit/Night Guardian (Jean-Pierre Limosin, 1986). A part followed by in the Anton Chekhov adaptation Hôtel de France (Patrice Chéreau, 1987), which was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival.

His breakthrough role was the tongue-tied lover Christian de Neuvillette opposite Gérard Depardieu in the comedy-drama Cyrano de Bergerac (Jean-Paul Rappeneau, 1990). Critics considered it the definitive film version of the Edmond Rostand play from 1897. For his standout performance, Perez was nominated for a César Award as Most Promising Actor (Meilleur espoir masculin). According to Gary Brumburgh at IMDb, Perez exudes ‘a sexy stare and irresistible charm that has swept Gallic women off their feet‘.

In Italy, he appeared in title role of the comedy Il viaggio di Capitan Fracassa/Captain Fracassa's Journey (Ettore Scola, 1990) with Emmanuelle Béart. Perez was awarded the prestigious Prix Jean Gabin for his work in the World War II drama La Neige et le Feu/Snow and Fire (Claude Pinoteau, 1991).

He landed the romantic lead opposite Catherine Deneuve in Indochine/Indochina (Rëgis Wargnier, 1992), set in colonial French Indochina during the 1930s to 1950s. The film won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, and also won the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film. That year he directed and wrote himself the short film L'échange/The Change (1992) At the Cannes Film Festival, L'échange was nominated for the Golden Palm Award for Best Short Film.

He then co-starred with Sophie Marceau in the romantic comedy Fanfan/Fanfan & Alexandre (1993) written and directed by Alexandre Jardin and based on the director's best-selling 1990 novel. James Travers at Films de France: “Compelling performances from Vincent Perez and Sophie Marceau transform what looks at first like a routine romantic comedy into something far richer, far more compassionate. The second part of the film also contains some moments of artistic brilliance, notably the Cocteau-esque sequence in which the two lovers attempt to make contact through a mirrored partition. Although there are a few unexplained gaps in the narrative—some more back story about Alexandre might have helped—writer-director Alexandre Jardin succeeds in weaving a tender love story that is both original and hauntingly poetic. “

One of his best films is the French period film La Reine Margot/Queen Margot (Patrice Chéreau, 1994), starring Isabelle Adjani. The film won awards at the Cannes Film Festival and was an international success. It paved the way for Perez to an international career.

Vincent Perez in The Crow - City of Angels (1996)
British postcard by London Postcard Company, no. PR 760. Photo: Crowvision Inc., 1996. Publicity still for The Crow: City of Angels (Tim Pope, 1996).

Vincent Perez in The Crow - City of Angels (1996)
British postcard by London Postcard Company, no. PR 762. Photo: Crowvision Inc., 1996. Publicity still for The Crow: City of Angels (Tim Pope, 1996).

American supernatural horror action film


Vincent Perez was cast next to John Malkovich in the Italian-French-German romance Al di là delle nuvole/Beyond the Clouds (Michelangelo Antonioni, Wim Wenders, 1995). Director Antonioni, who was 83 at the time of the film's production, had a stroke that left him severely incapacitated. The film was completed with help from Wim Wenders, who wrote its prologue and epilogue and worked on the screenplay.

Perez then played the lead in the American supernatural horror action film The Crow: City of Angels (Tim Pope, 1996), a sequel to the cult film The Crow (Alex Proyas, 1994) with Brandon Lee, who was accidentally killed on the set during filming by a defective blank, only 8 days before the film would have completed production. The Crow: City of Angels was a minor success.

Perez then starred in the American drama Swept from the Sea (Beeban Kidron, 1997), based on a story by Joseph Conrad about a doomed love affair between a simple country girl (Rachel Weisz) and a Ukrainian peasant (Perez) who is swept onto the Cornish shore in 1888 after his emigrant ship sinks on its way to America.

Back in France, he co-starred with Daniel Auteuil in the Swashbuckler Le Bossu/On Guard (Philippe de Broca, 1997). For his part as a transsexual in Ceux qui m'aiment prendront le train/Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train (Patrice Chéreau, 1998), he was nominated for the César Award for Best Supporting Actor (Meilleur second rôle masculin).

His American films were less successful. Talk Of Angels was directed in 1996 by Nick Hamm, but not released by its production company, Miramax, until 1998. The drama I Dreamed of Africa (Hugh Hudson, 2000), starring Kim Basinger, was also not received well and a huge financial flop.

Better received was the French comedy Le Libertin/The Libertine (Gabriel Aghion, 2000), in which Perez played the philosopher Denis Diderot, one of the modernists of the French 18th-century Age of Enlightenment movement. His next American projects, the period drama Bride of the Wind (Bruce Beresford, 2001), and the vampire horror film Queen of the Damned (Michael Rymer, 2002) were again critical and box office disappointments.

Perez then directed himself the drama Peau d'Ange/Once Upon an Angel (Vincent Perez, 2002). Derek Elley in Variety: “Vincent Perez makes an interesting behind-the-camera debut with Once Upon an Angel, a smartly put together, well-cast romantic drama that just needed a little more work on the script. Tale of a simple farm girl who loses her virginity to – but not her love for – a more emotionally complex, ambitious young man doesn't add up to a great deal, but features good perfs by leads Morgane More and Guillaume Depardieu.”

His later films include the French-Swiss comedy Bienvenue en Suisse/Welcome to Switzerland (Léa Fazer, 2004), the Russian action film Kod apokalipsisa/The Apocalypse Code (Vadim Shmelyov, 2007), the Franco-Portuguese epic war film Linhas de Wellington/Lines of Wellington (Raúl Ruiz, 2012) and the romantic drama Ce que le jour doit à la nuit/What the Day Owes the Night (Alexandre Arcady, 2012).

On television, he starred in Paris enquêtes criminelles/Paris Criminal Investigations (2007-2008), the French remake of Law & Order: Criminal Intent. Pérez starred as Lieutenant Vincent Revel.

He has exhibited his photographic work during festivals and in art galleries. His exhibition Face to Face, including photographs of Carla Bruni, Johnny Hallyday and Gérard Depardieu, was unveiled at Rencontres d'Arles, an annual photography festival in Arles, France.

Since 1998, Vincent Perez is married to Senegalese model/actress/writer Karine Silla. They have three children together, Iman (1999), and the twins Pablo and Tess (2003). Next year, Perez can be seen in Claude Lelouch’s new ensemble film Chacun sa vie et son intime conviction (2017), and in the biopic Dalida (Lisa Azuelos 2017), in which he will play French record producer Eddie Barclay.

Vincent Perez in The Crow - City of Angels (1996)
British postcard by London Postcard Company, no. PR 764. Photo: Crowvision Inc., 1996. Publicity still for The Crow: City of Angels (Tim Pope, 1996).

Vincent Perez in The Crow - City of Angels (1996)
British postcard by London Postcard Company, no. PR 768. Photo: Crowvision Inc., 1996. Publicity still for The Crow: City of Angels (Tim Pope, 1996).

Sources: Gary Brumburgh (IMDb), James Travers (Films de France), Aubry Anne D'Arminio (AllMovie), Vincent Perez.com, Wikipedia and IMDb.

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