He was one of those actors whose presence, without forced ostentation, is unforgettable.
Michael Lonsdale is no more.
The French actor, of British origin, died on September 21, 2020 at the age of 89.
In cinema, he has played in more than a hundred films such different characters as the psychopathic pervert Drax in James Bond - Moonraker, the superior of the abbey in The Name of the Rose and more recently a Cistercian monk in Of men and gods. .
- Michael Lonsdale:" You have to win your inner peace "
I loved comedians and cinema, but I never imagined myself as an actor.
I was very shy
Michael Lonsdale at the Figaro in 2015.
Michael Edward Lonsdale-Crouch was born in Paris on May 24, 1931. His mother was French and his father an English officer.
After living in Great Britain, his family moved to Morocco in 1939.
He spent the whole of World War II there.
His passion for comedy was born on his return to France in 1947. He intended to paint, but a meeting with a priest changed his destiny.
“I loved comedians and cinema, but I never imagined myself as an actor.
I was very shy.
Through a friend of my parents who took me to mass, I met a Dominican father who told me what I wanted to hear ”, he confided to Armelle Héliot in 2015. Encouraged by Roger Blin, he follows the theater course by Tania Balachova.
He will then meet Delphine Seyrig, Laurent Terzieff, Bernard Fresson, Stéphane Audran and Jean-Louis Trintignant.
Very quickly, he was noticed in the theater and in the cinema.
On stage, he began working in 1955 under the direction of Raymond Rouleau in a play by Clifford Odets For better or for worse.
The list of renowned directors who will use his hieratic presence on stage is impressive: Laurent Terzieff, Pierre Dux, Jean-Marie Serreau, Claude Régy ...
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Michael Lonsdale acclaimed at the Cap d'Agde Festival
Facing the camera, we find him in 1962 in Le Procès, an adaptation of Franz Kafka's novel by Orson Welles.
On the bill: Anthony Perkins, Romy Schneider, Jeanne Moreau, Elsa Martinelli, Madeleine Robinson, Fernand Ledoux ... Half a century before Men and Gods, which will earn him a Caesar, Michael Lonsdale is already playing a priest.
A sign that cannot be due to chance for this man who, at 22, wanted to receive the sacraments of baptism.
A Caesar for Men and Gods
After a few roles in which he fills his arms (notably in a few films by the unclassifiable Jean-Pierre Mocky such as Snobs! In 1961, La Bourse et la Vie in 1965, Les Compagnons de la Marguerite in 1967), François Truffaut gives him twice very beautiful roles: in The Bride Was in Black 1967, then Stolen Kisses in 1968.
His career is launched and the actor will give free rein to his eclecticism, to a temperament driven by a beautiful intellectual curiosity.
We find him in 1974 in Galileo by Joseph Losey, in 1976 in Bartleby by Maurice Ronet.
Lonsdale's gambling appetite is insatiable.
Now he is the actor, enemy of the superfluous, who can take on all roles with the same sobriety.
- Michael Lonsdale tells Marguerite Duras
In this formidable filmography (more than 130 films), we also discover some blockbusters that opened their doors to this actor as deep as he is mysterious.
How to forget the hieraticism of his abbot in The Name of the Rose by Jean-Jacques Annaud facing Sean Connery?
This sometimes icy majesty, is also worth to him to become an ignoble rival of James Bond.
In Moonraker, he is Hugo Drax, a megalomaniac criminal worthy of the worst garbage of the 007 series. Such was Michael Lonsdale, a mountebank like Louis Jouvet, like Michel Bouquet, not afraid to play the counter-employment, thrifty of its effects , and yet always unforgettable.
With Jeanne Moreau, in
, by Sandrine Veysset in 2008.
Fate is sometimes written very well for great actors.
It was for his role as a man of faith in Des hommes et des dieux that he received the most awards in 2011, at the end of his career: the César for best supporting role, the Crystal Globe for best actor, the Lumière prize, the Henri-Langlois prize.
Michael Lonsdale found there a culmination begun half a century earlier with recordings of the Passion according to Saint Matthew under the direction of Raymond Rouleau.