French film legend and amateur racer Jean-Louis Trintignant dies aged 91 after cancer battle

French film legend Jean-Louis Trintignant, who in a 74-year career became one of his country’s finest actors, has died aged 91.

The silver screen icon passed away surrounded by his family after a three-year battle with lung cancer, his wife said.

President Emmanuel Macron dubbed Trintignant ‘a wonderful artistic talent and voice’.

Mr Macron told the press this afternoon: ‘He accompanied our lives through French cinema. It’s a page that turns on a wonderful artistic talent and voice.’

Trintignant, pictured at the 70th Cannes Film Festival in 2017, died after battling lung cancer

Trintignant starred alongside Brigitte Bardot in his first film appearance more than 65 years ago.

Trintignant, pictured on the set of 1982's The Big Pardon, starred in 31 films from 1966 to 1974 alone, winning acclaim for many of them

Trintignant, pictured on the set of 1982’s The Big Pardon, starred in 31 films from 1966 to 1974 alone, winning acclaim for many of them

A flurry of leading roles in seminal European films between the late-1960s and mid-1970s made Trintignant one of the continent’s best-known film stars.

Trintignant’s prolific run between 1966 and 1974 saw the actor star in no fewer than 31 films. By the end of his career, he had appeared in more than 130.

His hot streak included the political dramas Z (directed by Costas-Gavras) and Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Conformist, plus spaghetti western The Great Silence, from Django director Sergio Corbucci.

Trintignant’s distinctive, stony-faced expression, in films where he often played repressed anti-heroes, made him a fixture of European cinema in an era where cold austerity was a common target.

After The Conformist won global acclaim, Trintignant was offered the lead role in Bertolucci’s follow-up Last Tango in Paris.

He turned it down because of the nudity. Marlon Brando took the part instead.

Trintignant is pictured on the set of 1972 crime thriller And Hope to Die during his heyday

Trintignant is pictured on the set of 1972 crime thriller And Hope to Die during his heyday

During the 1950s Trintignant had a stormy love affair with Brigitte Bardot, his co-star.

Though she complained about his looks, Bardot later admitted Trintignant was one of the two ‘greatest loves of my life’.

In 2012 he starred in the romantic drama Amour, gaining further acclaim for his performance in the Oscar, BAFTA and Palme d’Or-winning film.

A dashing young actor with an intense expression, Trintignant burst onto the scene in the mid-1950s alongside Brigitte Bardot

A dashing young actor with an intense expression, Trintignant burst onto the scene in the mid-1950s alongside Brigitte Bardot

He died at his home in south-west France, according to Bertrand Cortellini, who operated a vineyard with the actor and visited him on Thursday before his death.

Trintignant first married film star Stéphane Audran, then film director Nadine Marquand, with whom he had three children: Marie, Pauline and Vincent.

The couple divorced and he then went on to marry Mariane Hoepfner, a fellow ex-racing driver.

Marie Trintignant was murdered by her rock star husband nicknamed ‘France’s Jim Morrison’ in 2003.

Heartbroken Trintignant said he was crushed by her murder, but forgave Bertrand Cantat.

He was one of France’s premier actors in the post-war era and one of the last remaining performers of his generation.

Tributes poured in after Trintignant’s death was announced on Friday afternoon.

In middle age Jean-Louis (pictured promoting Amour in 2012) took up racecar driving

In middle age Jean-Louis (pictured promoting Amour in 2012) took up racecar driving

Trintignant attended Cannes in 2017 to promote Happy End, his penultimate film role

Trintignant attended Cannes in 2017 to promote Happy End, his penultimate film role

Born on December 11, 1930 in Piolenc in southern France, Trintignant started acting in the theater but gained wider fame in cinema, notably starring with Bardot in And God Created Woman in 1956.

He starred in Italian films and several films by legendary French director Claude Lelouch, most famously A Man And A Woman in 1966, which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

Trintignant played a racing car driver, a passion he pursued off-screen, in a complex romance alongside Anouk Aimee.

His uncle, Louis, was killed on the racetrack when Trintignant was three years old.

Another uncle, Maurice, won the Monaco Grand Prix twice in the 1950s.

Trintignant (pictured right with a cigarette) is pictured on the set of 'A Man and a Woman', 1966

Trintignant (pictured right with a cigarette) is pictured on the set of ‘A Man and a Woman’, 1966

Trintignant continued acting on stage and on screen into his 80s, and earned new international attention in Michael Haneke’s Amour, a raw depiction of an aging couple after one of them has a stroke.

The actor began his lengthy career on stage, but turned to the screen when high-profile opportunities came along.

He quipped in 2017: ‘I could have spent my whole life doing theatre. But cinema paid better!’

Yet Trintignant films rarely starred in high-budget, preferring the arthouse scene.

One particular late-career highlight came in 1995’s triple Oscar-nominee Three Colors: Red, the final film by Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski.

Trintignant poses with Isabella Huppert on the Cannes Film Festival red carpet in May 2012

Trintignant poses with Isabella Huppert on the Cannes Film Festival red carpet in May 2012

Trintignant (right) starred alongside fellow French legend Emmanuelle Riva (left) in Amour

Trintignant (right) starred alongside fellow French legend Emmanuelle Riva (left) in Amour

Trintignant played Joseph Kern, a retired judge dragged into a series of philosophical quandaries.

But, as with many of his most iconic roles, Trintignant’s stoic character may be more powerful than he seems.

Variety film critic Guy Lodge tweeted: ‘Trintignant was one of my all-time favorite actors: sexy, pensive, mischievous, capable of deep and searching sadness.

‘What a body of work. What a face.’

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