Jean-Pierre Marielle (born April 12, 1932) is a French actor. He is widely regarded in his country as one of the greatest living French actors. He has played in more than a hundred movies in which he brought life to a very large diversity of roles, from the banal citizen (Les Galettes de Pont-Aven), to the serial killer (Sans mobile apparent), to the World War II hero (Les Milles), to the compromised spy (La Valise), to the has-been actor (Les Grands Ducs), acting always with the same excellence whatever the quality of the movie in itself. He is well known for his outspokenness and especially for his warm and cavernous voice which is often imitated by French humorists considering him as the archetype of the French gentleman.
Marielle was born in 1932 in Dijon to an industrialist father and a dressmaker mother. His first experiences of acting date back to his years of high school during which he staged some Chekhov’s plays with his comrades. He initially wanted to study literature but one of his teachers encouraged him to become an actor instead, so that he joined the Conservatoire National where became close friends with Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Rochefort and from where he left with the comedy second prize in 1954.
His early career consisted of stage roles with the Grenier-Hussenot company, notably in Pinter’s plays, and some small appearances on the large screen by the late Fifties, with his particular voice giving him the abilities to play older characters. But disappointed by his first movie roles, he turned a moment to the cabaret.
He obtained a little more consistent roles in the Sixties in movies such as Faites sauter la banque (1963), starring alongside Louis de Funès, Week end à Zuydcoote (1964) and in particular Un monsieur de compagnie (1965), where french director Philippe de Broca gave him the opportunity to express all his talent. But his popularity really exploded during the Seventies as he appeared in a lot of comedies. In La Valise (1974) he incarnated an israeli spy having to hide in a trunk in order to be extracted from a country of the Middle East. Les Gallettes de Pont-Aven (1975), Que la fête commence (1974) and Coup de Torchon (1981) confirmed him as a great actor.
One of his best performances, which is also probably his darkest, lies in his wonderful interpretation of a disillusioned and suicidal cop in Les mois d’avril sont meurtriers (1987). The other major role of his career is Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe in Tous les matins du monde (1994).
He also made at the same time a brilliant stage career and received the highest french award for a theater actor, the Molière, in 1994. He plays Jacques Sauniere in The Da Vinci Code (2006). He was awarded the Légion d’Honneur in 1992.
He has been married to French actress Agathe Natanson since October 4, 2003 and has a son from a previous union. He is a great lover of jazz music and New York City.