One of the most prolific French actors of the 1980s and '90s, François Cluzet possesses an enviable versatility that makes him equally adept at both high comedy and straight drama. Cluzet, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Dustin Hoffman, began his screen career acting in the films of Diane Kurys. He became established over the years as one of his country's most dependable actors, as likely to play a bumbling petty criminal as a member of the May 1968 generation struggling with bourgeois ennui and moral dilemma.
Born in Paris on September 21, 1955, Cluzet was first inspired to become an actor as a child, when his father would take him and his brother on weekly outings to the theatre and music hall. He quit school at the age of 17 to study drama with Jean Périmony. In 1976, he made his theatrical debut and spent the next few years working steadily on the stage. Cluzet began his film career in 1980 with a role in Diane Kurys' Cocktail Molotov, a drama set during the May 1968 protests which cast him as the best friend of one of the film's protagonists. That same year, he had a supporting part in Le Cheval d'Orgueil, the first of many films he would make with Claude Chabrol, and also broke into television. The latter medium would be one that Cluzet would return to constantly even as his film career took flight.
1983 proved to be a breakthrough year for the actor, who earned two César nominations, one for his work in L'Été Meurtrier, a drama that cast him as the brother of a man in love with an unstable woman (Isabelle Adjani), and the other for his leading portrayal of a young Parisian reflecting on his Communist/anarchic upbringing in Vive la sociale! That same year, Cluzet again collaborated with Kurys in Coup de Foudre, a WWII marriage drama starring Isabelle Huppert and Miou-Miou as dissatisfied wives.
In 1986, Cluzet starred in one of the most celebrated films of his career, 'Round Midnight. Bertrand Tavernier's story of a self-destructive American jazz musician (Dexter Gordon) who is befriended by a young Frenchman (Cluzet), it allowed the actor to carry a film (in tandem with the excellent Gordon) rather than merely support it. Cluzet subsequently stuck with dramas, doing strong work as ineffectual husbands in both Claire Denis's Chocolat and Claude Chabrol's Une Affaire de Femmes (both 1988), the latter of which saw him re-team with Coup de Foudre co-star Huppert. Indeed, during the early 1990s, much of the actor's energies seemed to be directed toward playing troubled husbands, as demonstrated by additional turns in Agneiszka Holland's Olivier, Olivier (1992) and Claude Chabrol's L'Enfer (1994).
Cluzet has also been repeatedly cast as struggling authors in a number of films, his slightly tortured intellectual looks lending themselves well to such a profession. He did particularly notable work in this capacity in Les Apprentis (1995), in which he and Guillaume Depardieu co-starred as two losers struggling to pay the rent in Paris; Olivier Assayas' Fin août, début septembre (1998), an ensemble drama in which he played a terminally ill writer; and Dolce Far Niente (2000), which cast him as a young author dallying around the Italian countryside.